Country Case Study – Zambia

The Zambia case study was conducted with joint input of the Centre of Trade Policy and Development (CTPD), and the Consumer Unity and Trade Society (CUTS). The country case study brought together data and expert insights on the status and future of the Zambian food system, with a particular focus on the health and nutrition implications of current policies, and the potential opportunities offered by climate change dynamics. The convening developed these ideas in collaboration with a diverse group of stakeholders that included government officials, civil society representatives, and farmers. The convening resulted in an examination of the Zambian food system context, implications for small-scale agriculture, challenges for key actors, and the scenarios for the future.


Zambian Food System Context Implications for Small-scale Agriculture
Zambia’s population is increasing at a rate of 3.2% and has a high fertility rate of 6.2 births per woman. It is anticipated that the population by 2030 will be 23,576,214 (Central Statistical Office 2010)

While rates of urbanization are also increasing, the focus is on big urban centres with populations of 1-5 million (Lusaka is experiencing a growth of 6.1%, as compared to the 2.5% growth of secondary cities) (Randolph 2018)

Zambia ranks 116 out of 118 developing countries on the Hunger Index in 2016 (based on undernutrition, child mortality, child stunting, and child wasting)

40% of Zambian children under five are stunted, and 23% of adult women suffer from obesity

There is a marked increase in the proportion of medium-scale farms (5-20 hectares)

Incidence of poverty was estimated at 54.4% in 2015 and continues to be primarily a rural phenomenon.

Climate change is already having an impact on rainfall and temperature, particularly in areas with rain-fed agriculture


Small-scale farmers can potentially benefit by supplying for the increasing dietary diversity and higher incomes of consumers in cities like Lusaka

Cities can also provide an avenue for off-farm income in wholesale and retail sectors

Barriers associated with meeting quality and quantity standards prevent small-scale producers from linking with supply chains of foreign supermarket, limiting them to smaller and informal markets

Policy and budget focus on maize production and smallholder constraints present difficulties for farmers to shift away from maize production

Zambia’s comparative advantage in producing primary agricultural products has the potential of allowing small-scale farmers to contribute to regional market if constraints are addressed

The Northern area presents opportunities for small-scale farmers given future climate situation, if current constraints of input, infrastructure, and market access are removed and climate adaptation measures are adopted


Food system challenges for key actors:

Farmers Consumers Retailers Policy Makers Traders
Productivity Processed foods Synthetic Products Population increase Inconsistencies in trade policies
Climate change Food Security Limited supply Urban slums Market access
Population growth Organic food availability Government policies Reduced productivity FRA activities
Market access High food prices Consumer preferences Unemployment Poor infrastructure
Policy inconsistency Quality of food Purchasing power of consumers Less available land Fluctuating food prices
Food supply Nutritional value in food   Food policy  


Business as Usual Two Worlds Alternative Future
a continuing policy focus on increasing maize yields,

focus on the south and east with little strategic investment in the north and west,

widespread sub-optimal nutrition due to lack of diet diversity, and

declining natural resources, with low resilience to climate change.


positive macro-scale economic growth

increasing inequality and marginalization for smallholder farmers

capitalization on the favourable climatic trends leading to increased regional trade

strategic investments in agricultural sector favouring commercial farmers


symbiotic relationship between larger, emergent, and smallholder farmers working with a mix of semi-formalized markets with better quality and safety standards

a major change in political will to favour longer-term strategic thinking

developing of safety nets for smallholder social and economic security

diet diversification