Droughts or storms? The dire dilemma of Zimbabwe climate migrants

A decade ago, Lloyd Gweshengwe migrated to Zimbabwe’s Eastern Highlands, lured by the region’s abundant rainfall, fertile soils and good grazing land for his livestock.

In the low-lying, parched areas of Gutaurare area in Manicaland province, where Gweshengwe used to live, rain-fed agriculture was longer sustainable. Recurring droughts would frequently wiped out crops, while clean water sources would dry up.

At first, Gweshengwe was happy with his new life in the Eastern Highlands, where a more prolonged rainy season compared with other parts of the country favours various agricultural activities, including livestock farming and growing orchard and plantation crops.

“I had very good maize harvests here in the past years,” said Gweshengwe, a widowed father of two. “I have been able to feed my family and sell the surplus food,” added the 38-year-old, one of the more than 20,000 people attracted to the rich highlands from other drier parts of the country during the past decade due to the effects of climate change.

But the dreams of a better life have been slowly turning into another nightmare for Gweshengwe and the other migrant farmers in the region amid increasingly frequent tropical storms and cyclones.

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