Adaptation CountryFile: Zambia

Welcome to (another) new feature – Adaptation Countryfile. Every so often we’ll take a break from the international adaptation circus and get stuck into national and even local level adaptation on the ground. How does climate change affect developing countries in reality? We’ll ask the same questions (who wins and loses, where does the money go, what are the pros and cons), but getting down to adaptation in practice. We hope to build up a picture of adaptation in a range of (mostly African) countries, and then see if we can see any patterns, themes or a picture emerging.

Live in the country you see here? Finding inaccuracies, or have more info? Let us know in the comments in the bottom.

This week: Zambia.


How vulnerable is Zambia to climate change?

An interesting experiment – how do different “big data” vulnerability monitors compare Zambia’s vulnerability?

  • On the Center for Global Development Vulnerability Index, Zambia comes in at 34th most vulnerable out of 167.
  • The ND Gain Vulnerability (not readiness) Index puts Zambia at 49th (out of 177).
  • The Climate Vulnerability Monitor doesn’t do rankings or compatibility with others. It does give us this diagram, but truth be told, the colours and circles are so confusing I don’t know what it means. You can get the actual data here though.
  • The Germanwatch Global Climate Risk Index, which measures risks to weather related events (heat, hurricanes etc) – 53/178

We can judge at least some success for the big data applications if they all put Zambia at about the same place – and as it turns out, they sort of do – so well done them.

In Zambia’s case, the biggest threat is to agriculture. It’s hard to be specific about a country Zambia’s size – different parts of it have different weather patterns, but the IPCC reckons the biggest threat is from movement of the dunes of the Kalahari desert, drying out farming land. That’s a serious threat when 85% of the population of 13 million are employed in an industry that generates only 20% of GDP, most of that from smallholder farming.  Zambia’s average rainfall won’t change much, but the way that rain falls will, which can be ruinous. Heavy rains like those in 2007 displaced 8% of the population, destroyed crops, flooded fields and washed away valuable soil. At other times, droughts make it difficult to plant without good irrigation, which is sparse, and leaving many to rely on unhygienic water supplies. The knock-on effects are dangerous – less crop supply leads to an increase in food prices in the cities, leading to malnutrition, starvation and even unrest. Another fear is the impact on tourism – some reckon the impressive Victoria Falls could be all but a trickle in the next 50 years.

Zambia is also one of the world leaders for deforestation – at a rate of 1.5% per year, particularly in urban areas.  This can make flooding worse, as trees and forests tend to soak up running water before saturate the ground and run down into fields or increasingly in Zambia’s case, cities with rapidly growing slums, that can be disastrous for homes and livelihoods.

The indexes also point out the likelihood of exacerbated health problems. Flooding and intense rainfall intensify the risks of Malaria, (Mosquitos breed in stagnant water), as well as other weather related microbes including Diarrhea or Cholera. All this in a country with serious health problems – average life expectancy of 54, and chronic shortages of medicines and qualified health workers. The threat is also changing due to the rapid urbanisation in Zambia in the last few years, with over 2.3 million people living in slums, 57% of the urban population.

Failed maize crop, Zambia. Image: The Guardian.

Failed maize crop, Zambia. Image: The Guardian.

How is Climate Change Adaptation being Dealt With?

Previous governments have begun to develop Disaster Management and Climate Change Response Strategies. There is now a National Climate Change and Development Council, composed of reps from various ministries, and a strategic plan, Vision 2030, calling for a “climate-resilient economy”. There is no climate change policy per se, although one is being developed. In truth, climate change doesn’t feature so highly on the political agenda, with the ruling party, the Patriotic Front, only mentioning it 4 times in their manifesto, and mostly to stress that it should not distract from the failures of “good housekeeping” that are needed.

Climate Funding

In terms of actual cash for adaptation, less than $400 million comes in from the outside, including loans from multilateral development banks.

Climate Funding programs tend to evolve out of the first real adaptation assessments and planning processes, the National Adaptation Plans of Action (NAPA). Mostly submitted in 2007 by every developing country, they identified the most important adaptation priorities, and the process of developing them also became the basis of future adaptation planning. Zambia’s NAPA focused on early warning systems for weather events, adaptation to drought, promoting regeneration of forests and adaptation on “land use practices” – how the land is farmed and fished. Zambia’s NAPA is implemented by the United Nations Development Program, but funding for it is minimal.

The African Development Bank has put up $160 million for infrastructure projects, and the IFC, the private finance arm of the World Bank, works with the private sector in agriculture and livestock development. Zambia is one of the countries selected to benefit from the World Banks’s “Pilot Program for Climate Resilience”, a program aiming to integrate climate adaptation planning into mainstream development. The program offers 36 million for infrastructure and community based adaptation projects, as well as helping to get the climate change council up and running.

Notably, the Japanese have also recently put up $70 million for agriculture and infrastructural development. It’s interesting at this point that the Japanese are making their climate aid bilaterally, rather than committing it to the Green Climate Fund. Presumably they expect to gain more from doing it themselves than letting the international process choose where to spend their money.

 Winners and Losers

There isn’t much good research on adaptation in Zambia, mostly because it’s not high on the agenda and because adaptation programs are still in their early stages. Civil society activity is growing however, partly due to a DFID project that supports organisations like the Zambia Climate Change Network, which should bring more pressure to bear on government activities. Watch this space for further development and analysis.