Climate-change vulnerability in rural Zambia: the impact of an El Niño-induced shock on income and productivity.

Published online
03 Apr 2019
Content type

Alfani, F. & Arslan, A. & McCarthy, N. & Cavatassi, R. & Sitko, N.

Publication language
Africa South of Sahara & Zambia


This paper examines the impacts of the El Niño during the 2015/2016 season on maize productivity and income in rural Zambia. The analysis aims at identifying whether and how sustainable land management (SLM) practices and livelihood diversification strategies have contributed to moderate the impacts of such a weather shock. The analysis was conducted using a specifically designed survey called the El Niño Impact Assessment Survey (ENIAS), which is combined with the 2015 wave of the Rural Agricultural Livelihoods Surveys (RALS), as well as high resolution rainfall data from the Africa Rainfall Climatology version 2 (ARC2). This unique, integrated data set provides an opportunity to understand the impacts of shocks like El Niño that are expected to get more frequent and severe in Zambia, as well as understand the agricultural practices and livelihood strategies that can buffer household production and welfare from the impacts of such shocks to drive policy recommendations. Results show that households affected by the drought experienced a decrease in maize yield by around 20 percent, as well as a reduction in income up to 37 percent, all else equal. Practices that moderated the impact of the drought included livestock diversification, income diversification, and the adoption of agro-forestry. Interestingly, the use of minimum soil disturbance was not effective in moderating the yield and income effects of the drought. Policies to support livestock sector development, agroforestry adoption, and off-farm diversification should be prioritized as effective drought resiliency strategies in Zambia.

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