Doreen Chilumbu Nawa

In Eastern Zambia, climate-smart agriculture is led by the whole village

The Centre for Coordination of Agricultural Research and Development for Southern Africa (CCARDESA) is a major partner of the AICCRA Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Programme, implementing major activities that promote climate-smart agriculture and improve climate information services in the region.

From looks alone, one could tell the excitement on their faces. They took leave from their daily hustles to gather and hear what the Centre for Coordination of Agricultural Research and Development for Southern Africa (CCARDESA) and its partners had for them.

These are women and men of Magugu village in Chief Saili's area in the Eastern part of Zambia.

They gathered to witness the handover of a five hectares piece of land that their chief, Chief Saili, has given to the community for a Climate Smart Agriculture project under AICCRA.

"We are happy to see people travel from far and wide just to come and render this help to us at no cost attached to the community of Magugu. I can't thank the organizers and the organization enough; I am looking forward to the commencement of this important project and first of its kind here in the Saili chiefdom," Joyce Sakala said.

Another project beneficiary, Daliso Nzima, said, "I look forward to this project called Accelerating Impacts of CGIAR Climate Research for Africa (AICCRA) here in our village. Looking at the changes in weather patterns in recent years, I believe we will learn new 'tricks' to live with this new trend in our climatic condition."

Earlier, a visit to Chief Saili's palace revealed similar excitement about the project. "I welcome this project wholeheartedly; I know it's for the good of my people and the chiefdom. When a request for land got to my office, I had no hesitation. Please feel free and start the process," Chief Saili told the AICCRA project delegation who had visited him before going to the site. Despite owning huge pieces of arable land, climate change left the people of Saili struggling to feed their families.

 A 2020 World Bank report warns that the effects of climate change are hitting Zambia hard. Furthermore, the report indicates that Zambia's climate is highly variable. Over the last few decades has experienced a series of climatic extremes like droughts, seasonal floods and flash floods, extreme temperatures, and dry spells, with increased frequency, intensity, and magnitude. Their impacts on the country are evident in climate-induced changes to physical and biological systems, which increasingly exert considerable stress on the country's vulnerable sectors, especially agriculture.

As such, rainfall variability remains a key structural risk to Zambia's sustainable growth, affecting key sectors like agriculture and electricity, and highlights the need to incorporate climate-smart solutions in Zambia's long-term growth strategy.

Agriculture is a critical sector that can lift communities like those in Chief Saili's chiefdom out of poverty. Worryingly, changing weather patterns and persistent droughts are threatening their progress. But not all hope is lost; the AICCRA project is taking shape following the identification of the land.

John Recha, a Participatory Action Researcher at International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), noted that farming must become climate resilient to ensure a food-secure future.

 "Around the world, governments and communities need to adopt innovations that will improve the lives of millions while reducing agriculture's climate footprint. These successful examples, like what will happen in Chief Saili's chiefdom here in Chipata, Eastern Zambia, show the many ways climate-smart agriculture can take shape and should serve as inspiration for future policies and investments," Dr. Recha said.

And CCARDESA's Programmes and Grants Manager Simon Mwale said the AICCRA project in Zambia aims at developing services and innovations to help Zambian farmers and communities safeguard their livelihoods in the face of climate change.

Dr. Mwale notes that climate change is threatening Zambian crops and livestock systems, impacting agriculture businesses and undermining livelihoods. With this in mind, Dr. Mwale said it is increasingly urgent for Zambian farmers and livestock keepers to be able to anticipate climate-related events and take appropriate preventative actions.

"AICCRA-Zambia aims to improve water, food, and energy security through access to knowledge, technologies, and decision-making tools, to strengthen climate resilience in Zambia's agriculture and food systems in the face of a hotter and drier climate," Dr. Mwale said.