Mon, Mar 05, 2018 - Page 5 News List

Zambian farmers to get help battling worsening drought from climate fund

Thomson Reuters Foundation, LILONGWE, Zambia

Zambian farmers facing more extreme weather are set to get better early warning and weather information to help them cope, as part of a new grant from the Green Climate Fund.

In a funding round announced last week, the international climate fund approved US$32 million toward a broader effort by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Programme to help shore up food security and keep farmers from slipping into poverty.

The UN agencies had already raised US$125 million toward the effort, which aims to help fight poverty among about 940,000 farmers hit by extreme weather in Zambia, said Janet Rogan, a UNDP representative in the nation.

The effort aims to help farmers plan for climate risks, make their farming more resilient and diversified and give them better access to markets, Green Climate Fund spokesman Simon Pollock said in an e-mail interview.

“In addition, this intervention is specifically designed to create economic opportunities for women,” Pollock said.

The project targets 16 particularly climate-vulnerable provinces in the nation, where droughts and flooding have been a problem.

Zambia, like many of its southern African neighbors, is struggling with strengthening climate impacts in the face of widespread poverty.

According to the UNDP’s 2016 Human Development Report, about 60 percent of the nation’s people live below the poverty line, more than 40 percent of those in extreme poverty.

The report says 70 percent of Zambians rely on agriculture for a living, and agriculture, forestry and fishing contribute 24 percent of the country’s GDP.

The effort would, for instance, provide Zambian farmers with insurance that issues automatic payouts when certain rainfall or temperature thresholds are passed, and crops are presumed dead or damaged, UNDP energy and environmental analyst Eric Chipeta said.

“The initiative will go a long way toward strengthening the capacity of farmers to plan for climate risks [and] provide the opportunity for weather index insurance even in times of poor rains,” he said.

Zambia has seen increasingly unpredictable weather, including drought this year that hit at the time when maize — the country’s staple crop — began putting out tassels, Chipeta said.

Drought at that point can cut harvests significantly, experts say.

In many areas of Zambia, “there is a high rate of poverty, meaning efforts to end hunger and poverty are at risk if we don’t take immediate action to adapt agricultural practices to changing climate conditions,” Zambian Ministry of National Development Planning Permanent Secretary Chola Chabala said in a statement.

The increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather already has severely affected Zambian farmers, he added.

The Green Climate Fund-backed initiative is to be rolled out with support from national agencies such as the Zambian Ministry of Agriculture, Chipeta said.

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