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Zambia, Zimbabwe grappled by climate change nightmare

…as Zambezi water levels aggravate power shortages and deforestation.

As the Pope recently said, “Climate change is a problem that can not be left to our future generations any more”. The effects of climate change have globally ballooned to an extent where the phenomenon is no longer a threat, but a vivid reality.

By Watmore Makokoba

The effects of climate change culminating into floods, perennial droughts and extreme heat has already caught up with nations, with many of them struggling to cope with the devastating reality, especially developing countries.



In Zimbabwe and Zambia , floods have hit low lying lands annually while this year a serious drought is projected to exacerbate poverty and power shortages already engulfing the countries.

The prolonged dry spell experienced in most parts of Zimbabwe has affected agricultural output severely as a result, food security and agricultural sub sectors like stock feeds manufacturing which depends heavily on the viability of the agricultural productivity have been threatened.

Zimbabwean Agriculture, Mechanization and Irrigation Development Minister Dr Joseph Made said “the dry spell experienced in the country due to climate change has not only affected Zimbabwe only, but most parts of Southern Africa”.

Not only has climate change affected agricultural viability, other economic sectors such as power and energy, fishing and processing industries have been affected negatively.

Kariba damwall showing low water levels

Kariba Dam

Low water levels at Lake Kariba caused by low rainfall experienced in sub-Saharan region have caused serious power shortages forcing the Zimbabwe and Zambia to cut hydro power consumption in an attempt to cope with defficit.

The two countries rely on the world`s largest man-made lake which is fed into by the Zambezi River for hydro electricity generation.

Speaking to the media in Kariba recently, the Zambian Mines, Energy and Water Development Deputy minister Charles Zulu said the situation was so dire that it has forced the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) and Zambia Electricity Supply Company (ZESCO) to supply to a quota.

“The country may further reduce power supply by as much as 600 megawatts from about 2,200 megawatts and already electricity supply has been cut by 300 megawatts and will probably double this gradually over 2015, said Zulu

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This has accelerated the use and demand for charcoal in both countries, further worsening the situation since trees are the vital resource needed to reduce the impact of climate change globally.

Although charcoal production is very popular and contributes to livelihoods as a source of income, employment and as an alternative source of energy, it has been blamed for contributing significantly to deforestation.

According to Center for International Forestry Research (CIFR) in Eastern, Northern and North-western provinces, charcoal production is blamed as a major contributor to Zambia’s 0.3% per annum forest loss.

Due to power shortages in neighboring countries especially Zimbabwe, charcoal demand and export has dramatically risen, worsening the rate of deforestation and derailing efforts on climate change mitigation.

Part of the Road to Paris cyclist take part in a tree planting exercise at Epworth primary School in Harare

Part of the Road to Paris cyclist take part in a tree planting exercise at Epworth Primary School in Harare

“Most charcoal production reviewed by this study was traded and consumed in district centres and major towns across Zambia. However, as a result of higher prices (and rising demand) in neighboring countries, charcoal is moving across borders in haulage trucks”, reports CIFR.

According to the Government of the Republic of Zambia, charcoal production is a major driver of deforestation and environmental degradation (GRZ 2010).

On a positive note, however, some African governments have heeded the call and are initiating climate change mitigation measure to foster livelihoods resilience against the effects such as power shortages as alluded to earlier.

The Government of Zimbabwe in partnership with Hivos, Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV) this week unveiled the Zimbabwe Domestic Biogas program that has seen 122 biogas digesters constructed in the two arid provinces in the country.

The project is targeting building 70,000 digesters throughout the whole country by 2017 and this is aimed at tackling deepening energy scarcity particularly among rural communities who rely on firewood fro cooking.

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During the Clean energy Week commemorations, the Minister of Energy Power Development Samuel Undenge said besides the current power shortages due to climate change, it was also imperative to roll out alternative energy sources to augment the United Nations Vision on sustainable energy provision.

“We can not continue to think that it is normal for the bulk of our population to continue using firewood when our forests are dwindling, this comes with ecological disruptions resulting in climate change and environmental pollution.

“As you are aware, the UN has declared the coming period till 2030 a period to strive for sustainable energy as enunciated in the UN vision commonly known as SE4ALL,hence government `s commitment to sustainable energy sources”, he said.

The Zimbabwe Council of Churches, Churches Council of Zambia with support from the Norwegian council and Friends of the Environment are currently taking part and supporting the “Cycling for climate Justice”,  where six cyclist from Zimbabwe will cycle throughout southern Africa raising awareness, planting trees and collecting signatures to be submitted during upcoming climate change conference in Paris in December.

French Ambossodor to Zimbabwe and Malawi ,Laurent Delahousse takes part in a tree planting exercise

French Ambassodor to Zimbabwe and Malawi ,Laurent Delahousse takes part in a tree planting exercise

The cyclist will cycle from Uganda through Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia Zimbabwe, and Botswana South Africa to Mozambique and more than 1,000 trees are expected to be planted along the way.

Speaking during the cyclist detour in Zimbabwe, the French Ambassador to Zimbabwe and Malawi Laurent Delahousse, whose country is hosting the 2015 COP21 conference, commended the initiative as appositive step towards raising awareness on climate change.

Climate change is no longer a myth, each day gone is a lost day if we don’t do anything towards this problem hence this initiative by the sporting fraternity ,the church community and non-governmental organisations is a positive step that must be commended”, he said.

According to a recent study by the University of Zimbabwe `s Institute of Environmental Studies (IES), of the 13.1 million people in Zimbabwe, about 8 million or 60% have no access to electricity and are still using traditional sources of energy mainly firewood for cooking.

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