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Bringing Issues of Climate

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Issue date: 
21 January 2012
Publisher Name: 
Times of Zambia
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CLIMATE change presents a real threat to human development and it is already undermining productive sectors like agriculture which has the highest potential to reduce poverty levels in Zambia.

Not only has the rainfall pattern changed, with some areas recording reduced rainfall, other areas have experienced increased rains, causing early floods more frequently, which might have a negative impact on the cultivation of the crops.

Furthermore, severe droughts can threaten the upper lands and consequently impact negatively the livelihood and food security of many small-scale farmers.

Although Zambia is not responsible for this phenomenon, it is highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change as the failure to respond to the numerous challenges of climate change has the potential to threaten or reverse the global poverty alleviation efforts.

But how many people, especially the local communities where population is concentrated are aware about the effects of climate change? They may be not too many, simply because they lack information on the subject as they may not have easy access to either print media or electronic media which are the two important mediums for possible dissemination of such vital information.

Or simply they do not just understand the subject all together and find it rather too technical and complex to digest unless someone interpreted it for them.

However, it is surprising to note that residents in some urban areas of Kitwe with access to either print media or programmes aired on both radio and television still do not fully understand the topic of climate change and its facets.

Then one wonders that if this is so then how about the ones in the far flung rural set ups where agriculture is the main source of their livelihood?

Such people are usually vulnerable and as such do not even have access to either radio or television, so how can they know?

For instance this season 2011/2012,only three provinces will have normal rainfall.

Recently the Zambia National Farmers Union(ZNFU)announced this development through their study, that indicated that the rest of the country would be dry.

But how many small-scale farmers are aware about this development and were they warned in advance so that they could make adequate arrangements to save their crops from being damaged.

The news could have come with a sense of surprise to the ignorant farmers and a lot needs to be done to adequately prepare the small -scale farmers in future.

The small-scale farmers especially are the main contributors to the food basket and so they should have been made aware so as to brace themselves for any adverse weather changes.

It is in times like this that departments such as the meteorological department should play a crucial role of issuing early warning messages to the farmers long before they even plant their seeds to avoid wastage of both seed and the initial fertiliser that goes along with the yield of course after some tillage of land.

Information about any likelihood in change of the weather pattern is important for planning purposes.

In case of an impending drought like this one, a farmer may also think of diverting into other drought resistance crops instead of wasting time and energy focusing on maize alone which might fail in the wake of a dry spell.

It is obvious that rain fed crops tend to fail whenever there is a dry spell unless a farmer has an option of irrigation which is another project worth investing into and only commercial farmers can afford it.

The study further showed that the prolonged droughts in seven provinces had seriously affected the seeds which were planted earlier with most farmers resorting to replanting seed late in December in the hope that things might just improve while other farmers were faced with indecision as when to plant. There was mere speculation everywhere.

But in this whole scenario the question is who is responsible in ensuring that farmers received this vital accurate information, is it the media, extension officers, farmer associations like ZNFU or indeed is it that all of the above have an equal role to play.

A survey carried out in Kitwe alone revealed that some residents have scanty knowledge about the issues of climate change while others totally expressed ignorance about it.

Kabamba Mvula 19, an HIV/AIDS community development student said he knows so little about climate change because some messages are not clear.

"I have heard about it but I have never gotten information on it" Kabamba said.

He said he heard about climate change from School and elevision but did not really understand the whole issue.

Another resident Ikerd Mweetwa, 26, a trader confessed having not heard anything about climate change and yet Zambia is one of the third world countries that is mostly affected.

"I never heard of climate change before ," Mweetwa said.

Mweetwa's sentiments were echoed by that of Forster Musonda 26, a shop attendanton Matuka Avenue who also expressed ignorance about the issues of climate change stating that the topic was new to her.

But Mwiza Nalunga 18, said she has heard about climate change before but did not understand how it affects Zambia simply because she has never come across the necessary information to educate her on that aspect.

Citizen for Better Environment executive director Peter Sinkamba bemoaned the inadequate budget allocation to climate change mitigation and environmental protection programmes.

He said for example this year's budgetary allocation to environmental protection has been reduced to 0.1per cent from the previous 0.6 per cent.

Mr Sinkamba wondered how mitigation programmes could effectively be implemented with such little commitement of funds and this is all as a result of lack of political will which could also affect the appreciation of climate change issues if not adequately addressed.

He said there were very few if no politicians who make climate change a priority in their agenda during their political campaigns and yet this is a global issue which has not spared any country Zambia included and needs urgent attention.

Mr Sinkamba said climate change is clearly not a priority to the new Government but there is need to change that resolve and treat the issue with the utmost urgency that it deserves.

He said the Government should treat climate change issues with much zeal the same way that the fight against corruption is treated.

"It is tragic that even though there are laws in place regarding control of factors leading to global warming such as deforestation, but the fact is that are never implemented," Mr Sinkamba said.

Mr Sinkamba said it was an even bigger tragedy that there are very few people in the country that even know what climate change is or about or how it was brought about or how it can be managed.

However,CBE are conducting a community based education programme on environmental protection including climate change issues.

The Community Based Environmental Programme (CBEP) will be run in conjunction with DANIDA in 15 districts on the Copperbelt, North-Western and Southern provinces.

Among the environmental issues that are being addressed Mr Sinkamba said he also wishes to shed light on climate change in the hope that there can be an intervention meant to mitigate some of its effects.

Mr Sinkamba believes it is not late to combat climate change, he said that the organisation is waiting to hear how much work the UN has done about climate change at this year's Earth Summit 20 years after the first Earth Summit was held in Rio, Brazil.

The Government through the climate change Facilitation Unit with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNPD) has begun formulating a National Climate Change Response Strategy.

The framework aims to ensure that the Zambian economy and the livelihood of Zambians are protected from negative impacts of climate change.

According to Alert Net Climate, 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 organisation has also been helping to build capacity and identify 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; analyse 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 up to USD 50,000 for non-governmental and community-based organisations for climate change mitigation and adaptation; conservation of biodiversity among others.

With all this support coming into the country, there need to local people being involved in addressing the effects of climate change in their different capacities.

There is need to ensure that extension officers, agriculture experts and researchers partner with the media in an effort to ensure that accurate information on climate change filtered through to the local communities for their benefit.

(The author is a first year student studying Journalism and Media Studies at ZAMCOM)


Extpub | by Dr. Radut