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Lyambai Vulnerability and Adaptation Project Workshop

Multiple Authors


Oxen ploughing rice field in Limulunga (identified by the community as an adaptation option). Photo M. Monde

Mongu is one seven districts in the Western Province of Zambia. It is the land of the Lozi or Barotse people. The Lozi people live on 30 kilometer wide Barotseland flood plain. The floodplain is replenished by annual rainfall from around January to April. However, because the rain actually falls in the Angolan highland and on the Zambezi-Congo watershed area bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC),it is hard, without a regional early warning system for local people in the region of Balozi to predict the volume or velocity of water entering the plain.

The floodplain ecosystem, like all ecosystems, has physical and human inputs, interacting processes and outputs. These narrate the interaction of social and biophysical processes, working in tandem, to influence environmental change and render socio-ecological networks and balances vulnerable to breakdown or failure. Climate change and variability are fundamental mediators of environmental change impacting on ecosystems and their stability. This region, like its Sahelian counterparts to the north, lies in a zone of very high risk from the impacts of climate change. Part of the logic for this high risk is that the region lies at the southern extremity of the migratory track of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) and has already experienced some negative impacts of climate change or, more accurately, increasing climate variability in the form of increasing extreme weather events such as severe storms, higher annual floods, many years when the floods fail, higher temperatures and severe winds are experienced.

Virtually all socio-economic and cultural activities in the region are mediated by factors controlled by the climate. These include: cultivation, livestock rearing, fishing, reed products and other crafts, and reproduction of culture for example, the annual Kuomboka festival, which depends on the annual inundation of the Balozi floodplain. Thus, social and environmental vulnerability in a region that is already classed as the poorest province in Zambia, is crosscut by high levels of sensitivity to change. The River Zambezi flowing from north to south through the region and cuts the floodplain in half, is vulnerable to reduced rainfall and higher temperatures not just in the floodplain and surrounding area but in the watershed regions of the Upper Zambezi, particularly in the central Angolan highlands. This climate dynamic is crosscut by increasing deforestation which is causing changes in run-off and ground flow regimes.

The geographical focus of the case study is four pilot action village clusters near the eastern margin of the floodplain in the Upper Zambezi Valley region of western Zambia. The valley has experienced several phases of increasing climate variability in the last 100 years and intensifying human activity (the floodplain currently sustains a population of around 225,000 people with a further 200,000 or so scattered around its edges) that have impacted on the local hydrological system and the occurrence, variety and scale of flora and fauna upon which local people depend. This variability has also taken the form of climate extremes that have resulted in serious damage to infrastructure and diminished productive activity in the form of agriculture fishing and livestock rearing.

The Workshop

Location of the workshop: Mongu, W. Zambia

A strongly participative workshop was held from the 17th-19th October 2007 in Mongu, the regional capital of Western Province, Zambia which is the initial geographical focus of the project(agenda added as Appendix 1). It was sponsored and managed by Environment and Development Action (ENDA): Energy, Environment and Development Programme based in Dakar, Senegal in partnership with the Zambezi Valley Development Initiative (ZVDI) of local organisation, based in Mongu, and the local traditional authority Barotse Royal Establishment (BRE) based in the royal capital, Lealui.

The community and Local Decision Makers Workshop was held and attended by 45 people from different organisations such as:

  • Government officials such as the Assistant Permanent Secretary , Heads of departments such as department of Fisheries, department of Livestock, department of Agriculture, department of Forestry
  • Meteorological department – Kalabo, Mongu and Lusaka
  • Religious leaders’ representatives from churches such as Seventh day Adventist Church, Pentecostal Assemblies of God
  • Local Authorities (Indunas) from the three royal palaces Kutas
  • Local villagers from the four areas of the pilot survey which had started on 08th January 2007 to 26th August 2007
  • NGO – SEI (supporting)

The workshop examined the experience of climate change and variability as perceived by local inhabitants of communities considered vulnerable. This experience focuses in particular on lives and livelihood activities. This evidence is then contextualised by some explanation of climate dynamics from a scientific viewpoint.The workshop also investigated potential social adaptation to the negative impacts of climate dynamics in the pilot action areas, concomitantly suggesting unrealised potential among existing resources as well as potential for adaptation. The objectives of the workshop can be found here.

Narrative and Outcomes

Dancers at the workshop

1. The set-piece presentations concentrated first on defining climate change, variability and extreme events and how these fit in to social and ecological vulnerability and resilience. Direct references were made to people’s lives and livelihoods and how the processes to be analysed should not be seen in a negative light but one in which threats and opportunities existed, both of which required positive action under the heading of adaptation.The representatives of the Meteorological department including the Chief Meteorological Officer for Zambia and the Provincial Meteorological Officer presented weather, climate and climate change and were asked several questions relating to climate and local practices. They were also asked to contextualise their scientific data and analysis in terms of the strong Christian beliefs and world view located in the minds of most local people. This resulted in vigorous exchanges of views on the interaction between scientific analysis and religious values.

Further presentations focused on the issue of adaptation to climate change and adaptability (the building of physical and psychological capacity to adapt existing practices and develop new choices and alternatives) to maintain and enhance levels of life in an environmentally sustainable manner, proofed against the increasing vagaries of the climate.

2. Discussion sessions after each set-piece presentation were directed at:

  • How to create better local understanding and usability of information and how to harness local language to convey and unpack many of the concepts describes in English and for which no words were yet available in the vernacular.
  • Meteorological department representatives commented that they are currently engaged in a process of identifying ways and means of better communicating with local communities in Zambia to explain weather and climate and devise an early warning system to communicate to those unable to access weather forecasts by conventional means (radio and TV). One suggestion was to utilise the network of traditional authority as a communications tool.

3. During the two breakout sessions resource persons and facilitators divided up between village groups. The first session concentrated on eliciting information on current experience of climate dynamics and impacts on lives and livelihoods as well as processes that are exacerbating climate impacts through bad practice. The second session focused on thinking about possible adaptation strategies and actions to correct some of the bad practices identified in the first session and develop new livelihood choices and alternatives. In both cases, spokespersons for the village groups reported back in plenary on the deliberations of each group. Adaptation options for the different villages were developed as a result of these break-out sessions.

Discussion Points

  • How to combine scientific knowledge with strong religious beliefs when communicating climate change?
  • Considerable discussion surrounded the role of the churches and their possible role in awareness-raising of climate issues. It was generally agreed that the churches should be involved in the dissemination of information on climate change in the region, and this was taken on board by the clergy representatives present.
  • How to ensure that language is not a major barrier to communication in workshops such as these, in particular when translations for scientific terms do not exist in the local language?

Project continuation

The project is currently now working to implement some of the adaptation options identified by the communities in the workshop, however a lack of funding limits what can be done at present. In the diferent villages the adaptation options that can be implemented with current funding are:

  • Muoyo: Started growing Cassava and Sweet potatoes, we are also planing to grow rice.
  • Sefula: A Vegetable garden has been started,
  • Mabumbu: Trying to put up some fish ponds – if money will be avalaible.
  • Limulunga: Started a rice garden though still struggling with all the gardens.

For an evaluation of the workshop please see the page on workshop strengths and weaknesses

Related Pages

Lyambai Adaptation Options

Workshop Evaluation

Initial Project Description

Related resources

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