Climate Adaptation is Social Protection: The SCRALA Project hosts Social Protection Week

June 30, 2023
Elina Moonga, a small-scale farmer and SCRALA project beneficiary in Chirundu, Southern Province

Elina Moonga, a small-scale farmer from Chirundu at the commemoration of Social Protection Week 2023

Image captured by: Vanessa Wematu Akibate/UNDP Zambia

When Elina Moonga was 16 years old, she experienced an unfortunate accident that caused her to lose her left leg from the knee downwards. Living in Chirundu, Elina found it difficult to complete daily tasks, and due to the harsh and unpredictable nature of the climate in the area, her disability had further compounded the challenges she experienced as a small-holder farmer and crop marketer trying to maintain a livelihood in the drought-prone district.  

Life was tough. I had to get corn from my parents – they are also farmers, or buy for other farmers in my area to add to the corn from my farm. I would take the corn to a mill and sell the ground maize at the market for very little money. It made it hard to keep up with my expenses or to save and invest in something that would give me more for my family ” – Elina shares.

Elina grows maize in the mountainous Mauga agricultural camp within the district but had consistently struggled to maintain sizeable crop yields that could provide for her 2 children, her brother’s child and 2 young children orphaned after the passing of her older sister. Mauga is also a remote camp characterised by its rocky pathways and hard to access roads which further left her disconnected from more sizable markets to sell her produce.

However, through the Strengthening Climate Resilience and Alternative Livelihoods in Agro-Ecological Regions I and II in Zambia, also known as the SCRALA project, Elina received financial skills, sustainable village chicken-rearing, and conservation agriculture training. She also benefitted from the receipt of agricultural inputs such as sorghum, cowpea and sunflower seeds, a 20l knack sprayer, and 5 goats which she grew to 16 before handing over 5 goats to another member of her community. She has since sold 3 goats at ZMW 500 (USD 26) each to purchase a fortified version of maize seedlings that can withstand the harshes of the Chirundu climate. She also managed to purchase a set of crutches with the profits of the sale, which have made her movements much easier and relieved some of the strain on her body. Now, you can find her on an average day, tending to a flourishing garden, preparing her children for school in the new uniforms she purchased for them – with the profits she made from selling the improved and diversified crop varieties – and moving in and out of Mauga to sell her produce to ready markets.

An image of Elina Moonga, a small-scale farmer and SCRALA project beneficiary in Chirundu, Southern Province

Elina Moonga delivers an emotional testimony of how the SCRALA project has impacted her livelihood

On the 20th of June 2023, the SCRALA project hosted the annual Social Protection Week in Chirundu. The 2023 Social Protection Week theme: ‘Adaptive, Shock Responsive and Inclusive Social Protection’, is fully aligned to the scope of the SCRALA project, which focuses on strengthening climate resilience and alternative livelihoods. Elina is one of the several cases where the SCRALA project demonstrates disability inclusive social protection and resilience building. At the event, Elina reflected on how the SCRALA project has brought improved the quality of her life, noting:

“Before the project I had very little. I am still surprised that there are people out there that can just give me free goats to help me start my life. This project has really added to my life. I have a good farm now, and goats that are there when I need extra income or for meals, and my crop selling business is doing so much better now”

The SCRALA project is jointly funded by the Green Climate Fund, the Ministry of Agriculture, and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP),  and implemented by the Ministry and UNDP with technical inputs from the World Food Programme and the Food, Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, the Water Resources Management Authority, and the Zambia Meteorological Department. Since its start in 2019, SCRALA has focused on enriching the livelihoods of vulnerable people in 16 drought and flood-prone districts in Zambia over the last 4 years. The project works with small-holder farmers to provide agricultural inputs, technical expertise, reliable weather information, alternative livelihoods, conservation agriculture and financial skills training that enhances the livelihoods of farmers and their communities. SCRALA’s interventions work to fulfil Zambia’s 8th National Development Plan and Vision 2030 that seek to ensure that the country becomes more shock responsive, risk informed, and gender and disability inclusive. Through the inputs, trainings and information shared with the project’s beneficiaries, SCRALA consistently promotes self-insurance against climate shocks caused by the ongoing and urgent climate crisis. 

The commemorative event was graced by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, Yvonne Mpundu, who engaged with the project’s beneficiaries, highlighted the necessity for climate adaptation within vulnerable regions, and promoted the continued collaboration between the UNDP and the Ministry in their mutual efforts towards climate resilient livelihoods and social protection amongst small-holder farmers. 

In remarks read on behalf of the Deputy Resident Representative, Roland Seri, the National Economist for UNDP Zambia, Elda Chirwa, shared:

“UNDP recognizes the critical link between social protection and climate resilience. We have been working closely with the government and other partners to integrate climate change adaptation and resilience-building measures into social protection programs. By addressing the intersecting challenges of poverty, vulnerability, inequality and climate change, we aim to build more resilient communities and safeguard the well-being of the poor and vulnerable.”

In Chirundu the project has implemented several interventions to address the challenges of small-holder farmers, reaching 15 882 farmers in the district, 53% of which are women, over the last 4 years. Of the 20 Automatic Weather Stations the project has constructed across the 16 districts, one is housed in Kapululira Secondary School in Chirundu. The projectalso installed 220 manual rain gauges which the Zambia Meteorological Department uses to source weather data and provide farmers with accurate and timely weather information, allowing them to plan efficiently for upcoming seasons. These weather stations have provided 246,821 smallholder farmers (44%F, 56%M) with improved climate information, weather, and agricultural advisories, allowing the farmers to avoid disasters and to navigate climate shocks more effectively. 

Roland Seri underscored the role that these interventions play towards social protection by providing small-holder farmers with the means and information to diversify their income and remain resilient amidst uncertain times:

“The SCRALA project supports the Government of Zambia to strengthen the capacity of farmers to plan for climate risks that threaten to derail development gains, promote climate resilient agricultural production and diversification practices to improve food security and income generation, improve access to markets, and foster the commercialization of climate resilient agricultural commodities”

From providing investments towards alternative livelihoods like beehives and goats, to providing weather information and conservation agriculture training, the project targets vulnerable small-holder farmers at risk of being left behind, such as women, the youth, people with disabilities, and the elderly.

Elina used the skills she gained from the conservation agriculture and financial skills trainings, to diversify the crops in her garden – in addition to purchasing the drought resilient maize seeds, and to the sourghum, cowpeas and sunflower seeds she received, she now grows groundnuts as well. She is also looking to further diversify her income by purchasing a cow to produce milk for sale and for consumption.

The SCRALA project proves how critical climate resilience and adaptation is towards social protection by reducing vulnerabilities and risks, and by promoting socio-economic development through providing small-holder farmers at risk of being left behind, with the inputs, skills and information that enhances their resilience against disasters and shocks. The project has especially focused on women and people with disabilities because they are disproportionately affected by the effects of climate change. As such, SCRALA boasts several stories like Elina, and the previously covered story of Lesi which embody the UNDP’s commitment to ensuring that on the course towards development, No One is Left Behind

SCRALA Project beneficiaries at the commemoration of Social Protection Week

Elina with other Chirundu based beneficiaries of the SCRALA project

Image captured by: Vanessa Wematu Akibate/UNDP Zambia