How Zambia can combat deforestation?

Charcoal trade in Kabwe pix by Alain Kabinda

British High Commissioner to Zambia Nicholas Wooley with WWF Zambia Country Director Nkombo Chilala

By Alain Kabinda

CLIMATE change is one of the greatest challenges humanity is facing, and is predicted to become the biggest single driver of biodiversity loss over the next 50-100 years, larger than loss of habitat, over-exploitation, and introduction of invasive species.

According to the Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA), global climate change is being defined as a significant and lasting change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns over periods ranging from decades to millions of years, which may be a change in average weather conditions or the distributions of events around that average.

In 1992, the international community adopted the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), marking the start of a global effort to confront the problem of climate change. The framework outlines actions to stabilize and reduce the amount of heat-trapping gases.

Changes in climate are transforming our planet – this means we must rethink traditional performance approaches to conservation and development, moving beyond managing for persistence to managing for change (Climate-smart conservation).

“We need to take into consideration the current and future climatic conditions to secure the future of people and nature,” a UNFCCC  advice, equally backed by ZEMA and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) of Zambia reads.

For this reason, by 2022, WWF Zambia plans to minimize impacts of climate-related risks and disasters to vulnerable communities and ecosystems social security and resilience enhanced.

This will be achieved by mainstreaming climate change adaptation at all levels to enhance the resilience of rural communities and ecosystems against climate shocks.

Wildlife and tourism are recognised as viable livelihood and appropriate land-use strategies, thereby providing participating communities with incentives to implement effective conservation interventions.

Nachilala Benard Chilala Nkombo with Jose Morano Country Director, Zambia Breweries, WDSEP Ministry Directors Lungu and Sikazwe

Recently, WWF Zambia held a one-week climate change workshop and tour in Sesheke, Western Province, with other stakeholders from 12 civil service organisations country-wide in order for them to see how much is being put in place in terms of mitigation and adaptation.

And the tour revealed that as much as some people are taking measures in good practices of farming, others are not.

Mitigation refers to efforts that seek to prevent or slow down the increase of atmospheric Green House Gases (GHG) concentrations by limiting current and future emissions and enhancing potential sinks for greenhouse gases.
• Adaptation refers to actions aimed at managing the known and unknown impacts of climate change.
By the end of 2021, WWF Zambia aims to build capacity of civil service organisations (CSOs) to enable them to lobby decision-makers on related policies and strategies.
Forests help protect the planet by absorbing massive amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2), the most abundant type of pollution that causes climate change.
Unfortunately, forests are currently being destroyed or damaged at an alarming rate. Logging and clearing land for agriculture or livestock releases huge amounts of carbon dioxide and other harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. It also diminishes those regions’ ability to absorb carbon pollution. People around the world are facing extreme weather.
• Climate change is a health emergency.
• The oceans are warming and acidifying.
• The ice is melting and the seas are rising.
• Our ecosystems are in peril.
• The Paris Agreement is the world’s first truly global plan to address climate change. This UN climate agreement was adopted at COP21 in 2015, demonstrating the world’s collective willingness to take urgent action. The unprecedented pact urges nations to pursue every effort to limit global temperature increase to well below 2°C – and aiming for 1.5°C – to stave off some of the worst impacts of climate change. Importantly, it creates the incentive for nations to continuously strengthen their climate actions over time. The overwhelming evidence is that the global warming we’re seeing now is mostly man-made – it’s largely down to burning fossil fuels and large-scale deforestation. It’s not a natural process, no matter how much climate change deniers may claim it is.
UN-REDD programme is a United Nations collaborative programme supporting countries to be ready for the post-2012 Kyoto Protocol climate regime. The readiness process in Zambia is being supported by three UN agencies delivering as one. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is supporting the capacity development component; Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation Plus (REDD).
• Is a mechanism that seeks to reduce emissions of GHGs from deforestation and forest degradation as well as to enhance forest carbon stocks?
• REDD+ currently operates under the voluntary carbon markets, but will likely be entrenched in a future climate change agreement under the UNFCCC.
• Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) is supporting the development of the Measurement, Reporting and Verification (MRV) system; and United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) is supporting communication process. The country’s forest cover is estimated at 49.9 million hectares or 66 percent of the total land over of Zambia (ILUA Report, 20218). However, currently loses about 270,000-300,000 hectares of forests per year
• The potential for increased carbon sequestration from the terrestrial forests in Zambia is generally high due to high total growing stock of the forests and potential for reducing emission from forests (ILUA 2008). Therefore, Zambia can contribute to global mitigation action against Green House Gases as well as benefit from the REDD-plus initiative through investments and support to livelihoods of local communities.

