ALVIN CHIINGA, Kalabo
IN THE Barotse plains of Western Province, the adverse effects of climate change are pretty much evident â€“ the once passable canals are now clogged due to either flooding or severe droughts being experienced and is making it difficult for both people and livestock to survive.
It is a precarious situation; the Mayowame canal in Mongu, which facilitates the movement of the Nalikwanda during the Kuomboka ceremony, has also not been spared.
Allan Nkumbwa of Libonda village in Chieftainess Mboanjikanaâ€™s area in Kalabo district, together with other residents, are among those to be affected by the state of affairs in the Barotse plains.
For them, it is either there is too much rain leading to floods or indeed no rains at all. This scenario has usually left a trail of destruction both to people and their livestock.
It is said Zambia, a landlocked country, is extremely vulnerable to climate change and variability because of the low adaptive capacity of its nearly 14 million people and high dependence on climate-sensitive sectors such as agriculture and natural resources.
Extreme weather and climate events, including floods and droughts, result in significant adverse impacts for Zambiansâ€™ lives and livelihoods, especially among vulnerable social groups and communities living along river basins.
In addition to contributing to water and food insecurity, Zambiaâ€™s climate insecurity significantly undermines the functionality and accessibility of critical infrastructure, such as roads, of which less than 10 percent are paved.
Droughts, floods and other extreme weather and climate events inflict annual damages of around 0.4 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP); without adaptation measures, the intensified effects of climate change and variability are expected to sap around one percent of Zambiaâ€™s annual GDP.
In light of this, the Pilot Programme for Climate Change Resilience (PPCR) in Zambia has come on board to ensure that these communities that have been badly hit by climate change somewhat manage to cope.
The canals in the Barotse plains are now being cleared to make them passable for transport and also to make them useful for agricultural purposes.
The PPCR has also embarked on the Strengthening Climate Change Resilience project in the Barotse Sub-Basin which stretches from Mongu in Western Province to Kazungula in Southern Province.
Just like in Libonda village in Kalabo, other districts like Senanga, Sioma, Sesheke and Kazungula are now implementing both hard and soft resilience projects to climate change under the PPCR.
In Libonda village, Mr Nkumbwa is in charge of the Mombochima Piggery Project, which together with the Tabo Village Chicken Rearing Project is helping people in the area to cope with effects of climate change.
Hundreds in this area have already benefited and more are earmarked to profit once they meet the criteria that PPCR demands for a project to get funding.
Kalabo district commissioner Fridah Luhila says there are 36 projects which have been instituted in the district aimed at ensuring that the local people cope with the effects of climate change in the district.
â€œWe have suffered a lot from climate change through having droughts two years in a row and our hope is that these programmes under the US$36 million African Development Bank funding through Government will help mitigate the effects,â€ she says.
Mrs Luhila says Government will ensure that marketing linkages for livestock and gardening projects in the district are created so that the initiatives benefit the local people to the fullest.
In the Barotse plains of Mongu district, Ilyamupu Mataa is another delighted person together with others who have benefited from the Silumelume Energy Saving Stove Project also being funded by the PPCR through the government.
Mr Mataa, who is chairperson of the project, says more than 300 people in the Silumelume area in the plains will benefit once the K108,000 project is fully operational.
â€œIt is the first of its kind because since the Barotse plains started experiencing the bad effects of climate change, people here have been having problems to cope and this project will help us get an income through selling energy- saving stoves,â€ he says.
Mr Mataa says the people of Silumelume are happy with the implementation of the project by PPCR because it has restored hope after bad effects of climate change.
He says three villages â€“ Maala, Ndata and Namaweshi â€“ are upbeat and equal to the task of manufacturing the energy-saving stoves which they hope to sell in huge numbers in the province and beyond.
â€œThe energy-saving stoves donâ€™t require a lot of firewood, meaning that the people here will spare the indiscriminate cutting down of trees which has led to the climate change effects in the province,â€ he says.
Still in the Barotse plains, there is the Mutemwa Solar Powered Boreholes Project in Sesheke district that are helping more than 700 households with three tanks in the area.
Mwalindu Shokile, who is a committee member of the project, says the scheme has helped several people in the drought-prone district.
Mr Shokile says despite the area being near the Zambezi River, the people their livestock have had difficulties accessing water from the river because of the crocodiles that have been terrorising them.
The solar-powered boreholes are used to get water for upper land farming, home consumption and also for livestock.
The project under PPCR has helped save lives of both people and their livestock.
Kuziba Nyambe of Lwendo village, who is under the Mutemwa project, emotionally recounts how her colleague and her child were attacked and killed by a crocodile.
â€œThis project has helped spare our lives because now we donâ€™t go to the crocodile-infested Zambezi River to fetch water but we just get water here from the solar-powered boreholes,â€ she says.
In Sioma and Kazungula districts, similar projects are being implemented and the beneficiaries are singing the same song of praise for PPCR.
Many are hoping that the pilot project will be replicated in other parts of the country so that all the people who are affected by the adverse effects of climate change can find some relief.
ALVIN CHIINGA, Kalabo