MY LIFE IS LIKE A RIPENED BANANA
SURVIVORS: THEIR PAST AND PRESENT
Clementia lives with her son John in the Victoria Falls area in Zimbabwe. It was a beautiful place when she was younger, but from around 2010, years of extended harsh drought have resulted in the forests drying out and crops failing. The wells are running dry, which means Clementia and other villagers have to walk further and further to find water. And with escalating deforestation, animals are forced into areas of human habitation, destroying crops and coming into conflict with the farmers.
Silva was a farmer in south-eastern Zimbabwe. The rains that were once regular have so become unpredictable, and severe droughts so frequent, that Silva decided to relocate to Lake Chivero and start farming and fishing.
But over the years, he is now facing the same problem. At the lake, water levels have become so low that fishing is no longer a realistic option.
Helen has a small plot of land where she tries to farm maize, but because of the lack of rainfall and dried up wells, her crops have repeatedly died. In 2019, almost all her chickens also died because of disease. As a result, she has little food and lives in poverty.
For Jack and Regina, their only source of food is a small plot of land for growing vegetables. However, in recent years, their crops have failed, and with the worsening drought most of the local rivers and wells have dried up. This has forced them to go begging for water in surrounding areas. Sometimes they go for a couple of months with little food, forced to live off handouts.
John and Margaret, who live with their nine grandchildren in central Zimbabwe, have a small farming plot. Like so many others there, the main challenge is not having access to water. The family walks 2km every day to collect water. Because of the prolonged droughts, their small farming plot remains unplanted. It has become difficult to feed everyone, so even in their old age, they survive by doing manual labor jobs.
Their granddaughters, Lene and Shyline, have been looked after by John and Margaret for most of their lives. Their mother passed away when they were very young, and their father subsequently abandoned them.
It was March 31, 2019. The heavy rains and winds came unexpectedly. And then Cyclone Idai.
Kuda’s family lived in a low-lying area in eastern Zimbabwe, so they were the hardest hit. The floods and avalanches destroyed everything in the village. Kuda, her husband, and three children were all swept away. Kuda managed to swim and reach her home, but the cyclone had destroyed everything. Six months pregnant at the time, Kuda suffered a miscarriage. Two of her children were never found.
Currently, Kuda, her husband, and their one surviving child are living in a makeshift camp for displaced people affected by the cyclone. When interviewed about what happened to her, a year and a half later, she said not to worry about her. She said that nowadays, “my life is like a ripened banana.”
Cyclone Idai was a terrifying harbinger of what climate change will bring in the coming years: more frequent high-intensity storms. And with that, of course, more destruction.
Before Cyclone Idai hit, Luckness was employed and lived an uneventful life. But the cyclone destroyed her house, and she and her two children were swept away by the waters. One of her two children suffered a spinal fracture, which has left her permanently disabled.
Currently, Luckness and her children are living in a makeshift camp for displaced people affected by the cyclone.
Cyclone Idai was a terrifying harbinger of what climate change will bring in the coming years: more frequent high-intensity storms. And with that comes, of course, more destruction.
Matthew grew up near Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. He says the place was beautiful when he was younger, but from around 2010, years of extended harsh drought have resulted in the forests drying out and crops failing. His livestock also died. It has become hard for him to afford to send his children to school.
Even wells are running dry, and with that, the need to walk further each month to find water. And as deforestation continues apace, animals are forced into areas of human occupation, destroying crops and coming into conflict with the farmers.
Patrick has been a fisherman in Zimbabwe for 5 years, but the declining water levels in Lake Chivero is now making it difficult for him to continue fishing. The fish catches for the day have dramatically declined. Patrick is also a farmer, but again, the ongoing drought has affected his crops.
Richard lives with his wife and children in eastern Zimbabwe. Originally, a maize farmer and cattle owner, extended droughts from 2010 onward began to dramatically impact his livelihood. He drilled a bore-hole, but it has since run dry. So, he turned to farming tobacco as a way to survive. Richard used to own fourteen cattle. But because of the drought, all the cows have died from disease. Richard now struggles to provide for his family and is unable to send his children to school.
Richard feels that the reduction in rainfall has been caused not just by climate change, but also by the clearing of forests for the production and curing of tobacco, which has left vast stretches of forests in the area barren.
Shepherd, a horticultural farmer in eastern Zimbabwe, made a good living and was able to send his children to good schools.
But on March 31, 2019, Cyclone Idai hit, and everything changed. Shepherd and his wife and three children lost everything. Their home, crops and livestock were all swept away by the cyclone. Even his borehole and irrigation system were destroyed.
The family relocated to Harare in the hopes of building a new life. But they now survive hand-to-mouth, selling wares in Harare and relying on the kindness of family members. He still hopes that one day, he will be able to go back to his village and farm again.
Thomas and his wife Monica have been small scale farmers in Zimbabwe for the past 10 years. But because of the extreme drought, for the last three years they have found it very difficult to survive. Their well is now dry, so they have to walk 5km to fetch drinking water.
Thomas can operate a tractor with a ripper, but everyone is in the same situation: no-one wants to gamble using a tractor to prepare the land if their crops fail from drought.