Zambia Notes: food and farming in a changing climate

“We are heavily affected by climate change. While you can see the food here,  we still have a big challenge in terms of food shortages – that is the problem.”

“Climate change has really troubled us. The way we are being taught conservation farming gives us a way that we can address this problem because we can keep the moisture, even if there is no rain. We give you thanks through the support you are giving to EFZ as we are benefiting from the lessons.”

Volunteers in the EFZ / Tearfund DRR programme, Mumbwa, Zambia 

Last week I travelled to  Zambia with two UK Members of Parliament, Gavin Shuker MP and Tony Cunningham MP, to explore  some of the barriers that are keeping people in poverty there and to visit projects run by two Tearfund partners – EFZ (Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia) and BICC (Brethren in Christ Church).

Learning about food conservation in Mumbwa

Learning about food conservation in Mumbwa

The links between climate change and food security were really brought home to us as we listened to volunteers and people benefiting from a food security / Disaster Risk Reduction programme being run through EFZ (Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia) in Mumbwa, located in Zambia’s Central Province. Having left the relative comfort of Lusaka, we travelled up to Mumbwa and saw the environment around us quickly change. Zambia is experiencing significant economic growth and has now been classified as a lower middle-income country by the World Bank; yet the disparities are clear and Zambia continues to score low on the Human Development Index (164 out of 179). In rural areas, the challenge of climate change is particularly acute and is impacting significantly on food security – one of the reasons why Zambia still comes so low on the human development index. This year the rains have been fairly scant and with the prospect of no rain at all between May and November, food conservation is critical, especially for those within communities, such as the elderly or those living with HIV, who are particularly vulnerable to food shortages and poor nutrition.

EFZ, with the support of Tearfund, are implementing a DRR project in Mumbwa which provides vulnerable households with primary farming inputs and training so that they can grow their own food. 220 households have benefited from the programme which has mobilised 50 volunteers through church networks to offer support and training. We had the privilege to speak with a number of the volunteers who talked about the different methods they use to preserve foods such as maize and papaya during the dry season. We also visited the house of Sophia, a project beneficiary who is 64 years old and heading up a household of 10, including 4 orphans. She has been implementing food conservation techniques and is growing a number of crops including cotton and bananas.

She was immensely inspiring to meet and her determination and pride shone through. As the Programme Director of EFZ remarked to me, this kind of response to climate change and food shortages is so much better than hand-outs. This approach gives people the skills and training they need, reduces their dependency on food aid and in some circumstances, beneficiaries such as Sophia are also able to generate an income by selling produce at local markets, income which can then be used to support their wider family, for example being able to pay school fees or buy text books.

There is certainly hope in Mumbwa, but also a stark challenge for the global community. Zambia’s vulnerability to climate change is high and the prospect of increased drought in some regions and increased flooding in others is likely to hamper development efforts in other areas such as health. I hope that donors will see the value in financing innovative adaptation projects at the grass-roots like the one which we saw run by EFZ, but we must also remember that without immediate action to drive down global emissions, the impacts of climate change in Mumbwa could be much more severe.

Comments

  1. Great report.
    See http://www.bathandwells.org.uk/faithandmission/millennium-development-goals/ for how churches in Zambia are moving towards the MDGs. Rev Mike Perry,

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