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Zambia VAC: 2005 vulnerability and needs assessment

Zambia Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZVAC)

June 2005

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Executive Summary

Zambia and the entire southern sub-region experienced drought during the 2004/05 agricultural season. Two thirds of Zambia, mainly the south western parts, was badly affected by erratic rainfall. By mid February and March 2005, most of these areas received little and/or no rainfall at a time when most crops were at critical stage of development. This rainfall situation caused irreversible agronomic damage to most crops. Drought tolerant crops such as cotton and tobacco were also affected by the erratic nature of the rainfall.

It is against this background and the findings of the VAC Rapid Crop Assessment Report of March 2005 that the Vulnerability Assessment Committee (VAC) decided to conduct the April/May 2005 assessment. The general objective of the assessment was to determine the impact of inadequate rainfall on household livelihoods in affected areas during the 2004/5 agricultural season. The assessment set out to address other sub objectives related to the following: food security, health, nutrition, education, water and sanitation. Further, the assessment aimed to estimate the number of affected households and determine the food requirements in affected areas. Other sub objectives were related to understanding livelihoods, response strategies and recommendation of appropriate types of intervention.

The VAC assessment survey covered 105 Standard Enumeration Areas (SEAs) falling in 17 Food Economy Zones or 1,690 households residing in the rural areas of the southern half of Zambia. The survey was carried out for a period of 21 days using a cross sectional sample. Five (5) teams consisting each of 6 data collectors implemented the assessment. Three consultants consisting of one data analyst, one sampling consultant from CSO and a national statistical consultant were engaged to consolidate the research team. Within VAC membership, two coordinators spearheaded the two components of the assessment, one for the household questionnaire while the other for Food Economy Approach (FEA) based module.

Major findings

  • There was a marked downsizing in terms of input distribution and beneficiaries.

  • The 2004/05 cereal production, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MACO) has been estimated at 1,121,071MT of which 866,187MT is maize; 13,338MT is rice while the balance of 48,297MT is sorghum and millet After taking into account opening stocks, the Food Balance Sheet (FBS) shows that the total maize available falls short of the total requirement by 85,000MT. The rice deficit is estimated at 12,000MT while cassava surplus is at 324,834MT.

  • A total population of 1,232,661 people in the rural areas of Zambia (excluding the commercial farmers) are likely to be food insecure and would require 118,335 metric tonnes of cereal for a period of 8 months (July 2005 – February 2006) in 27 districts covering Lusaka, Central, Southern, Western and Eastern Provinces.

  • Seven districts, namely; Itezhi-itezhi, Nyimba, Katete, Chadiza, Chipata, Lundazi, and Chama will require monitoring of the food security situation through out the year.

  • The survey further established that some districts that were equally affected by the drought were not as severely affected. These districts were;

  • Mufumbwe, Kasempa, Mpongwe, Lufwanyama, Masaiti and Chongwe.

  • The major determinant of wealth in most zones was livestock ownership and size of land cultivated. In the zones visited, the poor wealth category formed the greatest proportion of about 50% while the middle formed about 30% and the better-off 20%. Generally, the major contribution of food came from own production and this increased by wealth group. This was supplemented by purchases in the better off and medium wealth bracket while labour exchange for the poor household was the key food supplement. Poorer households failed to reach the recommended household/individual caloric requirements for the year. Labour exchange for poorer households was the highest contributor to income sources while crop sales were the leading contributor for middle and better off households.

  • The main chronic hazards in the areas visited were two: mainly human-wild animal conflict and crop/livestock diseases. The periodic hazards common across all zones were erratic rainfall, floods, poor crop marketing and input distribution, and limited water sources especially for livestock.

  • As for under five nutritional status, the assessment has established that there were varying levels of malnutrition. Serious cases were in parts of Eastern, North-western and Western provinces, and these will require further investigations on causality. The assessment also found out that the proportion of children with common illnesses was high in areas where malnutrition was a concern. Equally, diet diversity among children was found to be inadequate across all the zones.

  • Under-five mortality was within acceptable rates. In the areas visited one fifth of the adult population were chronically ill, 12 months prior to the assessment. This situation has a potential to adversely impact on food and income sources especially that a sizeable number of the chronically ill were head of households.

  • In terms of education, it was found that the highest drop out percentage was higher for girls and this was common in valley and other far flung areas. The main reason for drop out was early marriage, inability to afford fees and lack of interest.

  • Regarding water, the assessment established that the distance to water sources was generally short and that about two thirds of the respondents indicated that there would be no reduction in quantity of water compared to last year. However, at least two thirds of households did not treat water. North-western province was most susceptible to unsafe water compared to other provinces.

  • Preparations for food relief intervention should commence almost immediately to fit in the recommended time frame of July 2005 to February 2006 in the affected districts. Programming strategies should encompass options related to free food or food for work, choice of commodity and cash transfer options.

  • For recurrent floods and droughts, permanent solutions to be sought through integrated water management schemes such as simple irrigation techniques for agriculture and small dams for livestock.

  • Strengthen veterinary programmes in Southern province and extend it to Northwestern and Western Provinces

Enhancement of supplementary feeding programmes using HEPS as well as therapeutic feeding programmes following international standards in serious and risky zones. In addition there is need for improved management of child illnesses.


There is need to enhance the current interventions in water treatment such as use of chlorine and boiling of water before drinking since two thirds of the respondents in the survey used unsafe water sources.


Sustenance of girl child education programs especially in the valley areas. There is need to sensitize guardians on equal access to education by both gender and discourage early marriage for girls.

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