Impact of agricultural development on food security and water vulnerability under climate change in the Zambezi Basin

Project period: 2016-2020
Project sources: National Natural Science Foundation of China

The Zambezi Basin covers 1.3 million km2and flows through 8 countries, namely Angola, Zambia, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi, and Tanzania. As the fourth-largest basin in Africa, the Zambezi basin has suffered from poverty and serious food insecurity during the last few decades. Meanwhile, the Zambezi Basin has abundant arable land resources and cropped land which only account for 10% of the arable land area (World Bank, 2010), and only 3.5% of the cropped land is irrigated. To boost the economy and increase food production, more hydropower and agricultural development plans were put in place in recent years. Soybean production in this region increased by 436% between 2001 and 2013. However, these development plans would consume more water, which would leave them very vulnerable under climate change. The IPCC categorized the Zambezi basin as exhibiting the “worst” potential effects of climate change among 11 major African basins; most climate projections suggest warmer and drier (rainfall decreasing by 5%-35% in future) than historical conditions in this basin. Such increased variability and uncertainty surrounding climate change should be adequately considered.

This project will synthesize the interaction among food, water, and energy, and assess the impact of agricultural development on food security and water vulnerability under climate change in the Beira corridor and the Zambezi basin. The leading questions of this joint research are 1) How to balance “Food, Water, and Energy” competition in the Zambezi basin and what is the suitable size for hydropower and agriculture therein, and2) A comprehensive estimate of soybean production and export potential in the Zambezi river basin, considering water availability, food security, and climate change. This project will propose policies and recommendations to improve agricultural adaptation and climate resilience in the Zambezi basin.
This project will be implemented by the Institute of Digital Earth and Remote Sensing, Chinese Academy of Sciencesand UNEP-IEMP, by working with the local University of Zambia, the University of Zimbabwe, Malawi Metrological Services, and the Catholic University of Mozambique.