Cambio climático
Countries: Zimbabwe

How academia can support climate transparency: Insights from Zimbabwe

An interview with Dr Walter Svinurai from Zimbabwe’s University of Agricultural Sciences & Technology (MUAST)

Dr Walter Svinurai shares his views on how youth and academia can support climate change processes in Zimbabwe.

27 September 2021 - Zimbabwe’s National Climate Change Learning Strategy (2020) focuses on sound education, capacity building, skills development and tailor-made learning initiatives in the agriculture sectors. It aims to make Zimbabwe a ”climate change resilient, literate and responsive nation”  by 2030. The strategy highlights the role of academia and youth as key stakeholders and refers to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)as a potential partner for implementation. 

Dr Walter Svinurai – a senior lecturer at the Marondera University of Agricultural Sciences & Technology (MUAST) and a member of Zimbabwe's  climate transparency team- discusses how  academia and youth are currently engaged in climate related processes; and how they can be empowered. He talks about his career journey and experience as a university educator; and  challenges and priorities for engaging the scientific community in UNFCCC-related processes.

For more information on what Zimbabwe is doing about climate change, see: 

Zimbabwe’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) Submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

How has the academic community been involved in climate transparency efforts in Zimbabwe - especially in the agriculture and land use sectors? What can be done to improve their engagement?

Since 2012, almost every chapter in Zimbabwe’s National Communications (NC) to the UNFCCC has been prepared by an academic expert. Policies such as the ‘National Climate Policy’ and ‘National Climate Change Response Strategy’ were also developed by and in consultation with academic experts, including myself.

It is important to allocate a budget to train academic experts and establish platforms for information exchange. This would allow the academic community’s capacity to be better used for fulfilling national commitments under the UNFCCC.

Are climate change topics and Paris Agreement-related processes reflected in academic curricula at universities?

Many universities in Zimbabwe have undergraduate and graduate degree programmes in agriculture engineering and technology:  animal, crop and soil science; ecosystem conservation; and natural resource management. 

However, the relevance of these topics to the Paris Agreement and climate reporting is often overlooked. The main reason is that the educators have a limited understanding of the UNFCCC processes and how they relate to their work. 

Have you tried to bring experiences from your work at the national GHG inventory team to your classroom? And if yes, how did the students react?

I teach my students about the impact of climate change on livestock, the GHG emissions from the sector and ways to reduce the emissions, although with a very limited scope. The details of GHG accounting could be too technical for undergraduate students and is not part of the formal curriculum.

However, the students get really excited when we cover these topics and are definitely eager to learn more.

Can you tell us more about how youth are engaged in climate efforts in Zimbabwe?

There have been many youth-oriented engagement and capacity-building efforts in Zimbabwe in the past few years. Youth were among key stakeholders who were extensively consulted for the development of National Climate Change Learning Strategy (2016-2019), and the NDC revision process (2021) in which they produced a Youth Policy Brief on the NDC enhancement process. 

In December 2020, the Government of Zimbabwe concluded a programme entitled “Strengthening the capacity of rural youth and rural youth groups to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change” supported by the United Nations Climate Change Learning Partnership.

Youth made up 25 percent of trainees who were trained in four separate 5-day workshops on GHG inventory preparation (energy, industrial processes, waste and agriculture) under the project titled “Support towards implementation of Zimbabwe’s NDC” (2018 - 2020).

What would you recommend to young graduates in Zimbabwe who would like to get involved in climate reporting and Paris Agreement related work?

They should learn more about the topic and increase their engagement in climate-related activities and processes in the country. There are many online courses, events, workshops, trainings, and consultations that can build their capacity, inform them about existing opportunities for engagement, and help them build their network. 

In addition, early-career professionals should get in touch with the UNFCCC focal points and enrol in the roster of experts and practitioners.

What about your own journey? How did you find your way into the national GHG Inventory team?

I learned about climate change processes in 2010 after taking a training course on “mainstreaming climate change in development planning” that was offered by a local NGO. With this knowledge, I was able to identify the UNFCCC focal point for Zimbabwe and made a courtesy visit to their offices.

I then got involved in GHG inventory compilation in 2014 during the preparation of Zimbabwe’s Third National Communication after responding to a newspaper advert calling for GHG inventory experts. I was subsequently selected as an INDC team member for AFOLU in 2015 after completing a number of training courses for GHGI compilers. Since then, I have been involved as an expert for GHG inventory related processes such as AFOLU mitigation chapter in NCs, Biannual Update Report and NDC revision. 

What can be done to increase the engagement of academia in climate transparency in Zimbabwe?

Invest in building capacity and networks among academic experts and students to boost their capacity to understand and contribute to UNFCCC-related work. This will also help attract additional financial resources to universities and research institutions so that they can adequately provide support and expertise.  

Training of trainers and educators is also important, as it makes agriculture curricula in universities climate compatible.

What topics should be included in training programmes to help Zimbabwe better meet its Paris Agreement reporting requirements?

Training programmes should cover GHG emissions inventory compilation using more elaborate methodologies; GHG mitigation assessments; climate change impacts, risks; vulnerability and adaptation assessments; adaptation planning; adaptation costing; and mainstreaming climate change into agriculture and forestry sector-development planning.

How can the FAO Transparency Team support capacity-building processes and activities that empower the academic community in Zimbabwe?

FAO can help build academia’s capacity to participate in the Paris Agreement related processes, for example with training of trainers programmes or by providing educational content to strengthen existing curricula to include Paris Agreement-related processes.

FAO can help train researchers and trainers to better disseminate knowledge and information on climate change and climate smart agriculture.  

Note: The FAO Transparency Team is in the process of developing a training-of-trainer programme for university educators in the agriculture and land use sectors in Zimbabwe. For more information, write:  [email protected]