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Climate risk analysis for adaptation planning in Zambia's agricultural sector


Laudien,  Rahel
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;


Gornott,  Christoph
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;


Chemura,  Abel
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;


Cronauer,  Carla Catarina
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;


Gleixner,  Stephanie
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;

Heckmann,  Tim
External Organizations;

Staubach,  Lina
External Organizations;

von Witzke,  Katarina
External Organizations;

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Laudien, R., Gornott, C., Chemura, A., Cronauer, C. C., Gleixner, S., Heckmann, T., Staubach, L., von Witzke, K. (2023): Climate risk analysis for adaptation planning in Zambia's agricultural sector, Potsdam : A report prepared by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in cooperation with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), 45 p.

Cite as: https://publications.pik-potsdam.de/pubman/item/item_28868
Zambia has a high socio-economic dependency on agriculture which is strongly influenced by weather-related factors and highly vulnerable to climate change. To address current and future climate-related risks in the agricultural sector, this study provides a comprehensive climate risk analysis and evaluates suitable adaptation options to promote climate-resilient agricultural intensification in Zambia. Driven by ten global climate models under two climate change scenarios, SSP 1-RCP2.6 and SSP 3-RCP7.0, we used impact models to analyse future trends in climatic conditions and impacts on agriculture. As part of our adaptation analysis, we consider aspects of risk mitigation potential, cost-effectiveness, financing and gender. The results have been complemented and cross-checked by expert and literature-based assessments and two stakeholder workshops. Climate models project a robust trend towards increasing temperatures all over Zambia ranging between 2 °C and 2.7 °C until mid-century, with the south-western regions showing the strongest increase. Projections of mean precipitation indicate high spatial variations within the country. The drought-prone southern and central parts of the country are projected to experience a decrease in precipitation with ongoing climate change. Overall, there is a shift towards more intense climatic conditions both in terms of dry as well as wet conditions. Climate change will have various impacts on agriculture, for example, a decrease in sorghum yields. Mean sorghum yields for the whole country are projected to decrease by 5.8 to 12.2 % by mid-century with spatial and temporal disparities. The decreases are, however, only about half of the projected decrease in maize yields. This confirms that sorghum is indeed a more resilient crop compared to other cereals. Climate change also affects the extent and distribution of suitable areas for crop production in Zambia. Areas suitable for maize and sorghum production will decrease between 28 and 37 % by mid-century and move northwards within Zambia. A case study in the Kafue Catchment and parts of the Zambezi Catchment shows an increase in water demand and a decrease in water availability – leading to an overall reduction in the climate-related irrigation potential in future. The negative climate impacts on agriculture in Zambia underline the need for strong adaptation efforts. The study analyses two adaptation options, which were selected based on stakeholder priorities: Conservation agriculture and early warning systems. Conservation agriculture is a farming system that promotes minimum soil disturbance, maintenance of a permanent soil cover and diversification of plant species. It can buffer climate impacts in the near term and even increase sorghum yields by 25 to 31 % in drought-prone areas in Zambia. It can play a vital role in adapting to increasingly extreme and dry climatic conditions in Zambia in the near future. Early warning systems have a high potential for anticipating climate risks and thus improving food and nutrition security. In our analysis, we focus on a participatory approach for climate and agricultural extension services that integrates climate information and weather forecasts to inform livelihood decisions of farmers – called PICSA (Participatory Integrated Climate Services for Agriculture). The results show that the initial investment needed to employ PICSA already becomes economically beneficial after one year with returns increasing in the future. Each USD invested in PICSA generates between 3.6 and 3.8 USD in benefits depending upon the climate scenario considered. This suggests that employing PICSA is a highly cost-effective investment that constitutes an important variable in safeguarding farmers’ long-term livelihood. Generally, a combination of different adaptation options entails additional benefits. Active stakeholder engagement as well as participatory, gender-sensitive approaches are needed to ensure the feasibility and long-term sustainability of adaptation options. The findings of this study can help to inform national and local adaptation and agricultural development planning and investments in order to strengthen the resilience of the agricultural sector and especially of smallholder farmers against a changing climate.