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FEATURE STORYSeptember 29, 2022

Embracing Food Security and Climate Resilience on the Zambezi Flood Plains


Rosta Ikatanga with members of the Tusano group, and their fish cages in Sioma

Photo: Carlyn Hambuba, World Bank


  • The World Bank has partnered with Zambia to strengthen its institutional framework for climate resilience.
  • A fish farming project combines food and climate adaptation.
  • The project has helped over 128,169 households make informed decisions on their livelihoods.

For many years, fish have been an economic mainstay for people in Zambia’s Sioma District of Western Province. But recently families have seen their incomes plummet, both from the depletion of fish in the Zambezi and other bodies of water and from poor agricultural production.

Fish are part of the culture of the Lozi people in Western Province, but their numbers have been falling in the River Zambezi, in part because of climate change. In Sioma, Rosta Ikatanga leads a group of 15 people who are making a change in their community. Her group is promoting climate adaptability and engaging in fish farming using cages stationed on a lagoon.

In 2020, when Rosta and her friend Alice Mubita saw the supply of fish falling in the Zambezi’s Barotse sub-basin, they formed the Tusano Fish Farming Group. A sub-grant from the Strengthening Climate Resilience in the Barotse Sub-basin (SCReBS) project, enabled them to buy two fish cages, each stocked with 10,000 fingerlings (so called the baby fish because  they are the size of a finger).

The community did not give up when they lost these to floods in the 2020/21 rainy season, moving their cages to a lagoon with stable water levels and re-stocking them with new fingerlings in early 2022, in expectation of a fish harvest in September 2022.

To respond to local livelihood challenges like these, the World Bank has partnered with Zambia to strengthen the country’s institutional framework for climate resilience and  to improve the adaptive capacity of vulnerable communities in areas like the sub-basins of Western and Southern Zambia. Its support has been channeled through the umbrella Pilot Program for Climate Resilience (PPCR) project. This project is one of several aimed at bolstering climate resilience, currently being supported by the World Bank around the African continent.

The project has been a successful model for climate adaptation measures, including introducing more agricultural diversification to improve income, food security, nutrition, and climate resilience. It is linked to a climate adaptation model, including investments on the ground that support climate proofing and the rehabilitation or building of infrastructure, like the Lubitamei and Muoyowamo canals, which are used for the Kuomboka ceremony as well.
Ngao Mubanga
Task Team Leader in Zambia

The Kuomboka is an annual ceremony that takes place when the household of the Lozi palace moves from its summer to its winter residence in a flotilla of boats across the Zambezi flood plains. Thirty-four other secondary and tertiary canals have been rehabilitated to improve irrigation, transport, and local access to solar powered boreholes.

Goodbye mono-cropping

Bank support has helped diversify livelihoods by helping farmers move away from mono-cropping—in Sioma District, many farmers had only been growing maize (corn)—to promoting previously neglected crops, such as rice, winter maize, vegetables, sweet potatoes, cassava, sorghum, and millet. Over 128,169 households, the equivalent of 581,028 individuals, have been able to make more informed decisions about climate-resilient livelihoods, compared to 40,000 individuals at the start of the project.

The second phase of the project focused on strengthening capacity at national and local levels. The pilot project, mainstreaming climate risk management into planning, will close in December 2022. The project has supported the strengthening of national and decentralized decision making on climate risk investment planning and the implementation of community, ward, and district-level, sub-grant-funded microprojects.

“SCReBS has supported investments in communities that include participatory adaptation, climate-resilient infrastructure, and strategic program support in agriculture, water, livestock, fisheries, natural resources, and climate information services,” said Chitembo Chunga, National Project Coordinator.

Away from the Zambezi flood plains, its broader investments target sustainable activities that are not climate sensitive but prevent land degradation and unsustainable land use and manage the effects of climate variability and change.

Photo: Carlyn Hambuba, World Bank

Fish farmers like Rosta and her group have also secured links to markets with the help of an enterprise grant from the project. MJ Fish Marketing & Transportation Project in Sioma is a project beneficiary that links up with fish farmers. It builds local capacity to provide fingerlings, fish feed, vaccines, and technical support to farmers. The project will guarantee a market for fish farmers by buying from them every harvest. “This fish farming project is a game changer, as the money we earn is helping us feed our families and pay for our children’s education,” said Rosta.

The Tusano Group is linked to the government’s Department of Fisheries, which provides farmers with continuous technical support and training. The department also ensures linkages are kept going by keeping in touch with the marketing company. The sale of fish has improved the living standards of the community, as well as its protein intake and nutrition, and increased the purchase of various household assets. “The project has improved our lives because we now have disposable income from the sale of fish, as we have a confirmed market for our harvest,” said Eris Sipupe, a local fish farmer.

As Zambia’s second largest wetland, the Barotse basin is one of the country’s most vulnerable environments because it lies mostly on a flood plain. More and more often, people’s socio-economic activities are being disrupted by flooding caused by erratic rainfall patterns and periodic drought. These raise peoples’ levels of vulnerability and poverty.

Map of Western Province showing the districts where the study was conducted.

Map Source: Kefi A. S et al… 2017 ‘Physical losses of fish along the value chain in Zambia: A case study of Barotse Floodplain’ International Journal of Fisheries and Aquaculture Vol 9 No.10

The SCReBS project has been implemented in 16 districts in Zambia’s Western Province and in Kazungula District in Southern province. Since its launch in September 2013, it has dispersed US$36 million, made up of a US$31 million grant and US$5 million loan. In 2018, the project received additional financing of US$14.6m from the World Bank.

The project was extended by three years from 2019 to 2022. This additional investment was designed to consolidate the investments and to stimulate a private sector and business-minded approach amongst primary producers by moving them from subsistence to market-oriented production. It focused on micro-projects and value chains.


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