Promotion of climate change adaption measures in agriculture is vital in Southern Province of Zambia because the area is negatively affected by climate change and weather variability. The province is located in the country's driest part in the agro-ecological regions I and II, with frequent droughts and high temperatures1. The province has a subtropical climate. There are three distinct seasons: the hot and dry season from August to October, the wet season from November to April, and the cold and dry season from May to July. The annual minimum temperature ranges from 15 to 27 degrees Celsius while the maximum ranges from 27 to 32 degrees Celsius1,2.
The province falls under two agro-ecological zones. Region I, on the southern part, receives less than 800 mm of rainfall per year while Region II, on the northern part, receives 800–1000mm of rainfall per year. Southern Province is prone to the effects of climate change and weather variability. Weather variability has been a significant challenge in agricultural production and productivity1,2.
The dissemination of information on climate change adaptation measures is significant for small-scale farmers to adapt as well as build resilience. The channels for disseminating agricultural information for climate change adaptation are many, and one such approach is the use of radio broadcasts, especially in rural areas3–5. For example, in an army worm radio campaign survey, radio listeners where more likely to adopt control practices than non-radio listeners6.
However, limited studies have mapped CRS in Zambia and focused on agricultural information on climate change adaptation and sustainable agricultural production in times of COVID-19 for enhanced social distancing7 limited government extension services and declining budgetary allocation8,9. COVID-19 has been found to impact the provision of agricultural extension services10. Davis7 highlights the need to change how agricultural extension services are provided in times of COVID-19 to ensure the safety of both the extension officers and the farmers. Potential solutions strategies are required to minimize the compound risks due to climate change hazards in the COVID-19 scenario11,12. Other studies have recognized the importance of radio services in agricultural extension and adaptation to climate change13,14.
In their review of adaptation processes by farmers in decision making, Robert et al.15 propose continuous and sequential flexible planning based on the available new information towards anticipated changes to the environment. Thus, the adaptation process to climate change starts with access to information, and therefore CRS play a fundamental role16,17.
For adaptation to occur, farmers need to have access to information such as weather information for planning their agricultural season16–18. Farmers may also have information on appropriate crop varieties depending on the weather and climatic condition at the local level15–17. Access to smart climate agricultural information such as conservation agriculture [minimum tillage/crop residue retention, crop diversity/association and crop rotation] is also critical for adaptation in Zambia19. In addition, crop and livestock diversification information is key to climate change adaptation to ensure resilience to climate-related shocks15–17.
Information dissemination of innovative approaches from research and extension must be managed, shared in simple and clear terms for small scale farmers understanding through different platforms, including CRS17, and will require stakeholder engagement and collaboration. However, many processes in agricultural extension and food systems have been impacted by COVID-19. The impact of COVID-19 has been through the disruption of the food system due to the pandemic control measures, increasing numbers of confirmed cases and deaths at the global, regional and country levels. According to the World Health Organisation20, more than 247.5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and above 5 million deaths occurred globally. In Africa, more than 6.2 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 150, 825 deaths regionally, while in Zambia, there have been 209, 760 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 3, 611 deaths recorded. Therefore, in a COVID-19 scenario, agricultural extension and dissemination of climate change adaptation measures should be intensified through approaches that have low-risk to COVID-19 but a broader impact on the public.
This study's overall objective was to assess CRS' potential effectiveness in promoting climate change adaptation measures under COVID-19 conditions. The specific objectives were: (i) to map out all the CRS in the Southern Province of Zambia; (ii) to assess how much time is allocated to climate change and sustainable agricultural information dissemination out of the regular programming time; and (iii) to assess challenges in the dissemination of climate change adaptation and sustainable agricultural information on CRS. The authors hypothesize an increase in the use of CRS for agricultural information dissemination because of mass coverage and reduced contact with farmers due to COVID-19 under traditional extension services (farmer visits and meetings).
The study focused on CRS because access by households across the radio stations is the highest at 81.3% compared with 79.8% and 55.7% for public and commercial radio stations, respectively, according to Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority [ZICTA]21. In addition, CRS have been critical for community engagement during the country lockdown3. For this study, community radio is defined as a radio station focusing on local coverage. Therefore, all radio stations with national coverage and public radio station are not included in this study.
This study examines the number of CRS, their coverage areas (heatmap), and the local languages used by all CRS in Zambia's Southern Province. Also mentioned are key gaps in enhancing the community radio station's role in climate change adaptation and sustainable agricultural information dissemination. This research is critical for policy intervention in achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); SDG 2 (Zero hunger), SDG 3 (good health and wellbeing), SGD 13 (climate action) and SGD 17 (partnerships)22.