In Zambia, any change in climate can spell disaster. With a majority of Zambians depending on agriculture, even a slight change in temperature can affect crops like maize with catastrophic consequences for livelihoods.

In the village of Luanshimba in the central province of Zambia, the returns from farming have diminished due to severe droughts.

According to Justine Chipepo, a local villager, “rainfall is insufficient to give us a good crop yield” and “wild animals have started to wander in the fields”, further destroying crops. Another Chibwe resident confirms that life has become more difficult. “In the past”, he says, “We were able to find solutions to whatever challenges we were faced with”.

With more frequent droughts, but also floods, says former Michael Katambo, Minister of Agriculture said, “The government must look for resources to provide relief to the people”. The country was already struggling to achieve development, he says, and climate change is putting additional strain on that process.

Domiciano Mulenga, National Coordinator for Zambia’s Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit

Domiciano Mulenga, National Coordinator for Zambia’s Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit, confirms that the government is spending increased amounts of money for disaster response. “We are moving money and resources away from development programmes for disaster response”, he says.

Climate change has also begun to affect Zambia’s national tourism industry. If extreme weather changes continue, in about 50 years, all that will remain of the Victoria Falls, known as the “7th wonder of the world”, could turn into an empty ravine. Since Zambia’s tourism industry rests on the country’s natural resources, this would have devastating economic effects.

Extreme weather is affecting wildlife and flora alike. The lack of rain in Zambia’s South Luangwa region, in the east of the country, means that animals have had to scavenge for roots. Increased numbers of hippos are dying. Vegetation has also been affected, with landscapes translating into scores of petrified trees in dried out areas.

Kenneth Kaunda strings guiter with with a tearful Betty

The late Dr. Kenneth David Buchizya Kaunda, the first president of Zambia, once said help from developed countries will be crucial in ensuring that countries like Zambia can cope with the effects of climate change.

Tegegnework Gett, the Director of UNDP’s Africa region, echoes that view. According to him, “developed countries must take responsibility and lead in helping Africans to develop good adaptations programmes”. (end of quote)

Tegegnework Gettu, Director of UNDP’s Africa region

The government of Zambia has decided to tackle the problem seriously, launching a National Adaptation Plan of Action (NAPA) and is in the process of preparing a national climate change response strategy.

For example: Deforestation

The Cutting down trees for chacoal and other uses leaves a big impact to the environment, climate change, and carbon emissions.

Cutting trees to expand farming in Kabwe 2021 picture by Alain Kabinda 


Deforestation is a problem in many African countries, particularly in Zambia. Learn how sisters are addressing the problem of deforestation in sub-Saharan through education and awareness of the importance of forests.

Indiscriminate cutting of trees in Kabwe 2021 Picture by Allain Kabinda

Raising awareness of deforestation in Africa should be an ongoing campaign. Deforestation is affecting Africa at twice the world rate. According to the University of Pennsylvania African Studies Center, 31% of Africa’s pastures and 19% of its forests are classified as “degraded.” Africa is losing over 4 million hectares (about 9.9 million acres) of forest per year, which is twice the average deforestation rate for the rest of the world. In several Sub-Saharan African countries, the rate of deforestation the global annual average of 0.8%.(Photo by: Alain Kabinda in Kabwe 2021).

Deforestation is a problem in many African countries, but is particularly prevalent in the country of Zambia. Zambia is a land-locked country in the Southern African neighboring the Democratic Republic of Congo to the North, Tanzania and Malawi to the East, Mozambique, Botswana and Namibia to the South and Angola to the West.

Charcoal trade in Kabwe pix by Alain Kabinda

Despite the efforts of the government, deforestation of Zambia is happening at alarming rates. Firewood for domestic energy supply, non-wood products and the economic value for tourism: forest ecosystem services contributes almost USD$ 1billion to the Zambian economy. Still Zambia is the second highest per capital deforestation in Africa and is the fifth highest in the world.

And the main deforestation drivers are charcoal production, agricultural and human settlement expansion and illegal exploration of timber.

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