Severe Drought Threatens Livelihoods at Lake Kariba

Severe Drought Threatens Livelihoods at Lake Kariba

Lake Kariba, located between Zambia and Zimbabwe, is facing a severe water crisis due to the latest El Nino drought. President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared it a national disaster. Historian and social scientist Joshua Matanzima discusses the socioeconomic impact of the drought on the area’s residents.


  • Lake Kariba, a 280-kilometer-long reservoir, was created by the Kariba Dam, built in the Zambezi river basin between 1955 and 1959.
  • It provides hydroelectric power to both Zambia and Zimbabwe and supports various sectors like fisheries, conservation, tourism, and recreation.

El Nino and Water Levels

  • The El Nino weather pattern has induced droughts in the region since the early 2010s, leading to a significant drop in water levels at Lake Kariba.
  • As of April 8, 2024, water levels reached only 13.52% of capacity, down from 21.94% the previous year.

Socioeconomic Impact

  1. Survival
    • Many rely on the lake for fishing, but drought reduces fish spawning areas, leading to decreased catches.
    • Human-crocodile conflicts escalate as crocodiles prey on fishers’ catches.
  2. Human-Wildlife Conflict
    • Reduced water levels increase competition between humans and wildlife for resources, leading to conflicts.
    • Animals encroach on human-populated areas, causing clashes.
  3. Poaching
    • Animals move closer to human settlements in search of water, increasing poaching activities.
  4. Tourism
    • Tourism declines as game drives and fishing activities are impacted by low water levels.
  5. Water Collection
    • Women and children face increased risks as they must travel further to collect water, leading to injuries and deaths.
  6. Trade Disruption
    • Cross-border traders suffer as low fish catches hinder their businesses between Zimbabwe and Zambia.

Mitigation Measures

  • Long-term solutions involve transitioning to renewable energy sources like wind and solar to mitigate the impact of reduced power generation from the dam.
  • Robust measures are needed to reduce human-wildlife conflicts, including awareness campaigns and directing humans away from high animal activity areas.
  • Utilizing local knowledge and practices, such as rainmaking ceremonies, can be beneficial in addressing water scarcity issues.

Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs):

  1. What is the primary cause of the water crisis at Lake Kariba?
    • A) Deforestation
    • B) El Nino drought
    • C) Urbanization
    • D) Pollution
    • Answer: B) El Nino drought
  2. What percentage of Lake Kariba’s capacity did the water levels reach by April 8, 2024?
    • A) 21.94%
    • B) 13.52%
    • C) 30%
    • D) 50%
    • Answer: B) 13.52%
  3. What is one of the impacts of the drought on the fishing community at Lake Kariba?
    • A) Increased fish catches
    • B) Decreased crocodile attacks
    • C) Reduced fish spawning areas
    • D) Expansion of fishing camps
    • Answer: C) Reduced fish spawning areas
  4. How do reduced water levels contribute to human-wildlife conflict?
    • A) By increasing available resources
    • B) By decreasing competition
    • C) By forcing animals to encroach on human-populated areas
    • D) By limiting animal populations
    • Answer: C) By forcing animals to encroach on human-populated areas