CLIMATE change is real, and the effects of water scarcity, floods, warmer temperatures and pests are a reality affecting people, says United Nations Development Programme Zambia officer-in-charge Sergio Valdini.
A new United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)-backed initiative has been launched to support the government in strengthening climate-resilient food security and poverty reduction measures.
The initiative has the potential to economically empower an estimated three million smallholder farmers – mostly women, youth, and marginalised groups – in Zambia.
During the launch on Friday, Valdini said the frequency and intensity of adverse weather and climate related events was on the increase.
“If climate change is not addressed, we risk losing the gains that have been made on the economic front. This would be through channelling funds that should have been invested in development to undertaking humanitarian operations. It is estimated by an IFPRI report that Zambia is losing $4 billion to the effects of climate change. We therefore need to mainstream climate change into all plans for all sectors through National Adaptation Planning processes. Opportunities remain for countries to access National Adaptation Plan preparations from the GCF,” said Valdini.
According to UNDP Zambia communications specialist, Environment Unit Moses Zangar Jr, with funding from the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the UNDP intervention responds to one of the key outcomes of the government’s Seventh National Development Plan, which deals with reducing poverty and vulnerability whilst contributing to economic diversification and job creation in Zambia.
Implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture under the title ‘Strengthening climate resilience of agricultural livelihoods in Agro-Ecological Regions I and II in Zambia (SCRALA)’, the $137 million in financing aims to help smallholder farmers plan for climate risks that threaten to derail development gains, make their farming more resilient and diversified, and give them better access to markets.
Zangar stated that the government anticipates reaching over three million indirect beneficiaries through the project – approximately 18 per cent of the total population – which would work in 16 districts within designated Agro-Economical Regions; Mambwe, Nyimba, Chongwe, Luangwa, Chirundu, Rufunsa, Chama, Mafinga, Kazungula, Siavonga, Gwembe, Namwala, Shangombo, Senanga, Sesheke, and Mulobezi.
National Development Planning minister Alexander Chiteme said the SCRALA project promotes a paradigm shift by taking a comprehensive approach to addressing the entire value chain, and providing the initial trigger for poor and vulnerable farmers to shift on to a resilient trajectory for agricultural livelihoods.
“This will also result in sustainable development benefits, as these vulnerable farmers and their families will see increases in income and enhanced food security, leading to health and environmental co-benefit,” said Chiteme.
Agriculture minister Michael Katambo said the project would enhance resilience of vulnerable populations, especially women and youths in the targeted districts.
“At full implementation, a total of 157,000 farm households will have benefited from the project. The beneficiaries will be implementing climate resilient technologies such as conservation agriculture, agroforestry and other climate change adaptation and mitigation practices,” said Katambo.
“These women and youth – who are reliant on agriculture-based livelihoods – will benefit from the project through scaled up use of tailor-made weather advisories to inform decision making by the farming community.”
The landmark project was mobilised by UNDP through a coalition with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP).
GCF’s Mitigation and Adaptation Division director Jerry Velasquez, said the increasing effects of climate change were particularly severe for countries like Zambia, where 70 per cent of the country’s workforce relies on rain-fed agriculture.
“GCF’s financial support will help farmers better manage the impacts of climate change through improved climate information and early warning systems, enhance smallholder farmers’ access to water for farming, and strengthen farmers’ links to rural markets,” said Velasquez. “Ultimately, the goal is to ensure that climate-resilient agriculture becomes the norm.”
The UNDP-led initiative, set to start immediately, runs for seven years and will give deliberate emphasis on capacity building across the sectors and strata, from the national to the community level.
UNDP stated that hunger and malnutrition constitute real and present risks in Zambia.
“Approximately 60 per cent of people live below the poverty line, and 42 per cent are considered extremely poor. According to WFP, over 350,000 people are considered food insecure, and roughly 40 per cent of children experience stunted growth. Climate change is expected to worsen these impacts by 30 per cent by 2030,” it stated.
“Women make up more than 70 per cent of the agricultural labour force in Zambia and play a critical role in enhancing food security and nutrition. In most places with high prevalence of undernourishment, women farmers have significantly less access to land, information, finance, and agricultural inputs. This makes them more vulnerable to climate shocks and affects their health and the food security and nutrition of the entire household.”