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PREDICTIONS for the year 2016 are that Southern Africa will experience significant changes in weather patterns, due to the El Nino phenomenon, leading to delayed and decreased rainfall which will reduce farm yields and households food security in the region. Chronic malnutrition is therefore expected in many southern African countries, including Zambia.

With such extreme weather patterns unfolding, it is important that citizens, especially the vulnerable rural poor and marginalised know on time what effects this weather pattern will have on them and their livelihoods.

ReliefWeb, a specialized digital service of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), says more than 29 million people are expected to have inadequate household food in southern Africa due to this El Nino effect. There are also fears that the negative weather effects will deepen and increase in scope with its effects lasting until 2017.

Other studies by Panos Institute Southern Africa (PSAf) and its partners show that the poor and marginalised need access to practical information on how they can identify and respond to these challenges presented by the El Nino, and how they can alleviate poverty.

Fortunately this information on the negative effects of the El Nino phenomenon on farming and food security exists. The government and its agents have been collecting solutions on how farming communities can protect their crops and produce from the negative effects of El Nino or any kind of drought. What we need are provisions to make this information easily accessible to citizens.

This wealth of vital information on the extent of the damage to be caused by this weather pattern and what climate adaptation remedial action is to be taken needs to be shared or made available to these affected agricultural communities or those that need it can mean life or death for these vulnerable groups.

Farmer groups, including poor women and youths in rural communities will be looking to have access to life saving information on the available drought resistant crops, available cheaper sources of early maturing seeds, expected rain fall period among others so they can adequately plan with precision their agricultural season.

“Access to information held by government or public bodies is the notion that the public can obtain information in the possession of the state for the purpose of being informed about the activities of the state,” says the Parliamentary Strengthening Organisation.

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