Notes to broadcasters
The impact of climate change in Zambia is now more evident than ever, as can be seen by the huge decrease in agricultural productivity, a significant increase in deaths of livestock and wild animals, flooding in some parts of the country, and the risk of rivers and other water bodies, like Victoria Falls, drying out.
Farms in the southern, central, and southwest regions of the country have been the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, including floods and droughts, over the past two decades.
Agriculture and livestock production rely on good rains, but Zambia’s erratic rainfall and limited capacity for irrigation makes the country vulnerable to climate change. A variety of factors have contributed to food insecurity in the country, including heavy downpours leading to floods, high temperatures and an increase in the frequency of droughts, a shorter rainy season resulting in increased crop failure, soil erosion, degraded grazing land leading to loss of livestock, and decreases in the amount of cultivatable land.
Batoka, in the southern province of Zambia, has not been spared these problems. Despite the fact that the country has relatively abundant supplies of ground and surface water, surface water is unevenly distributed and the southern part of Zambia in particular experiences water shortages whenever there is a decline in precipitation or a dry spell, with reduced flows in streams, rivers, and lakes. This affects farmers’ access to water for drinking, agriculture, livestock rearing, and fisheries, as well as hydro-electric power generation.
Through the Ministry of Agriculture, civil society organizations, and NGOs, the Zambian government is fighting to curb climate change in Batoka by helping to form farmers’ groups and co-operatives. Demo plots are also prepared to showcase conservation farming techniques and their benefits.
This script is based on interviews with small-scale farmers and an extension officer, and aims to understand Batoka’s response to the impact of climate change on agricultural productivity.
It explores what it took to change the mindset of farmers who were used to traditional ways of cultivation, taught by their forefathers. It shows how lead farmers were used as role models for hands-on learning on demo plots to increase adoption of promoted farming techniques.
The script also gives an account of government and other stakeholders’ responses to climate change in the area.
To produce a similar program on farmers adopting practices that benefit the environment, help them adapt to climate change, and feed their families and community, you can use this script as a guide.
You could talk to local farmers as well as extension officers and other agricultural experts. You could ask them:
- What environmental and farming problems are most serious in this area?
- Have the local weather patterns changed?
- Are farmers adopting new practices to help them adapt to the new weather patterns and to stop contributing to environmental and farming problems?
- What are the challenges related to adopting these new practices, and how can they be addressed?
Duration of program with intro, extro, and music: 25 minutes.
We talked to Mr. Charles Nyangale, a farmer who, whilst practicing traditional farming methods, was vulnerable to the effects of climate change, but has now adopted new farming techniques, giving him a whole new story to tell.
Sir, you are welcome to the interview.
We have also engaged in intercropping, where we grow different crops in the same field simultaneously.
But the Zambian government sent extension officers who taught us about the dangers of our traditional way of farming and educated us on the benefits of modern farming techniques by establishing demo plots on our farms.
So to answer your question on when we started experiencing the effects of climate change, although it started much earlier, I remember vividly in 2017 when there was a heavy downpour which led to floods. The floods swept away our crops and damaged infrastructure like bridges, houses, and roads. We were confronted with soil erosion and stagnant water that didn’t run off and became stinky or polluted, and our livestock had no access to clean drinking water. Most of them died due to starvation as grazing grass was also swept away or underwater. We also experienced an infestation of mosquitoes, which led to an increase in malaria cases amongst farmers, including some deaths. In short, it was a very trying time for us in Batoka.
So we prepared the land by digging planting basins and adding grass or crop residues to the basins so that when the rains came, we could plant in those same basins. And if you wanted to apply fertilizers, you applied them right in those basins to avoid wastage of inputs.
They also encouraged us to engage in intercropping, growing different crops in a field at the same time—for instance maize, sunflower, and legumes like beans and cowpeas.
I grow my crops on four hectares, but my harvest surpasses farmers still using old methods on seven or eight hectares of land. I have also noticed that my maize crops are sweeter in taste, bigger in size, and richer in colour than those grown with fertilizers.
Thanks to conservation farming and intercropping, as long as I conduct early land preparation, plant good certified seeds, and use proper crop management in terms of weeding and thinning, I am positive that despite the hot temperatures, I shall go to the bank smiling at the end of that season. (LAUGHS)
We also taught farmers to keep a sufficient amount of the harvest for home consumption and sell the surplus. When anticipating floods, we encouraged them to shift crop production, livestock, and houses from low-altitude lands to higher lands, which are less likely to be flooded. At all times, we emphasized early land preparation and incorporating crop residues rather than burning them. And we highlighted the importance of growing more drought-tolerant crops, crop rotation, and intercropping with crops like sunflower, cowpea, pumpkin, and others.
The women are also incorporating agroforestry and intercropping.
I also turn the bark into powder and add it to the feed for my chickens and cows. My animals rarely get sick. Even when animals in neighbouring farms are dying of all sorts of diseases like swine fever or foot and mouth disease, mine never get sick. Those are the benefits I have seen in musangu trees.
I have also named myself number one intercropper as I am fond of this method because, apart from curbing the effects of climate change, my pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and maize have a unique taste. I love the idea of intercropping because while I am in the field weeding or thinning, I can also harvest vegetables to cook at home.
Another challenge is that many customers prefer to buy different types of farm produce from me—a situation that doesn’t sit well with my fellow farmers in my community. They start getting jealous and suspect me of practicing witchcraft. But I am not bothered by what they say. Rather, I encourage them to adopt agroforestry and intercropping so they can see the benefits I have been enjoying over the years. They say if you can’t beat them, join them (LAUGHS)!
Finally, we talked to Charity Mwanangombe, another successful farmer and trader. She highlighted the benefits of using a tree called musangu which not only adds fertility to soils but whose bark can be used as feed supplement to improve animal nutrition and health.
Climate change is here and the damage it has caused is already difficult. The onus is on you and I to change our way of life and adopt strategies like these to reduce or completely change the situation for the benefit of all of us and future generations.
From me, Alice Lungu, it’s good bye.
Contributed by: Alice Lungu, radio and television producer, Lusaka, Zambia.
Reviewed by: Morton Mwanza, Acting Chief Vegetables and Floricultural Officer, Ministry of Agriculture, Department of Agriculture, Crops Production Branch, Lusaka, Zambia.