The Zambia National Farmers’ Union (ZNFU) says crop diversification is the only way of mitigating the devastating effects of climate change affecting farmers across the country.

Commenting on the food relief distribution programme that government is currently undertaking in drought-hit areas, through the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU), ZNFU president Jervis Zimba said there was need for the Ministry of Agriculture to introduce new crop varieties in areas that were affected by droughts to avoid hunger in future agricultural seasons.

“So, we welcome (the food relief distribution), I mean we are in a dire situation and this issue of climate change is actually very worrying and it’s real. So, we’ve got to really look at how we mitigate the issues of climate change and I think we’ve advised the Permanent Secretary (Julius Shawa) that even in the distribution exercise of the seed, I am sure we’ve advised them that in some areas they’ve got to now change the varieties in the drought-prone areas. But again, we don’t know again how the season will perform. So, the issues of climate change is very worrying and as a Union, we are extremely worried with the issues of climate change because as you know, climate change hinges on food security; one year you are okay, then the other year, you’ve got a problem! I don’t know, really, how the matter will be resolved. Hopefully this year, we could have a better weather pattern; this year, we’ve got a very bad pattern, the next thing you’ve got a good pattern. So, we can only tell the coming season if we are going to have good rains,” Zimba said in an interview in Lusaka.

“The drought is in very selective areas, you find that it’s all over. So, the relief [distribution] will go by how droughts affected different areas because, really, if you look at the whole issue, you will find that even in Southern Province you will see how they are distributing, in some areas they are distributing and in some areas they are not. I think they are following the way the drought was. The rain pattern this year was very difficult. You can be in Lusaka here and in Chawama it’s raining, but then, in Garden compound there is no rain. So, all we are saying is that we are in a very difficult situation and the complete assessment is the drought areas; that’s how the relief food is being distributed.”

He added that the Union would start advising farmers on what crops to grow, depending on the climate conditions in their area.

“At the moment we are waiting for what will be the outlook for 2019/2020 and I think that will be a guiding factor. Once you get to know what will be the outlook for 2019/2020 (agricultural) season, then we can prepare adequately for next season because at least this season has given us enough lessons. So, once we get to know the food focus, then we’ll start advising farmers what to do in the next coming season. When we visited some fields, we could find that someone grew five hectors, but has nothing. So, those are the people that government has just said ‘let’s assist them’ because it’s not a fault of their own. But like I said, we need to accept as country that the rain pattern has changed. If you remember years back, the rains used to start end of October and by 7th to 10th November, we used to finish planting. Then it changed to second week of December. Now, we are looking to January, which is very unusual we are not used to planting in January,” observed Zimba.