Drought fuels charcoal boom in Zambia
Southern Africa, one of the world’s most vulnerable regions to climate change, is experiencing its most severe drought in a century. Following two years of poor rains and failed harvests, the rural poor are confronted with the worst consequences. In Zambia alone, 2.3 million people are severely food insecure and in need of assistance, according to the United Nations. Reduced rainfall is also affecting the country’s urban middle classes. Zambia’s energy sector is heavily reliant on hydroelectric power, but dammed water levels are hitting record low capacity. As a result, load shedding is leaving homes without electricity for up to 16 hours a day. During the long power cuts, families still have to prepare their meals and boil water to drink their regular cup of tea. But Zambians have few alternatives. Gas is not widely available, and petrol for generators is too expensive, which means the most convenient energy source is charcoal.