With more diversity in the fields and cooking pots, Zambia can counteract food shortages and malnutrition.


Official language





753,610 km²


Approximately 16 million

Population growth

3.1% (about 500,000 per year)

Rural population

Approximately 9.6 million (59.1% of the total population)

Gross domestic product

USD 21.2 billion

Per capita annual income

About USD 1,300

Share of agriculture in GDP


Severity of hunger, according to the Global Hunger Index

Serious (Value: 39 / Trend: -6.2)

Share of the population suffering from malnutrition


Human Development Index

0.586 / Rank: 139 out of 188 countries

Proportion of the population living on less than USD 1.25 a day


Unevenly distributed growth

The name Zambia is derived from the Zambezi River. Almost 99 percent of Zambians belong to one of the more than 70 Bantu-speaking ethnic groups. Nevertheless, English is the only official language. Zambia is rich in mineral resources, water resources and fertile land. Copper exports, stable political conditions and sound fiscal policies have allowed the economy to grow steadily over the past 15 years. Per capita income has quadrupled over that time. But Zambia's poor has not profited to the same extent because public investment has so far contributed little to the fight against poverty. The landlocked African country still remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Around 75 percent of the population is living on less than USD 1.25 a day. Undernourishment and malnutrition are common, especially among children and nursing mothers.


Little support for small farmers

With its relatively mild climate, conditions in Zambia are essentially ideal for agriculture. 60 percent of the population derive their livelihood from fieldwork and livestock. Agricultural products with high export potential include cassava, various millet varieties, sunflowers, wheat, rice and sugar cane. Coffee, cotton and tobacco are also grown and exported. Nevertheless, agriculture accounts for only 12 percent of export revenues. Small farms use simple farming methods to produce food, and surpluses are sold on the local market.


Although agricultural investments have increased since 2000, access to drinking water and sanitation is not ensured for large parts of the population. And this is in spite of the fact that Zambia has the most extensive water resources of all countries in southern Africa. The responsible authorities are not managing water resources properly and are ill-equipped to handle the effects of climate change.


Monocultures and malnutrition

The majority of Zambians eat mainly corn, with some vegetables as a side dish. They lack the vitamins, minerals and proteins they need for a balanced and healthy diet. Over 40 percent of the population is malnourished due to their unbalanced diet. As a result, almost half of all children are suffering negative effects on their growth and development. The soil in many places is exhausted from the exclusive cultivation of corn. It is especially vulnerable to monsoon-like rainfall and droughts. The Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition sees Zambia as one of the countries most likely to be affected by the effects of climate change.


Zambia is one of the countries that will be most affected by the effects of climate change.


In recent years, droughts have repeatedly destroyed parts of the corn harvest. Self-sufficiency cannot be ensured, especially in southern and southwestern Zambia. In an effort to prevent national corn shortages, the government has doubled its corn reserves from 500,000 to one million tons. Many farmers scale back from three meals per day to two in the "hungry season" so that their supplies will last until the next harvest. Cultivating other crops is important in order to improve soil fertility and reduce malnutrition. More dairy cattle could also help small farmers eat healthier and improve their income.  


INVESTMENTS AND LAND RIGHTS Over 90 percent of Zambia's land mass is considered to be communal land. This land is typically managed by village leaders and provided for the use of the local population. The Land Law of 1995 allows domestic and foreign investors to conclude long-term leases.

Zambia's goal: develop agriculture

In its national development plan, Zambia cites agriculture as a key sector, along with mining, for stimulating the economy, creating productive jobs and promoting inclusive growth. The government is planning reforms in order to end the dependence on corn in favor of greater diversity. With the help of international programs, the Zambian government is seeking to make improvements with the aim of stopping the erosion and degradation of the soil and improving access to markets for small farmers. More effective measures are to be taken to fight animal diseases and to increase the availability of suitable seed and fertilizer. Agricultural advisors are to be employed all over the country to teach sustainable methods of cultivation. More professional agricultural practices and a lasting and intensified cultivation of more diverse crops will allow small farmers to improve their economic and social situation in the future and to survive droughts as a result of weather conditions and climate change.


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