El Niño Drought affects Zambian Maize Farmers

Maize farmers in Zambia this year face less than favorable yields due to the current drought brought on by El Nino weather patterns. Last year in August 2015, the 19th Southern African Regional Climate Outlook Forum (SARCOF-19) predicted insufficient rainfall from October 2015 up to March 2016 across the whole SADC region which is already facing various economic challenges.

The low water levels in Lake Kariba have already taken their toll on Zambia and Zimbabwe’s electricity generation output, seriously affecting the Copper mining industry which already faces low commodity prices on the international markets. The Zambezi River Authority reduced water allocation for power generation at the dam by both Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation (ZESCO) and Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA). Earlier this week, Zambia’s Energy minister asked South Africa for 300MW of electricity to be exported to the Zambian grid.

At the moment, Zambia is facing serious food and energy shortage crisis in an election year which only complicates matters for President Edgar Lungu while giving his main rival Hakainde Hichilema an advantage if Lungu’s popularity dips in the face of the challenges.

The hardest hit however, will be Zambia’s subsistence maize farmers who depend on the rains to irrigate their crops. In its assessment, the Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU) has identified a need for new business models that work with the new realities of climate change and rising costs of production especially inputs like seed and fertilizer for Zambian farmers.

In an interview with Thomson Reuters foundation, a Zambian farmer identified as Sinoya Phiri from Lusaka said, “It is becoming unsustainable to grow maize because of the changing weather patterns. I am afraid if we don’t change our farming methods, especially the growing of maize, we will end up as a hungry country.”

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