A visit to the Western province of Zambia is never complete without having a taste of their local ‘mongu fish’. However, the increasing climate variability in the region has resulted in reduced availability of this famous specialty for locals and visitors.
The farmers we work with in Zambia are always searching for innovative means to protect their livelihoods and create sustainable businesses, from the digging of communal solar-powered boreholes to aquaculture cooperatives. But they are not sure what to expect in terms of floods and droughts in the coming years, or how severely climate change will affect their lives. It is for this reason that the Pilot Program for Climate Resilience (PPCR) Phase II, has been supporting various communities within the Western Province of Zambia with sustainable livelihood options to increase their resilience and response to climate change impacts.
Sustainable livelihood options need to be integrated with traditionally practiced skills
Sioma, a rural district on the western banks of the Zambezi River in Western Province, is home to the famous Ngonye Falls and the Sioma Ngwezi National Park, Zambia’s third largest national park. Fishing has always been the main livelihood of the people of Mbeta, commonly referred to as the floating island in Sioma. However, their economic mainstay has over the years come under threat. Changing climatic conditions have resulted in depletion of fish stock, and the situation has been worsened by crop failure as a result of reduced rainfall. Before PPCR interventions began in 2012, Namakando Nyambe, a fish farm manager and project beneficiary once shared that changes in weather patterns—particularly the reducing water levels—was having a huge impact on their main livelihoods. The worst nightmare, he said, was the threatened fishing culture which was at the verge of being lost.
It is no surprise then that fish farming is one of the main areas that the communities have adopted as a sustainable livelihood options, but also as a means to help fill the gap that comes with shortage of the traditional local fish in their rivers. For instance, a group of 18 community members (15 women and three men) was formed to undertake a fish cage farming project in a lagoon on the Mbeta island. The group received $14,357 equivalent from PPCR for construction of two fish cages and procurement of fish fingerlings and feed for the fish. Income generated from the harvest is used to restock the cages and to procure feed for the fish. The surplus funds are then used to support selected vulnerable children from within the community, with school fees, uniforms and other school materials.
Integrated learning-by-doing approach as a respond to climate change impacts
The Zambia PPCR is both strategic and transformational. Through Strategic National Program Support, the PPCR is helping to make climate change an intrinsic part of economic development, while adopting a participatory, learning-by-doing response to Zambia's most vulnerable areas. This approach is allowing national institutional capacity to be informed by lessons from the field. The project has continued to record an increase in the number of beneficiaries beyond its 130,000 targeted number set at the beginning of the project, reaching a total number of 505,075 in March 2020 of which 298,717 are female. The increased resilient ability of the rural communities in Western province has generated strong interest from the district, provincial and national administration in agriculture, fisheries and livestock ministries at the ministerial level. But most importantly from the country’s highest office—The Office of the President.
In July 2020, Zambia’s Republican President Dr. Edgar C. Lungu visited some of the project sites in Mongu. While there, he harvested fish along with beneficiaries of a fish farming community project, and handed over cheques for new community projects.
The recently commissioned Transforming Landscapes for Rural Development (TRALARD) Project in Zambia is building on lessons from the PPCR’s success, and seeking to replicate it at scale in —Luapula, Muchinga and Northern provinces.
The project is proof that effective adaptation to climate change requires behavioral change, through better and targeted climate information and awareness.