Monday, December 30, 2013

Waiting for the rains, Zambia grapples with climate change

Ernest Chiombe in IPS: It is seven in the morning and Georgina Musende, 56, of Kamanga Township, which just lies east of the Zambian capital Lusaka, is already sweating as she digs into the dry earth. Every time the hoe hits the ground, the dust engulfs her.

But Musende, a single parent who supports her four children and 10 grandchildren, is not concerned about the scorching 35-degree Celsius heat nor the dust. She is worried that the delayed onset of the rainy season will affect her maize production.

“In the past, we knew that the Independence Day [Oct. 24] rainfall marked the beginning of the rainy season, but these days one doesn’t exactly know when the rains will start,” says Musende, who has already paid 90 dollars to rent a field near the township for the season. “Of course, tilling this hard surface in this heat is tough. But I have to do it now so that when the rains come, I will quickly come and sow the seeds,” she tells IPS, gazing at the sky.

About 15 kms away, 32-year-old Pearson Chola of Libala South Township, leans against a 210-litre drum he has filled with water. He has just collected it from the Lusaka Water Sewerage Company’s Water Works Kiosk. Behind him a woman and a group of four young boys, aged between three and seven years old, roll their drums of water home.  “For sure, the climate is changing. Take this year, for example, the rainy season has delayed a lot. When it’s like this, we suffer a lot, as many people come here to get water,” Chola tells IPS.

Joseph K. Kanyanga, chief meteorologist at the Zambia Meteorological Department, tells IPS that weather patterns in Zambia have changed. “Temperatures nowadays are higher than the 1950s; both maximum and minimum temperatures are showing a warming trend. As for rainfall, though there is uncertainty. There is an evident shift in the onset and end of the rainy season. The start of the rainy season shows the pronounced shift; at times starting as late as mid-December for most parts of Zambia,” Kanyanga says....

Close-up aerial photo of Zambezi River at the junction of Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana. Shot by Brian McMorrow,  under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license

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