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Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition (FSN Forum)


The future of food security and climate change in Zambia

Scenarios, outlooks and challenges in the next 30 years

There are two categories of driving forces namely “certainties” and “uncertainties” that shape plausible scenarios. Certainties are drivers that can be reasonably predicted and one can, with a certain level of ease, point out how they might play out in the future. They are the ‘given’ and they form the rules of the game and used to enrich the story lines or plots. Key uncertainties are the literally that – the driving forces that are uncertain. They can include the so-called ‘known unknowns’, risks, possible trend breaks and wild cards. It is their impact and lack of knowledge about them that are the vital for developing a better understanding of how the future might unfold.  

During the workshop, certain factors were identified in increased population growth, greater climate change impacts (i.e. natural scarcity, deforestation, land degradation, etc), lower contribution of agriculture to national GDP, urbanization and inadequate energy sector. On the other hand, issues related to governance and Issues related to the structure and nature of the economy, particularly with relation to commodity prices, were identified as key uncertainties  and featured as key drivers of four possible scenarios:    

The Yazanda Scenario  

Yazanda is slang in Bemba language meaning that things are bad. In this scenario, Zambia is characterized by low economic growth and weak and unresponsive institutions. The main drivers are low prices of minerals in the wold market, low agricultural productivity due to climate change, power and fuel shortages and disease outbreaks in addition to high deforestation rates and high levels of corruption. In this scenario, unemployment rates are high in both rural and urban areas, there is high pressure on natural resources and malnutrition levels and rural poverty have reached critical levels.

The Mwadyamweka Scenario

Mwadyamweka is a slang word in Nyanja language that alludes to selfishness. Mwadyamweka is the story of a country with high and steady economic growth but with weak and unresponsive institutions. In this scenario institutions do not provide the basic services (i.e. education and health) which are required to support the economy, with the result that large portions of the society are deprived from economic and human development. In addition the effects of climate change through false or late onset of rain coupled with corruption and with weak and unclear distribution of agricultural subsidies led to malnutrition and food insecurity.

The Kudyela Scenario

Kudyela is a Nyanja word that means having a good time. Kudyela pictures a Zambia characterized by high and steady economic growth, institutions that are efficient and highly adaptable, prices of commodities are stable and favourable. In this scenario food security and nutrition levels are very high, also thanks to forests and forestry resources managed in a participatory manner as well as to adoption of Climate Smart Agricultural practices.

The Nalimai Scenario

Nalimai is a world in Lozi language meaning the unfortunate one. This is the story of a country with low economic growth but with institutions that are efficient and highly adaptable. Opposite to Mwadyamweka, in this scenario despite good institutions, the economic situation of the country does not improve and  policy implementation is hindered by lack of resources and by large dependence on external aid. This is mainly due to focus of policies and institutional efforts into food security and agricultural intensification at the expenses of natural resources which are degraded and overexploited. Sustainability is a challenge.


  1. What do you think are the main drivers of and obstacles to development for Zambia in the next 30 years?

  2. Keeping in mind that each scenario represents an extreme future, how plausible do you think the scenarios for Zambia are? What would you like to add/change in each scenario to make it more plausible from your perspective?

  3. What solutions would support the drivers of the best scenario and help overcome obstacles encountered on the way? How about overcoming the challenges of the worst scenarios? 

  4. What are the key first steps needed to get a change process in motion, and who needs to be involved?

To read the complete scenarios for Zambia click here

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Santosh Kumar Mishra

Population Education Resource Centre, Department of Lifelong Learning and Extension (Previously known as: Department of Continuing and Adult Education and Extension Work), S. N. D. T. Women's University, Mumbai (Retired: on June 30, 2020)


What do you think are the main drivers of and obstacles to development for Zambia in the next 30 years?

  • Drivers of development: The quality of institutions, and of their governance, is a key influenceable factor affecting the achievement of poverty goals. These institutions may be public or private, formal or informal, rural or urban. From a poverty-reduction perspective, the extent to which they meet the priorities of poor people, women and other marginalized groups, will often be important. The role of these institutions, and the impact of any shortcomings, in poverty reduction, may be understood through the effects they have on development strategies. There are different ways in which these strategies may be formulated, but one means of doing so that is applicable in many countries is to categorize them as involving some combination of: (a) sustainable economic growth; (b) empowerment; (c) access to markets, services and assets; and (d) security.
  1. Obstacles to development: A combination of policy distortions and structural characteristics, such as Zambia’s land-locked situation and vulnerability to droughts and flooding, has hindered the further development and diversification of the sector. The sector is characterized by a dual structure, where a small number of large commercial farms, concentrated along the railway line, co-exist with scattered subsistence smallholders and few small commercial farmers who face severe difficulties accessing input and output markets.

