An investigation of drought characteristics and assessment of mitigation measures in the Gwembe valley, Zambia

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Mwenda, Rabson
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There has been an increased frequency of drought occurrence in the Gwembe Valley in recent years.The situation, however, has not been addressed adequately due to lack of enough research on drought effects, especially the assessment of appropriateness and effectiveness of the mitigation measures that had been recommended and implemented to reduce the impacts. This study was carried out in the Gwembe Valley in the period September, 1999 to February 2000, covering the three districts of the valley namely Siavonga, Gwembe and Sinazongwe.The objectives of the research were: (i) to determine the drought characteristics; (ii) to assess drought impacts on agriculture and water supply and (iii) to determine appropriate measures of reducing drought vulnerability of local communities.Some of the analyzed data was collected from participants who included households of peasant farmers and village headmen. Other data came from civil servants working for the Ministry of Agriculture Food and Fisheries (MAFF), the Ministry of Education (MOE), Department of Meteorology in the Ministry of Transport and Communications and also from the Water Affairs Department of the Ministry of Energy and Water Development and from the Ministry of Health(MOH). Civic leaders included Member of Parliament (M.P.) for Gwembe (who was later appointed Deputy Minister for Southern Province) and District Council officials.Both qualitative and quantitative types of data were collected. Interview, questionnaire and observation methods were used while analysis involved the 'run-methodology' and magnitudefrequency approaches. Results revealed that the droughts were not due to shortfall in expected total amount of rainfall per season alone but that the duration of dry-spells in the rain season and the actual number of rain days per month, contributed. The impacts of the droughts were manifested in crop failure and depleted food stocks. Water scarcity leads to many diseases and livestock deaths. Human reactions like failure to act quickly in the wake of drought signs, cultivation of inappropriate crop and in some instances, sheer laziness by people who depended on receiving free food-aid (especially) were among the accentuating factors to hardships local people faced. The study also suggested that drought occurrence was not random and had increased slightly since 1980, impacting agriculture and water supply more severely.The recommendations to individuals emphasized the need to intensify the current mitigation measures being pursued while government was being urged not to procrastinate in implementing measures suggested to it as this derailed progress. It was observed that triumph in the fight against drought would need establishing a permanent body for drought mitigation and management. This body should be composed of professionals in matters on drought and who should be ready to address the issue whenever it showed signs of re-surfacing. The other contingency measures already adopted such as food aid and use of drought resistant crop varieties were to continue.Unless both the affected parties and the interested parties worked together in the fight against drought in the area, the problem would remain insurmountable and the suffering would continue.
Drought -- Gwembe valley Zambia