CLIMATE change presents a real threat to human development and is already undermining production sectors like agriculture which has the highest potential to reduce poverty.
Not only has the rainfall pattern changed, with some areas recording reduced rainfall, while other areas experience increased rains, causing early floods more frequently, with a negative impact on the cultivation of the crops.
Furthermore, severe droughts threaten the upper lands and consequently the livelihood and food security of many small-scale farmers.
Although Zambia is not responsible for this phenomenon, it is highly vulnerable to its effects as the failure to respond to the challenges of climate change threatens to reverse the global poverty alleviation efforts.
Poverty levels in rural communities are high as evidenced by some of the adverse human activities that members of the community are engaged in, resulting into changes in the weather pattern and the eco-system in general.
In Kazungula for instance, floods are a common feature seen in each rainy season without application of adaption or mitigation measures in place.
Kazungula District in Southern Province is among the districts which are grappling with the challenges resulting from climate change adaptation.
It is because of the severity of the situation that Government through the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU) has started collecting data as an input to the disaster risk management framework at district level.
DMMU principal research officer Lenganji Sikaona said it is important that DMMU develops a disaster risk management framework for the country that will guide disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation programme in order to respond the deteriorating situation early.
Early last year, a delegation on the Pilot Project for Climate Resilience (PPCR) visited the former Kasaya flood victims of both Sesheke and Kazungula districts of Western and Southern provinces, respectively, to learn and share experiences with the local community that was hit by the floods.
Mr Sikaona said DMMU has been relying on secondary data for the past 10 years, hence the need to update the date base to expedite execution of activities.
He said the DMMU had collected data from Eastern and Western provinces.
Mr Sikaona said a preliminary report indicates that deforestation was the major cause of climate change in the area due to excessive cutting down of trees meant for charcoal burning.
"The country's forest reserves have been destroyed because people want to sell the charcoal to gain an income," Mr Sikaona said.
To address the situation, Kazungula District like other areas in the country launched the tree planting exercise recently.
Chiefs and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkandu Luo who launched the exercise said Government has a vision to regenerate the forests which are fast diminishing due to illegal tree cutting.
Government has actually launched a country-wide tree planting exercise which was aimed at replenishing trees that have been cut down due to human development.
"Tree planting is an important exercise for the country. There is need to see to it that 2,000 hectares of land is used for the tree planting exercise by the end of this year. The rainfall pattern has changed in the country. When it is raining to the extreme, the country sees the destruction of crops because of tree cutting," Prof Luo said.
Prof Luo said the need to preserve the forests cannot be over-emphasised because of its social and economic benefits to the country.
She said mushroom production is on the decline today because the trees that support the growth are massively being cut down.
"Pollution of air is prevalent in countries where trees have been cut down indiscriminately. Diseases such as cancer are, therefore, manifesting," she said.
Prof Luo said the Government wants partnership with traditional leaders to ensure that the programme is implemented.
She said Government wants to replicate what Sweden, Norway and Finland have implemented in their programmes by involving children.
"Lets us look at the long term gains in everything the country is doing. Chiefs are always with the people. They should make sure that they supervise their subjects on this nationalwide exercise of tree planting," Prof Luo said.
Kazungula District Commissioner Pascalina Musokotwane said that Southern Province was once one of the richest regions in timber production; however it is now the most affected because people from other parts of the country go there for logging.
"There is need for stakeholders to work together in combating the vice by carrying out massive sensitisation campaigns in the communities. We need to educate the masses as a team on the importance of preserving the trees," Ms Musokotwane said.
Ms Musokotwane said the community needed to know that they can still get an income from doing legal activities rather than from doing wrong things.
She said people's mindsets needed to be changed on how they should go about doing certain activities they indulge themselves into.
"I challenge the people who are finishing the timber in the forest to stop the habit. Actually, I have even observed that these people who cut the timber are being sent and traditional leaders are in the forefront," Ms Musokotwane said.
She said there was need for stronger interventions when it comes to charcoal burning.
Ms Musokotwane implored the Forestry and agriculture departments in the district to be proactive on the matter by making sure that the community members are sensitised on the dangers of deforestation.
Katombola Reformatory Superintendent Happy Chileshe said he had on several occasions confronted people who cut down trees in the area but they are quick to say that they had gotten permission from chiefs.
Sekute Ward councilor Lackson Kamwi Inambao proposed for the re-introduction of forestry guards if the illegal tree cutting trend was to be reduced.
"It is very difficult to control the situation as it is now," said Mr Inambao.
Therefore, there is need to work as a team if this battle is to be won. The country's natural resources need to be protected if meaningful development is to be realised in the nation. Let us all stand up as one to fight various illegal activities going on in our country such as the indiscriminate cutting down of trees.