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El Nino weather destroys over one million hectares of maize fields as President Hichilema declares situation a national disaster

By John Chola

President Hakainde Hichilema has revealed that approximately one million of the 2.2 million estimated hectares planted area for maize at national level have been destroyed forcing his government in accordance with the disaster management Act No. 13 of 2010, and other relevant legislation to declare the prolonged dry-spell a national disaster and emergency.

Addressing the nation, Thursday, President Hichilema grieved that Zambia had faced a severe drought, the worst of its kind, caused by the El Niño weather conditions in the 2023/2024 rain season influenced by the climate change phenomenon.

President Hichilema says the dry spell was projected to continue, even into the month of March 2024, affecting over one million farming households.

He said the bad weather had equally affected the energy sector that is expected to have a deficit of around 430 megawatts of electricity, potentially reaching more than 520 megawatts by December 2024.

“This drought has devastating consequences on many critical sectors such as agriculture, water availability, and energy supply, risking our national food security and livelihoods of millions of our people. This also negatively affects our economic development programme, the destruction caused by the prolonged dry spell is immense, with 84 severely affected districts in Lusaka, central, Copperbelt, Eastern, North-Western, Western, and Southern Provinces,” Mr Hichilema said.

He further feared that the current drought conditions had also affected the availability of both ground and surface water, pasture for livestock and wildlife and has potential to increase the incidence of human and animal conflict, as well as disease.

Compounding the challenges the country was already facing, such as the covid-19 pandemic and the cholera outbreak, the President regretted that the catastrophe will now compel government to divert resources initially intended for accelerating economic and social development.

In response to the disaster, President Hichilema said, government will undertake among many other actions directing of more resources towards humanitarian relief purposes to ensure that affected citizens do not go hungry, importing additional electricity and rationing energy use as well as promoting alternative energy sources.

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