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FEATURE STORY June 29, 2017

Climate-Smart Agriculture: Solutions to Reducing Poverty and Food Insecurity in Zambia


  • The overall poverty rate in Zambia is 57.5% and as high as 84.3% in Eastern Province.
  • Rural communities in Eastern Province are among the world’s most vulnerable to the adverse impact of climate change.
  • Soil nutrient levels in the province have diminished and longer dry seasons are stunting crop growth.

Mary Tembo is small scale farmer in Chipata, about 575 km from Lusaka in Zambia’s Eastern Province. She grows maize and groundnuts, and is part of the farmers’ group that is learning about climate-smart agriculture.

The World Bank is putting the lion’s share—US$17 million—of a US$33 million package into promoting climate-smart agriculture and sustainable landscape management practices in Eastern Province. The Zambia Integrated Forest Landscape project will support farmers to help them make a better living without increasing the amount of deforestation that Zambia’s natural forest is currently suffering from. It aims to do this by helping farmers like Mary with fertilizer, tree seedlings, equipment and irrigation.

New funding for the project comes at a time when Zambia, like many African countries, faces a long-term threat to its rural economic growth as result of climate change. Already, Zambia has suffered drought, flash floods and temperature extremes. Studies commissioned by the Zambian government estimate substantial losses to Zambia’s GDP from diminishing returns in agriculture and natural resources over the next 10 to 20 years as a result of climate change, with an associated increase in levels of poverty.

With the overall poverty rate in Zambia standing at 57.5%, and at as high as 84.3% in Eastern Province, sustainable farming is critically important. The project is focusing on rural communities in the province’s nine districts: Chipata, Lundazi, Mambwe, Petauke, Katete, Sinda, Chadiza, Vubwi and Nyimba.

Dependent on both small-scale agriculture and natural forest, rural communities in Zambia’s Eastern Province are among the world’s most vulnerable. The Government of Zambia is partnering with development organizations to scale-up its efforts to help small-scale agriculture adapt. Almost 215,000 people are due to participate in the Integrate Forest project as it gathers pace, 30 percent of them women.

“This will improve rural livelihoods in Eastern Province by helping farmers increase their income through better farming and forest-based activities, better access to markets and more capacity to manage land resources sustainably,” said the Bank’s Coordinator for Climate Smart Agriculture, Ademola Braimoh. “The project will also support improved land use planning and help rural communities to reduce deforestation and improve the benefits they receive from forestry, agriculture, and wildlife,” he added.

The project will also support multisector coordination and capacity-strengthening activities that emphasize a transition to low carbon development. 

Efforts to promote climate-smart agriculture are intensifying as unproductive farming and poor resiliency to drought threaten to exacerbate poverty in Eastern province. Soil nutrient levels across the province have diminished. Longer dry seasons are stunting crop growth.

“The aim is to reduce the emission of Greenhouse Gases through the sustainable management of land traditionally devoted to community-led agricultural and non-agricultural activities in Eastern Province,” said Ina Ruthenberg, World Bank Country Manager for Zambia.

“The project will also create an enabling environment for Zambia to benefit from up to US$30m from a future emissions reduction purchase agreement between the Government of Zambia and the World Bank as a Trustee for BioCarbon Fund’s Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes,” she added.

The Zambia Integrated Forest Landscape project will be implemented by government line ministries in close collaboration with stakeholders under the oversight of the Inter-Ministerial Climate Change Secretariat, which is housed within the Ministry of Development and Planning. The project funds include the US$17 million in International Development Association credit, a Global Environment Facility grant of US$8.05 million, and a BioCarbon Fund grant of US$7.75 million.