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Changes in climate pose challenges to Zambia’s ongoing efforts to combat poverty, reduce food insecurity and sustainably manage natural resources. Almost 60% of the population live under the poverty line. Droughts and floods have increased in frequency and intensity over the last two decades, which have adversely impacted food and water security.
Agricultural constitutes 9% of GDP, consisting largely of rainfed subsistence farming, which is highly sensitive to climate change. Agriculture is the mainstay of rural employment in Zambia. Most livelihoods depend on staple crops like cassava and maize, whose yields rely on a timely rainy season and stable temperatures. Increasing temperatures and erratic rainfall patterns have altered crop water requirements, significantly impacting yields. Higher temperatures have also increased the spread and incidence of pests and diseases. Reduced agricultural productivity will likely exacerbate already high rates of food insecurity and malnutrition.
Zambians already suffer from climate sensitive diseases such as malaria and diarrhoea. Malaria affects over four million Zambians annually and cholera is a recurring problem in peri-urban areas and is linked to weather, in 2010 an outbreak in Lusaka following heavy rains and flooding, reached 4,500 cases. Inadequate health coverage, high levels of poverty and fragmented water supply and sanitation all contribute to the health sector’s vulnerability.