Extreme weather conditions threaten the livelihoods of millions of small farmers in Zambia. The rain-fed farmland was not saved as it was taken over by flood waters. In other areas, the lack of rain has caused severe droughts.
Nedson Nkundi, acting executive director of the Zambia Department of Meteorology, told DW that extreme weather patterns were wreaking havoc on the country’s agricultural sector.
“We have seen, for example, a lot of areas that received more than a hundred millimeters of rain in 24 hours,” Nkundi said, stressing that such an amount of rain is very heavy. “These are some of the quantities that some districts in the Southern Province receive. In a month!
The result is flash floods, flooding, infrastructure damage and dam damage.
Women bear the brunt of these climate change-related conditions, as many of them rely heavily on agricultural production for their livelihoods. In addition, poverty in rural Zambia is high, and economic opportunities for women are very limited.
However, some women farmers are receiving support from a UN-funded program to mitigate the effects of climate change.
Climate change adaptation
Zambia’s Ministry of Green Economy and Environment provides real-time weather advice, using mobile phones to help women farmers adapt to climate change.
Enong Lobasi, a farmer and one of the project beneficiaries, told DW that it has not been easy to deal with the devastation caused by global warming.
She lost everything during the floods, but with training and new support, Lubasi has gone from just growing corn to venturing into more than five different drought-resistant crops.
She also owns more than 500 herds of cattle and goats and is looking to turn things around.
“So, most of the farmers here including myself, we grow crops like sorghum, cassava, sweet potatoes and millet as well,” Lubasi said. She explained that these crops are resistant to the climate.
“We have also adapted agricultural forests where we grow a lot of trees including making our own organic fertilizers, we not only rely on synthetic fertilizers but we also make our own.”
Agriculture accounts for 20% of Zambia’s GDP and employs more than half of its roughly 18 million people.
Two-thirds of Zambia’s workforce is employed in agriculture, 78% of whom are farmers.
Despite this, the authorities want to encourage many women farmers to remain resolute in the midst of the climate change crisis.
The success of supporting women farmers
The UN-led partnership with the Green Climate Fund aims to support the transition to renewable energy. It also funds projects to help countries adapt to a warmer world by making farmers switch to drought-resistant seeds or creating more cool green spaces in cities to deal with heat waves.
The Green Climate Fund (GCF) is one way to transfer $100 billion from developed countries (€97 million) that they pledged to climate-prone and low-income countries. Offsetting climate change is a hot topic at the COP27 United Nations Climate Conference in Egypt.
Almost one million farmers in Zambia, including women, will be supported under this project.
So far, 20,000 farmers have benefited from the programme. But, according to Carol Mwape, program coordinator, there are still some challenges.
“We cannot persuade a farmer to change his farming practices if we cannot provide evidence that the alternative can work,” Mwape told DW.
Another obstacle, she said, is that farmers need time to understand the impacts of climate change and pass that information on to other farmers.
Edited by: Crispin Mwakidio