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GROUND WATER: Could it unlock the full potential of small scale farmers in Zambia?

Filed under: Health & Nutrition,Latest News,Special Comments |

By James Kacheya

Amar Nayak, roving global humanitarian adviser at ActionAid, stressed that Zambia is facing an unprecedented food crisis.

More than 2.4 million people are affected and at least 430,000 people are experiencing severe food insecurity described as just one level below famine.

The drought has resulted in crops failing and livestock lacking grazing grounds, which has left populations in the affected parts of the country facing food shortages.

The drought in Zambia is causing starvation.

Zambia is wrestling with a devastating drought caused, according to experts by a dramatic
shift in weather patterns, which is one of the many effects of climate change.

However, it is also worthy knowing that groundwater a vital source of water for drinking and irrigation across sub-Saharan Africa is resilient to climate variability and change, according to a new study led by UCL and Cardiff University.

Small-scale farmers produce up to 80 percent of maize grown in the country, according to a 2011 report from the Zambia Development Agency.

Small scale farmers are one of the most vulnerable groups to climate change.

The vulnerability of small scale farmers to climate change is highly due to their low capacity to absorb climate change shocks.

This is because most depend on rain-fed agriculture, cultivate marginal areas, and lack access to technical or financial support that could help them invest in more climate resilient agriculture.

Most rain-fed small-holder farmers in Zambia, (about70%) are facing considerable hardships in adapting to the changing climate, which in turn, under mines their contribution to food security.

Small scale farmers in Zambia are dependent on rain fed agriculture and only produce crops during the rain season and of Zambia’s irrigable land, 70 percent is not irrigated.

This significantly indicates that the potential of small scale farmers to produce crops during the dry season is dormant.

The key to unlock this dormancy lies in the full utilisation of groundwater by untapping the potential of groundwater irrigation we could bring about environmental sustainability, agricultural productivity and greater social equality.

Groundwater has the potential to provide domestic water in rural Africa and support poverty reduction through irrigation during droughts and dry seasons.

Reliance on groundwater is likely to increase as rainfall becomes more variable and demand for water becomes greater.

Nevertheless, with just one percent of cultivated land in Africa currently irrigated using groundwater, a lot need to be done to realise full potential.

International Water Management Institute (IWMI) notes that investing in motor pumps to expand such irrigation could benefit an estimated 185 million people, generating revenues of US$22 billion a year across the continent.

Therefore, increasing access to groundwater for Zambia should be of high priority to the government if the small scale farmers are to reach their full capacity in terms of production.

One key to this is to reduce the costs of conventional drilling and borehole construction including other unnecessary costs.


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