Institutional support for climate change adaptation and community responses: the case of the Simalaha plains in Zambia

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Mweemba, Carol Emma
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The University of Zambia
Present-day research recognises the critical role played by local government institutions and NGOs at meso-level in supporting adaptation to climate change in rural areas. In Zambia, however, much attention is heavily focused on natural science and economic analyses studies on climate change, while little is known about how institutions closest to local communities support adaptation to emerging climate change challenges. This research presents findings from a qualitative and quantitative study conducted to investigate the role played by local level institutions at meso-level in supporting adaptation to climate change in the Simalaha area of the Southern and Western Zambia, and how communities respond to the support. It was found that public organisations primarily support soft climate change adaptation projects because they are cheaper to implement and do not attract huge budgetary allocations. Some of the supported adaptation and coping intervention projects include providing food hand-outs, new hybrid of crops, advice and training on the use of conservation farming. Financial investments supporting hard adaptation projects such as technological and infrastructural development are almost exclusively supported by donors through local NGOs, though they also support soft adaptation projects such as livestock production. Overall, the meso-level institutional support was equally distributed among all wealth categories – the poor, middle-poor and the non-poor. In principal, this means that poor people still get less because they lack personal alternative assets such as livestock to assist them cope in difficult situations. Although relevant as a coping intervention, when crops fail due to droughts, food hand-outs do not improve people’s adaptive capacities to handle future droughts. Benefits have been seen from the use of conservation farming when practiced properly. However, farmers perceive it to be excessively laborious and thus fail to practice it consistently. These results imply that there is greater need for government, local government institutions and NGOs at meso-level to support adaptation interventions that respond to all affected groups with an emphasis on the poor, if adaptation to climate change is to be enhanced. Key words: Adaptation, Climate change, Meso-level institutions
Droughts--Zambia , Climatic hazards , Climatology , Climate changes--Zambia