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CLIMATE CHANGE: Threats on the agriculture sector in Zambia

Bernadette Deka-Zulu (PhD Researcher-Public Enterprise)

TO begin with, we shall define climate change in simplest terms; Climate change refers to the long-term changes in the Earth’s climate system, including changes in temperature, precipitation, and weather patterns that occur over decades or longer periods of time.

It is primarily caused by human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation, which release large amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. These greenhouse gases trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere, leading to an overall warming of the planet.

In the previous article, we investigated and briefly summarised the consequences of climate change on the economy with particular interest on the flooding incidents in some parts of the country.

The consequences of climate change are wide-ranging and significant, including more frequent and intense heatwaves, droughts, floods, and storms, rising sea levels, and changes in ecosystems and wildlife habitats.

These impacts are expected to worsen if greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced quickly and significantly.

This week, we look at the impacts of climate change on the ountry’s agriculture.

The importance of agriculture in Zambia’s economy

With its great potential not yet realised, the agriculture sector is a crucial in the country’s economy, playing a vital role in its development, poverty reduction, and food security.

According to the US international trade administration, approximately three quarters of the Zambian population is employed in the agricultural sector, and the sector accounts for approximately 19 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Zambia has a favourable climate and abundant natural resources that support a variety of agricultural activities, including crop production, livestock rearing, and fishing. The country’s agricultural sector is dominated by small-scale farmers who produce a range of crops, including maize, soyabeans, groundnuts, cassava, and cotton, among others.

The agricultural sector also plays a critical role in food security as it provides a source of income and nutrition for millions of people in the country. Agriculture is not only a source of food but also an essential source of income for many households, particularly in rural areas.

In addition to providing food and income, agriculture also contributes significantly to the country’s exports. Zambia is known for its high-quality tobacco, cotton, and maize exports, among other crops, which are slowly generating significant revenue for the country’s economy.

Furthermore, the government should recognise the importance of the agricultural sector in the country’s economy and ensure they implement various policies and initiatives to support the sector, policies /initiatives such as investing in rural infrastructure, increasing access to credit and inputs for farmers, and promoting the adoption of modern agricultural practices.

Government tampering with inputs in the agricultural sector can have significant negative impacts on the sector, including market distortions, reduced private sector investment, and unintended environmental impacts.

When the government interferes with the distribution and pricing of inputs such as fertilisers, seeds, and pesticides, it can lead to an artificial shortage of inputs, increased prices, reduced availability, and reduced quality of inputs.

This can create difficulties for farmers in accessing inputs, leading to reduced crop yields and lower incomes.

Therefore, a balanced and transparent policy approach is necessary to promote a competitive and efficient market for inputs, protect the environment, and support the interests of farmers and consumers.

Agriculture plays a critical role in the country’s economy, providing employment, income, and food security for millions of people. The sector’s contribution to exports also generates significant revenue, making it a crucial sector for the country’s development and poverty reduction efforts.

The impacts of flooding incidents on crops and livestock

Flooding incidents can have severe impacts on crops and livestock. Floods can damage crops by washing away topsoil, eroding fields, and introducing harmful contaminants. They can also lead to standing water, which can suffocate crops, promote the growth of disease-causing pathogens, and drown livestock.

Furthermore, floods can cause significant losses of livestock, as they may be unable to access food, water, and shelter or may be washed away by the floodwaters.

Flooding can also disrupt transportation and logistics, making it difficult to move crops and livestock to markets, leading to economic losses for farmers and affecting food availability and prices for consumers.

The impacts of flooding incidents on crops and livestock can have long-term effects on food security, livelihoods, and the economy, particularly in regions where agriculture is a significant sector.

The effects of reduced yields on food security and prices

Reduced yields can have significant effects on food security and prices, particularly in regions where agriculture is a significant sector. When crops fail or yields are lower than expected, food availability can decrease, leading to food shortages and increased prices.

This can result in decreased access to food for vulnerable populations, particularly those who are already food-insecure. Reduced yields can also affect the livelihoods of farmers and reduce their incomes, which can have a ripple effect on the economy. This will definitely further increase food prices, exacerbate poverty, and lead to social unrest.

In addition, reduced yields can lead to decreased exports, affecting the country’s balance of trade and economic growth. Therefore, efforts to increase yields through sustainable agricultural practices, improved irrigation, and the development of drought-resistant crops are essential to enhance food security, stabilise prices, and support economic development.

The economic impacts on farmers and the agricultural sector

The agricultural sector plays a significant role in many economies, particularly in developing countries, where it is a primary source of employment and income. Farmers and their communities can be significantly affected by economic impacts on the sector.

Natural disasters, reduced yields, and volatile prices can all have negative economic impacts on farmers, including reduced incomes, increased debt, and reduced access to credit. This can further exacerbate poverty and create a cycle of vulnerability, affecting the long-term sustainability of the sector.

Moreover, economic impacts can also affect private sector investment in the sector, as companies may be hesitant to invest in an uncertain market. This can lead to reduced availability and diversity of inputs, affecting crop yields and limiting the sector’s potential for growth.

Therefore, it is essential to develop policies that support the long-term economic sustainability of the agricultural sector, including access to credit, stable prices, and the promotion of sustainable agricultural practices.

Mitigating the challenges

Climate change poses significant challenges for agriculture, including extreme weather events, water scarcity, and soil degradation. To mitigate the impacts on agriculture, farmers and policymakers can take several measures:-

  1. Farmers can implement sustainable farming practices such as conservation tillage, crop rotation, and integrated pest management, which can reduce the reliance on chemical inputs and conserve soil moisture.
  2. Adopt climate-resilient crops that are adapted to the local climatic conditions, such as flood-tolerant crops or varieties that can withstand heat stress.
  3. Investing in irrigation systems that use water more efficiently, such as drip irrigation or micro-sprinklers.
  4. Policymakers can implement policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote climate-friendly agricultural practices. These policies could include incentives for farmers who adopt sustainable practices or penalties for those who continue to use unsustainable methods.
  5. Government can support research and development of new technologies and crops that can better withstand climate change. By taking these measures, we can help ensure that agriculture remains resilient and sustainable in the face of climate change.

In conclusion, climate change poses a threat to agriculture, however farmers and policymakers must seriously employ measures (through expert considerations and advice)to mitigate impacts.

These measures include sustainable farming practices, climate-resilient crops, efficient irrigation systems, and policies that promote climate-friendly agricultural practices.

By taking action, we can help ensure that agriculture remains a vital source of food and nutrition, employment and general livelihoods for generations to come.For questions or comments, contact the author at

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