Climate change: the Zambia story

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In Zambia, any change in climate can spell disaster. With a majority of Zambians depending on agriculture, even a slight change in temperature can affect crops like maize with catastrophic consequences for livelihoods.

In the village of Lusitu, in the south of Zambia, the returns from farming have diminished due to severe droughts. According to Eva Chipepo, a local villager, "rainfall is insufficient to give us a good crop yield" and "wild animals have started to wander in the fields", further destroying crops. Another Lusitu resident confirms that life has become more difficult. "In the past", he says, "we were able to find solutions to whatever challenges we were faced with. Rivers never ran dry."

With more frequent droughts, but also floods, says Catherine Namugala, Minister of Tourism and Environment, "the government must look for resources to provide relief to the people". The country was already struggling to achieve development, she says, and climate change is putting additional strain on that process.

Domiciano Mulenga, National Coordinator for Zambia's Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit, confirms that the government is spending increased amounts of money for disaster response. "We are moving money and resources away from development programmes for disaster response", he says.

Climate change has also begun to affect Zambia's national tourism industry. If extreme weather changes continue, in about 50 years, all that will remain of the Victoria Falls, known as the "7th wonder of the world", could turn into an empty ravine. Since Zambia's tourism industry rests on the country's natural resources, this would have devastating economic effects.

Extreme weather is affecting wildlife and flora alike. The lack of rain in Zambia's South Luangwa region, in the east of the country, means that animals have had to scavenge for roots. Increased numbers of hippos are dying. Vegetation has also been affected, with landscapes translating into scores of petrified trees in dried out areas.

Kenneth Kaunda, the first president of Zambia, says help from developed countries will be crucial in ensuring that countries like Zambia can cope with the effects of climate change. Tegegnework Gettu, the Director of UNDP's Africa region, echoes that view. According to him, "developed countries must take responsibility and lead in helping Africans to develop good adaptations programmes".

The government of Zambia has decided to tackle the problem seriously, launching a National Adaptation Plan of Action (NAPA) and is in the process of preparing a national climate change response strategy.

UNDP's climate change activities in Zambia

UNDP has been supporting the government of Zambia in preparing the response to the challenges that the country is facing as a result of effects of climate change. The organization has also been helping to build capacities and institutions required to effectively combat climate change at the national level. In 2009, the government of Zambia established the climate change facilitation Unit (CCFU) charged with the responsibility of coordinating climate change issues in the country.

UNDP has also helped Zambia to build an inventory of greenhouse gas emissions; assess the impacts of climate change on the most vulnerable sectors; analyze potential measures to limit greenhouse gas emissions; and develop capacities for reporting on climate change through the National Communication report to the UNFCCC.

UNDP is supporting processes to help enhance Zambia's chances of entering the international carbon market. One such process is the Clean Development Mechanism. UNDP is also supporting Zambia in readiness for emerging carbon markets in Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD).

In collaboration with GEF's small grants programme, UNDP has also allocated grants upto USD 50,000 for non-governmental and community-based organizations for climate change mitigation and adaptation; conservation of biodiversity among others.

In addition, throughout 2009 UNDP took part in awareness-raising activities, organizing discussion fora among journalists, government representatives and students, traditional leaders and members of parliament. UNDP also supported the production of the documentary film "Climate change: the Zambian story".