Climate variability and adaptation: Implications on Maize growing in Agro-ecological region II of Zambia: A case of Mbabala and Singani in Choma District
Mubanga, Harnadih Kabwe
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This study was conducted in Choma within the Agro-Ecological Region II (AER II) with Mbabala and Singani being the study sites. The aim was to assess climatic variations, adaptation measures and coping strategies by small-scale farmers in Agro-Ecological Region II (AER II) for the purpose of ensuring viability of small-scale arable agriculture. Archival rainfall and temperature data for the periods 1910 to 2009 and 1945 to 2009, respectively, were obtained from the Zambia Meteorology Department (ZMD) while qualitative data on recommended maize varieties was collected through interviews with private seed breeders including ZAMSEED,SEEDCO, PANNAR and MRI SEED. A total of 112 randomly sampled small-scale farmers from Mbabala and Singani areas were interviewed on their adaptation measures, coping strategies as well as their preferred maize varieties. Climate variability was assessed by the use of the Coefficient of Variation (CV) which was applied to the archival rainfall and temperature data. ANOVA was used to determine the significance of the observed variability from the calculated CVs while regression analysis was used to determine the annual rates of temperature and rainfall changes. In order to come up with the most suitable of the recommended maize varieties for the region, qualitative data were analyzed according to themes relating to adaptability to climatic variations, disease resistance, drought tolerance as well as potential yields. Analysis of collected data revealed that AER II had experienced significant changes in received rainfall and experienced temperatures over the period 1910 to 2009 for rainfall and 1945 to 2009 for temperature. The Southern part of Western Province (Sesheke) showed the highest rainfall and temperature variations while Eastern Province (Chipata) exhibited high rainfall and temperature variability. Mongu and Kaoma in the northern Western Province experienced the lowest rainfall and temperature variation. All the towns in AER II experienced increased rainfall and temperature variability after the 1980s. The annual rate of rainfall change was found to range from -3.01mm/year (Kalabo) to 0.79mm/year (Chipata) giving an average annual rate of rainfall decrease of -1.09mm/year. The annual rate of temperature change ranged from 0.005ºC/year(Senanga) to 0.04ºC/year (Monze) giving an average annual rate of temperature increase of 0.023ºC/year for AER II. The characteristics of the recommended maize varieties according to selected themes revealed that while ZAMSEED’s ZMS 606, SEEDCO’s SC 525, PANNAR’s 6966 or 6823 and MRI Seed’s MRI 514 would be good seeds to plant, ZAMSEED’s ZMS 616 was the most suitable for the AER II considering its adaptability to a range of climatic conditions, disease resistance, drought tolerance and high potential yield. As a way of adapting to extreme climatic conditions the small-scale farmers used early maturing and drought resistant maize varieties as well as substitute and complementary crops and they coped by diversifying their livelihoods to include charcoal production, gardening and trading.Overall, it is concluded that AER II experienced significant climatic variations during the study period but that characteristics of maize varieties used by farmers were not all attuned to climate variability. Maize variety ZMS 616 was strongly recommended for use by farmers in AER II.More efforts on adaptation to climatic variation in AER II are required to help farmers adopt conservation agriculture as a long-term measure to reduce adverse impacts of whims of nature in their livelihoods.