Imba Mukadzi is a women’s cooperative in Gletwyn along Enterprise Road. The 128-member income-generating project was formed in November 2015 and focuses on mushroom production. After a promising start, the high temperatures in the last quarter of 2015 left them with severe losses.
Secretary of the Imba Mukadzi Cooperative, Deliwe Chikuni, said of the 54 bags of mushrooms they had hoped to harvest last December, they instead only managed to harvest eight bags – well below their expected capacity. “Mushrooms do well at lower temperatures of less than 27˚C. The very high temperatures Harare experienced last year ruined our harvest,” she said. She explained that mushrooms prefer humid conditions and that when temperatures are very high, it encourages the spread of mushroom flies which enter the bags and infect the crop causing the mushrooms to rot. When this happens,the fluids that seep out of the affected bags contaminate the rest of the crop.
Mushroom production can be big business. It is not capital intensive and an investment of just $35 is enough to cover the cost of the spores and the cotton growing medium for six bags. Under the right conditions, a bag produces more than 20 punnets, which the cooperative sells at a dollar each. She added that mushrooms have a ready market and that during the SMEs Expo held recently, international buyers expressed interest in their product. Sadly their high expectations were dashed by this recent loss.
Chikuni is optimistic and says Imba Mukadzi is not giving up. She is confident they will find ways of adapting to the change in climate, adding that the cooperative is also considering venturing into vegetable drying, and mining.
In recent years, Zimbabwe has been dogged by high temperatures with daytime temperatures reaching a maximum of between 35˚C and 41˚C. This exceeds record high temperatures recorded in the 1960s. The years 2011, 2013 and 2015 showed that temperatures around the country reached new record highs ranging between 35˚C and 43˚C, peaking as high as 45˚C in low-lying areas such as Kariba, Beitbridge, Chiredzi and Binga.
The current drought and high temperatures are attributed primarily to the ongoing El Niño weather phenomenon. El Niño is a shift in global rainfall and temperatures that can run from nine months to two years. El Niño is caused by a rise in temperature of surface currents in the Pacific Ocean. Although data does not reach back far enough to be conclusive, scientists are confident that climate change is increasing the frequency and impact of El Niño events, which normally occur every two to seven years.