Nelly Bassily | March 23, 2009
Peter Phiri loves working with disadvantaged communities. Using his ingenuity, Mr. Phiri, who works with Catholic Relief Services, found a way to send solar-generated electricity and shower water directly from the Zambezi River to the remote region of Shangombo, in western Zambia. Mr. Phiri worked with this community for several years.
Now, Mr. Phiri works in Limpumpu, another village far from the Zambezi River. In 2008, floods destroyed Limpumpu’s crops, leaving behind large ponds of water. Mr. Phiri convinced farmers to use the ponds. They irrigated their crops with pond water, and those who produced the greatest yields taught others how to use water in sandy soil.
The banks of the Zambezi overflowed again this year, following torrential rains. Last week, parts of Zambia, Namibia, and Angola were hit by severe floods. More than 200,000 were affected. In Namibia, 100 people were killed.
Elizabeth Byrs is a spokesperson for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. She said that farmers’ fields were completely flooded, and that the loss of agricultural production could have an impact on the region’s food security. In western Zambia, the majority of crops were submerged, with water reaching levels not seen for many years.
While farmer’s fields were being inundated with water, the UN was publishing its third annual World Water Development Report. The report notes that, from 2000 to 2007, Zambia – the source of the Zambezi River – has experienced erratic shifts in temperature, causing two years of flooding, two years of drought, and two years of normal rainfall.
The report conceded that agricultural development in Zambia has been slowed due to lack of information on available water resources, among other factors.
Jacques Diouf is Director General of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. Last week, during the World Water Forum in Istanbul, he insisted that more must be done to appropriately manage water for agriculture and to increase support and training for farmers in developing countries to address water shortages and the resulting hunger.
Mr. Phiri says that, through his work in regions that have suffered natural disasters, he realizes that people cannot always rely on food aid. For the moment, floods of the magnitude that hit Zambia and Namibia have made food aid crucial, particularly for displaced populations. Following such natural disasters, Mr. Phiri says that farmers must receive seeds and expert help in order to recover.
Click here to see the notes to broadcasters on floods and water management