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Project launch: Zambia for Agroforestry, Biodiversity and Climate (Z4ABC)

Forest foods in Zambia are diverse and nutrient rich. At a food fair in Luwingu, Zambia, in April 2017, women display items they regularly forage and cultivate. Photo by Joe Nkadaani/CIFOR

The four-year project aims to contribute to climate-relevant, productive, and sustainable transformation of agriculture, forestry, and food systems in Zambia

By Lydia Amanzi

The ‘Zambia for Agroforestry, Biodiversity, and Climate (Z4ABC)’ project was jointly launched by Zambia’s Ministry of Green Economy and Environment (MGEE) and the European Union (EU) on January 24, 2023 at the Urban Hotel in Lusaka.

The EUR 4.15 million project will be implemented by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in partnership with three Finnish research institutions: the Natural Resources Institute Finland (LUKE), the Viikki Tropical Resources Institute (VITRI) at the University of Helsinki (UoH), and the Häme University of Applied Sciences (HAMK). Two local universities – the University of Zambia (UNZA) and Mulungushi University (MU) – are also partnering on the project, which will be implemented over four years.

About the project

Z4ABC aims to contribute to climate-relevant, productive and sustainable transformation of agriculture and food systems. Additionally, it will provide scientific support for development of partnerships to support local solutions and address the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It will be implemented in targeted areas in the Lower Zambezi–Luangwa–Nyika (ZLN) landscape to support the integrated transformation of selected agriculture, forestry and wildlife-based value chains to become more sustainable, climate-resilient and productive – while supporting local livelihoods, food security, resilient food systems, and biodiversity protection. It will also contribute to Zambia’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Through multidisciplinary, participatory research and development activities, Z4ABC will co-identify, co-develop, implement and improve selected value chains from primary production to markets, based on the value web approach. It aims to reach at least 50,000 smallholder farmers and community members and introduce climate-relevant management practices on 40,000 hectares of agricultural and pastoral ecosystems. It will also co-sponsor community-based initiatives for scaling up viable value chains through small grants.

Z4ABC aims to work with smallholder farmers and community members and introduce climate-relevant management practices in the targeted landscapes. It will also support community-based initiatives for scaling up viable value chains.

Front row, left to right: Z4ABC Project Attache Cristina Soriani, Country Coordinator Maimbo Malesu, PS MGEE John Msimuko, Finnish ambassador to Zambia Saana Halinen, EU Representative Matthias Reusing, and Director of the Department of Agriculture Chizumba Shepande, amid representatives from public and private organizations at the project launch in Lusaka, Zambia. Photo: CIFOR-ICRAF

Zambia is a resource-rich country, with 80 percent of the population dependent on natural resources for food, fuel, income, raw materials and medicines, and 60 percent reliant on agriculture as a main source of livelihood. Against this backdrop, Z4ABC takes a deliberate approach to improve livelihoods by ensuring value chains include a portfolio related to:

  • products produced in climate-smart systems, such as community-supported agriculture (CSA), agroforestry, and agroecological approaches
  • practices that spare land from further deforestation and forest degradation, or that support reforestation
  • sustainable management of forest and wildlife-based value chains
  • wildlife management and ecotourism.

Insights from speakers

Speaking during the launch, keynote speaker John Msimuko, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Green Economy and Environment, and Co-chair of Z4ABC National Action Steering Committee, said the national government is intensifying its efforts to cut down carbon emissions to help improve the livelihood of smallholder farmers and achieve its NDCs. “The Government of the Republic of Zambia is in a hurry to expedite processes that will support crucial and meaningful changes in the agroforestry, biodiversity and climate sectors through viable value chains that will support the livelihoods of hardworking Zambians,” he said. “Engaging in climate-relevant value chains is important to Zambia as it will help cut carbon emissions and achieve the NDCs as per the Paris Agreement.”

Matthias Reusing, Counsellor for the European Green Deal, Rural Development and Trade at the EU Delegation to Zambia said that “the European Union and its member states, as Team Europe, remain committed to uplifting the lives of the Zambian people through deliberate climate-relevant projects that will see the country achieve its NDCs to cut down carbon emissions. Climate-relevant strategies contribute to the sustainable transformation of agriculture and food systems in low and middle-income countries.” Reusing also underlined the critical role the Lower Zambezi National Park plays in the geographic context of the Z4ABC project. “Now is the right time to act – and put on hold the preparatory works for the mining operations within the National Park,” he said.

CIFOR-ICRAF Country Coordinator Maimbo Malesu said that urgent climate adaption and mitigation measures will provide smallholder farmers and rural entrepreneurs with an opportunity to secure their livelihoods against the threats of climate change. “We cannot wait any longer,” he said. “Engaging our rural communities in climate-relevant and sustainable practices is crucial as it will give many households the necessary techniques to survive amidst the harsh impacts of climate change. Our current efforts must take a multisectoral approach to support climate change mitigation and adaptation, biodiversity conservation, ecosystem restoration, and food and nutrition security for our local farmers. The responsibility to adapt and mitigate climate lies on all of us.”

Chizumba Shepande, Deputy Director at the Ministry of Agriculture, said that Zambia is already experiencing the harsh effects of climate change, such as reduced rainfall and frequent flooding, and thus requires immediate action. “The current impacts of climate change we are experiencing, associated with reduced rainfall and frequent flash floods, are affecting our communities negatively,” he said. “Decades of experience demonstrate that the negative effects can be severe when there is no action, and therefore everyone needs to act now to change the narrative.”

The Finnish Ambassador to Zambia, Saana Halinen, reaffirmed Finland’s support for uplifting the livelihoods of Zambians through research – but advised that the project not end up as a pilot study. “The forestry sector in Zambia is one that Finland has constantly supported,” she said. “In the past, forest expertise has been available in research, forestry education and training – from machinery for timber harvesting to government policy, capacity building and many other areas. However, I wish to urge partners to translate the research into actions that improve livelihoods.”