Zambia achieved lower middle-income status in 2011 after years of impressive economic performance. Yet more than half of its population still lives below the poverty line. A now deteriorating economy risks puts undermining government’s efforts at risk to deliver social services, alleviate poverty, reduce malnutrition and achieve zero hunger. This is especially true in rural areas, where most people of them rely on subsistence agriculture and are exposed to the effects of climate change.
Zambia’s malnutrition rates remain among the highest in the world. The country ranked 143 of 189 in the 2019 Human Development Index , with 48 percent of the population unable to meet their minimum calories requirements, more than one-third of children under five years stunted and more than half suffering from iron deficiency. Limited knowledge of nutrition, poor feeding practices and limited and unhealthy diets are the main impairing contributing factors.
While food production at the national level routinely exceeds domestic requirements, the availability of and access to adequate nutritious food remains a challenge for many poor households, which is compounded by the country’s over-reliance on maize. Overweight and obesity, especially among women, is a growing problem attributed to high consumption of unhealthy diets.
Zambia’s 1.5 million smallholder farmers producing most of the domestic food supplies are extremely vulnerable to climatic shocks, as they predominately depend on rain-fed agriculture. Furthermore, they face limited access to high quality inputs, climate and post-harvest management information, sustainable markets and financial services. With climate change emerging as one of the biggest threats in Zambia, weather extremes of increased frequency, intensity and magnitude over the last few decades are negatively impacting agriculture and increasing food insecurity.
Gender inequality is one of the main problems in the country, affecting poverty and food insecurity. Poverty rates generally higher among households headed by women. While women constitute 64 percent of the rural population and approximately 80 percent of food producers, poverty rates generally higher among households headed by women (56.7 percent).
Zambia currently hosts about 76,000 refugees and asylum seekers across the country. Over 14,000 refugees reside in Mantapala Refugee Settlement. Most of them (80 percent) are women and children from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and require humanitarian assistance to survive.
Since 1967, the World Food Programme (WFP) has been a strategic partner to the Government for the achievement of zero hunger. In recent years, it has driven innovation and positive change in the areas of disaster risk management, smallholder farmer support, school feeding and social protection. WFP is currently focusing its efforts on strengthening national systems and capacities and providing support for programmes and coordination in pursuit of a food-secure Zambia by 2030.
What the World Food Programme is doing in Zambia
WFP provides a monthly food basket to the most vulnerable refugees from DRC in Mantapala Refugee Settlement. Specialised nutritious food is included in the food basket to improve the refugee’s nutritional status. WFP gradually introduced cash-based assistance to contribute towards diversifying diets, stimulate local economy and markets and empower recipients to choose the food they consume.
WFP works with the Government to promote the production and availability of nutritious food, by supporting smallholder farmers to produce nutritious food and engaging with the private sector through the SUN Business Network (SBN). WFP supports the Government in generating and strengthening e evidence on nutrition to advocate for greater investment and inform the design of programmes and policy.
Enhancing smallholder farmer productivity and resilience
WFP’s integrated approach combines activities that enhance the productivity and resilience of smallholder farmers. To achieve this, WFP encourages the adoption of climate-smart agriculture and drought-tolerant crops to increase yields, the establishment of rain gauges to help farmers make informed decisions on what and when to plant. WFP also promotes savings and credit to buy seeds and fertilizers, and weather index insurance to protect farmers from crop losses in extreme weather events. WFP supports smallholders in transitioning from subsistence farming to farming as a business, prioritizing the needs of women farmers who have less access than men to agricultural inputs.
Strengthening government social protection systems
WFP strengthens the efficiency and effectiveness of nationally owned social protection programmes - the Home-Grown School Meals (HGSM) programme, the Social Cash Transfer (SCT) programme and national disaster preparedness and response. WFP also pilots hydroponics in schools, with the aim of improving nutrition and promoting healthy diets in children.
As COVID-19 cases increase in Zambia, WFP works in collaboration with other UN agencies to support government efforts. WFP helps to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on household food security by providing food to vulnerable families in selected localities as well as logistics support to deliver food and non-food items. To minimize transmission risk, WFP takes precautions at food distribution points such as promoting physical distancing, installing hand-washing facilities, etc.