Keeping in mind that each scenario represents an extreme future, how plausible do you think the scenarios for Zambia are? What would you like to add/change in each scenario to make it more plausible from your perspective?

Zambia: High food prices and high unemployment rates combine to place considerable stresses on the most vulnerable sectors of the population.

What solutions would support the drivers of the best scenario and help overcome obstacles encountered on the way? How about overcoming the challenges of the worst scenarios? (common to all 3 countries)

Feeding the world in an equitable and sustainable manner must involve food production and the food system assuming a much higher priority in political agendas across the world. Shaping the debate around issues like jobs, economic development and public health rather than about “joint sacrifice” would be most effective. Government departments around the world should consider moving responsibility for water, food and energy into one department to improve effectiveness.

What are the key first steps needed to get a change process in motion, and who needs to be involved? (common to all 3 countries)

There is a growing sense of urgency in establishing an effective and democratic agricultural system, which has in turn slowly given way to the emergence of various social movements and initiatives (such as the IPC) that highlight the importance of creating self-reliant local food systems. Food sovereignty is widely recognized as the right of all individuals to define their own agricultural policies, policies that are socially and economically appropriate in ensuring people’s physical and emotional well-being. This includes the right to food and the right to produce the food that’s necessary to sustain a society. For food security to be existent, it is paramount to ensure physical and economic access to a variety of food products that meet the dietary needs for a healthy living. There is need:

  1. to ensure adequate food supplies both at the national and local level,
  2. to create a reasonable degree of stability in the supply food network, and
  3. to ensure the ability of households to physically and economically access the food that is required.

General comments

Reading these inputs in addition to the outputs from the first scenario workshop is really quite illuminating and helpful in getting the big picture of the problems and challenges facing each of the three countries. 

One of our biggest concerns in the EPIC team is developing climate smart agricultural investment plans that can generate effective and needed change in each country.  To do that we are focussing on identifying key “delivery mechanisms” that need to be supported- and this dialogue is very relevant to identifying what those might look like.   For example, I’ve been struck by comments for all three countries about the importance of educating and engaging young people as a key means of strengthening current and future capacity to effect change.  Likewise, the importance of addressing and reversing natural resource degradation and depletion has come up in the dialogue for all three countries – although here it is less clear what actions are likely to be feasible and effective.  We also see that in all three countries there is considerable concern about increasing the effectiveness of institutions to support change – but there are considerable differences in what might be the best solution here.

Comments on Zambia

In many ways the Zambia dialogue reflects the same issues as Malawi (good governance is key to determining the future but difficult to achieve) but the situation in the country is quite different because Zambia is a richer country that has had higher levels of economic growth.  The lack of allocation of public resources to smallholder agriculture and particularly needed infrastructure seems very important, as is the issue of weak/poor governance of the private sector.    It seems that better management and governance of the mining sector could actually be important to achieving effective CSA implementation in the country, but it is difficult to envision how this might be reflected in a Zambian CSA investment proposal.  Is there any possible link between better management of the mining sector and CSA development that could be built into an investment proposal?  What would that look like?  As with Malawi, in Zambia the question of whether to focus on government vs. civil society as the main implementer comes up – which is more likely to be an effective way of supporting CSA development?

A final issue arising from the responses to the dialogue for building the country CSA investment proposals is the importance of considering that there can be alternative futures in each country and that will have a big impact on the effectiveness of the CSA work.   The question is then to structure the CSA investments so it can be effective under very different futures in the country – but that of course is very tricky!  One thing I think likely to be effective under any plausible future is strong emphasis on youth education and training and so this should be given some emphasis in the proposals.   Improving market governance and positive participation of the private sector seems a key issue in all countries as well, but of course this is more difficult to address through the channel of a CSA investment proposal.   To what extent could and should a CSA investment plan facilitate better management of the mining sector in Zambia?

I think we have to be realistic about the role the CSA work and investment proposals can actually play in having a positive impact on larger issues of national development, we do need to think very carefully about the leverage the project and investments could have in promoting desirable future scenarios and be creative in building implementation structures that actually contribute to larger public goods such as effective market governance.  More feedback on how this could be done in the specific context of Zambia would be very useful as we move forward in the CSA project work.

