Human adjustments to the drought hazard : a case study of Gwembe Valley in the Southern Province of Zambia

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Muzumara, Apton Kalevu
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This thesis, with its focus on the Gwembe Valley, an area that has a long history of drought conditions in the country and one of those that was severely affected during the recent three year running drought (.1981-84) , attempts to find out about peoples' responses and adjustments to the drought hazard in the region. It investigates as well, many aspects relating to drought perception. Specifically, the present study was guided by three broad objectives, which sought to: (i) determine the nature and extent of the drought hazard in the Gwembe Valley, (ii) examine the full range of human adjustments to the drought hazard, (iii) examine and establish a relationship between peoples." perception of the hazard and rainfall periodicity as recorded at the rain gauge stations in the study area. Three main working hypotheses, (from which 41 null hypotheses were formulated and tested using the chi-square test of independence at 0.05 level of significance} were also advanced. These are listed as follows: 1. the awareness of the drought hazard is a function of magnitude, frequency of the hazard, recency and frequency of personal experience. 2. the evaluation and adoption of adjustments to drought by individuals is the function of the perception of the hazard and the perception of the alternatives available. 3. farmers response to drought involves a variety of simple adjustments, which attempt to work more in harmony with nature than human control over nature. In pursuing the study both field and library research were employed. Data from the field was based mainly on an interview schedule survey. This survey was administered to a sample of 180 peasant farmers and the results yielded from it formed the basis of our data analysis, with supple¬mentary information arising from other forms of field inquiry and secondary materials. The key findings of the study include the following: Essentially, the people in the study area hold similar views on the drought hazard and practise a wide range of drought adjustments. They look upon droughts as being generated by external physical forces, frequent in their occurrence, unpredictable in nature and problematic because of their effects on crop production. The drought adjustments practised by the people are simple in character and are deeply rooted in their agricultural and social systems. They include the planting of drought tolerant crops; millet and sorghum, rain making and the selling of livestock. Except for a few, all the adjustments are of an individual centred nature and are widely viewed as being very useful in mitigating drought effects. The chi-square results generally indicate that several factors (e.g. personal drought experience, the frequency of drought occurrence and socio-economic variables were responsible for the high drought awareness amongst the sample population. But contrary to what was anticipated, the chi-square results fail to pin-point the importance of perception variables in the adoption of drought adjustments. The study concludes among other things that: people living in high drought prone areas exhibit little variation in their perception of the hazard; employ a variety of purposive adjustments for ameliorating its effects and that apart from the adjustments they undertake peasant communities usually offer a limited range of alternative adjustments. Recommendation to both policy makers and future researchers included some of the following: i. The present agricultural policies in the region should be re-addressed as these favour the cultivation of maize and cotton, instead of the traditional drought tolerant crops. ii. An early drought monitoring system should be established in the country. iii. Peasant farmers must be educated on the need to construct proper grain storage bins. iv. Proper documentation of past droughts must be carried out.
Hazards-Drought--Gwembe valley--Zambia