The Disappearing Rains of Zambia

From: Zambia | Date: May 8, 2024

Written by:

John Chipango

Their Story

By John Chipango

Photo credit: Colleen Henegan. Zambia, 2022.

Ever since I was young, I have observed three weather seasons in Zambia – the cold, the hot, and the rainy seasons. The rainy season is my favourite because I get to see nature at its best. 

During this season, I see the lands covered with grasses and crops, green pastures, and rivers full and flowing beautifully. What a feeling! My family and I have a chance to plant our crops during this season. It's a memorable season because it brings families together in the fields. It is only during this season that you can have fresh and wild fruits such as mangoes here in Zambia, not to mention fresh mushrooms. It's a satisfaction for food lovers like me.

However, the seasons are changing. When I was fifteen, I realised that my favourite season was not as good as it used to be. The season was always delayed, and some parts of the country didn't even experience it, affecting us farmers and families across the country. The rains were not normal. Sometimes, they were so heavy that fields were washed away, homes and livestock destroyed, and dry spells also started to dominate the rainy season. Everything has changed. Farmers no longer produce bumper harvests, which is disturbing the food patterns in communities. This is leading to hunger in homes.

Image sourced from Kalemba online newspaper.

Image sourced from Kalemba online newspaper.

Economically speaking, climate change has affected business in Zambia. Zambia generates its electrical power using hydroelectric energy. When the country experiences poor rainfall, it faces power outages. The country no longer exports power to other countries in the region, affecting the country's GDP.

But even so, I haven’t given up already. I am still hoping for a sustainable future if governments could work together to develop and invest in technology and clean energy, implement the international climate agreements already in place, increase food security, and improve disaster management systems.

Loss and Damage 

The most visible loss due to the changing rains is the drying up of the rivers. The mighty Zambezi River, once a source of life and abundance, now recedes dramatically during the dry season. The banks, once lush and green, are now cracked and dusty. This affects not just the land and the wildlife but also the livelihoods of people who depend on the river for fishing, farming, and transportation.

The low water levels also impact the Kuomboka ceremony, a traditional celebration held by the Lozi people of Zambia. This annual event marks the migration of the Lozi king from the floodplains to higher ground. Traditionally, the king would travel by boat across the flooded plains, but with the receding waters, this ceremonial journey is becoming increasingly difficult, if not impossible.

Image sourced from the African royal families

Image sourced from The Luxury Safari Co.

Community Response 

Faced with the reduced rainfall, communities in Zambia are adopting various coping mechanisms. One traditional practice is water conservation. Communities are reviving old techniques like rainwater harvesting and building dams to store water for later use. Farmers are also planting drought-resistant crops and using mulching to retain moisture in the soil.

Personal Connection 

As someone who loves the rainy season, the changes I've witnessed have been heartbreaking. The lush green landscapes of my childhood are now becoming a distant memory. The vibrant Kuomboka ceremony, a celebration that used to fill me with joy, is now a reminder of the delicate balance of our ecosystem. The changing rains are not just affecting the environment - they are also altering the cultural fabric of my community.

A Call to Action 

Climate change is a global problem, but its effects are felt most acutely by communities like mine. We cannot afford to wait any longer. We all have a role to play in reducing our carbon footprint and supporting sustainable practices. Let's work together to ensure that future generations can still experience the beauty and bounty of the rainy season in Zambia.

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