Zambia_Couple standing in dried up dam area
Photo: Denise Schneider/CARE

Heavy rain, flooding and dam bursts: “The water swept our vegetables away”

In Zambia, people are increasingly exposed to the consequences of extreme weather. Rainfall is becoming heavier while the duration of rainy seasons is simultaneously reducing, dams are breaking regularly, unable to withstand the masses of water flooding the nearby communities and fields.

Between January and March 2023, almost 375,000 people were affected by floods. The unpredictability of the climate is making food and income increasingly insecure as most of the rural population relies on rain-fed agriculture for their livelihoods.

With short-term financial support and utensils for daily use, CARE provides emergency aid to those affected. In the long term, CARE focuses its projects on making people more resilient to climatic conditions.

Zambia_Couple standing the middle of sandy path

Parents of 8, Charity and Mike, are small-scale vegetable farmers who have been affected by the drastic weather changes in Zambia. Photo: Denise Schneider/CARE

Charity (55) and Mike (45) are vegetable farmers and parents of eight. Every day they cover a short distance from their farm down to their fields. At five o'clock one morning in February, they suddenly heard a loud bang. “We were confused at first, then we discovered that the nearby dam had burst.” The floodwaters washed away their gardens and crops.

Charity stands in her vegetable garden. “We used to grow beans, cabbage, and corn here. The water has swept everything away,” says Charity. She points to the trees in the background to show the water level during the flood.

Zambia_Woman in brown outfit standing in sandy fenced in area

Charity is standing in her vegetable garden which has been completely covered in sand from the floods. Photo: Denise Schneider/CARE

“The days before the dam burst, it rained continuously. I have never seen this much rain before,” Mike remembers. He is not surprised that the dam could not withstand these masses of water. The traces of the flood are visible everywhere. In many places, the soil can no longer be seen because it is covered by a layer of sand several centimetres thick. Far inland dead crabs and fish are covering the earth.

“Thinking of the many hours of labour we put into our fields, I feel very discouraged,” says Charity. Three quarters of their crops have been destroyed. Their animals now graze on the remaining plants that are no longer useful for harvesting.

Zambia_Woman standing under tree shade looking out into sandy area

Charity looks ahead at her family's destroyed crops. Photo: Denise Schneider/CARE

CARE supports Mike, Charity and other affected families with utensils such as buckets, lamps, blankets and hygiene items. They are also receiving cash assistance. “I hope that the dam will be rebuilt soon,” says Mike while standing next to the remains of it.

Zambia_Older couple standing in front of sand hill and drying dam

The dam which once overflowed during the floods is now drying up as the long dry seasons persists. Photo: Denise Schneider/CARE