Building back better: vulnerability and climate resilience in rural Zambia

By Brian Mulenga and Mulako Kabisa

One of the major shocks threatening Zambia’s agricultural sector is climate change and variability, with the smallholder subsector being more vulnerable owing to its heavy dependence on rain -fed production systems. Climatic shocks such as droughts and floods affect both crop and livestock productivity and production, with ripple effects on national food security. Indirectly, these shocks affect rural households’ welfare and vulnerability (reduced resilience) through their secondary effects – wages and output prices, thus threatening agricultural households, communities and rural enterprise development.

Zambia has continued to experience an increasing trend in the frequency and intensity of climate extremes over the years and is projected to continue, with the southern region projected to experience more drier weather conditions whereas the northern region will have relatively more floods due to excessive rainfall. These climate shocks have had negative impacts on Zambia’s agricultural sector and food systems at large. For example, during the 2018/2019 and 2019/2020 production seasons, Zambia experienced widespread droughts resulting in over 20 percent of the population in 2020 being food insecure and requiring emergency food aid (Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit [DMMU], 2019). The urban population was equally affected mainly through food price increases resulting from reduced harvest.

To effectively respond to the threat climate change poses on the agricultural sector, there is need for Zambia to enhance its mitigation and adaptation measures and build smallholder resilience. Zambia is currently implementing programmes aimed at scaling up the uptake of climate smart agricultural (CSA) practices, as well as interventions to enhance the country’s contribution to mitigation.

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