James S Phiri

Institute for Eco-Strayegies and Toxicology(IESTO),

1)            What do you think are the main drivers and obstacles to development for Zambia in the next 30 years

Political and governance issues that are compounding corruption and increasing poverty levels are the key drivers and obstacles to development for Zambia in the next 30years.

2)            Keeping in mind that each scenario represents an extreme future, how plausible do you think scenarios for Zambia are?

Yazanda Scenario-A country characterized by low economic growth and institutions that are weak and unresponsive. Yazanda is slang in Bemba language meaning things are bad.

This looks like a likely description of Zambia not far in the distant future if the current indicators cited in the King’s address are not stopped or reversed. It is a scenario that follows the Mwadyamweka Scenario. Zambia could easily be sliding towards this scenario but it is yet there.

Mwadyamweka Scenario-A country with high and steady economic growth but institutions that are weak and unresponsive. Mwadyamweka is slang word in Nyanja language that alludes to selfishness.

Possible best fit scenario for present day Zambia and if trajectory continues, Yazanda scenario is not far.

This scenario could be the closest to what Zambia is today and may unfortunately be so in the very nearest future and degenerating into Yazanda Scenario. The major constants that could reverse the trend in a long-term will be good political and governance improvements supported by an informed citizenry that would hold institutions accountable and eventually make them responsive and strong. This entails good understanding of power bases and motives of opinion and perception makers who prey on innocent “all believing non-critical minds”. To rid of this scenario, corruption will have to be fought by example by leadership of different national and local structures across.

Kudyela Scenario-A country characterized by high and steady economic growth and institutions that are efficient and highly adaptable. Kudyela is a Nyanja word that means having a good time. - Most idealistic but just a dream certainly not realisable in the next 50years or so.

This is an extreme ideal situation. Very unlikely in another 30-50years because the heavily corrupt political and governance constant is unlikely to change based on the current generation and practices for ascending to power. Much as is what is ideal, it is realistically but just a dream for any country.

Nalimai Scenario -A country with low economic growth but with institutions that are efficient and highly adaptable. Nalimai is a word in Lozi language meaning the unfortunate one.

This scenario almost sounds contradictory because with all the good functional systems, an economy should generally respond positively. This is neither the present situation for Zambia nor the future because a weak economy means that economic and social sector policies and programs cannot be self supported. In this case the economic performance will have to fit the donors who in some cases prescribe “one size fits all” fixes regardless of country situations. Generally, the good story under this scenario is negated by the state of an economy that is on its knees. Were the economy to be strong, Zambia should be under this scenario. This scenario is not plausible for Zambia.

b) What would you like to add or change in each scenario to make it more plausible from your perspective?

Yazanda Scenario

Possible addition to make this scenario plausible could be the inclusion of the following to the King’s point speech/address;

“-More crucially we have lost the support of our cooperating countries because they have believed unsubstantiated wild accusations by the social media that our leadership is corrupt

-as a result of donors withholding their support, we are unable to support the socio-sectors resulting in high mortalities from communicable and non-communicable diseases witnessed only under the bitter Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) era.

-Finally, the economy is on its knees because the opposition political parties, NGOs including churches have connived with industry to make this government unpopular”

These additions would make this scenario almost true about Zambia.

Mwadyamweka Scenario

This is a case of a country that has high levels of corruption at all levels. It is highest levels of selfishness. Including corruption and selfishness to this scenario, one possibly could describe present day Zambia. The following additions would also fit the lamentations by this farmer and make it even more plausible;

At paragraph 1………I used recycled seed due to late distribution of inputs. When the recycled seed germinated, I woke up one morning to find some little devils had eaten all my maize. There has been insufficient information from Meteorological and Extension offices on weather forecast and pest out breaks and the media have done little to disseminate weather information.

Paragraph 3”…….This year’s budget allocation to agriculture and input subsidies has further increased but these may not reach the majority of farmers like me. I am told the inputs will first be distributed by the Minister to areas that support the leadership of the day but are also traditionally not agriculture to ensure national food security.

Paragraph 5 “…….Luckily my daughter just got engaged to a copper trader (jerabo) who sells to the Chinese. On my part, I am going to queue up and shout the loudest for the Minister who may dish-out benevolence although in reality this is my tax payment money but is said to be donation by a people centred government for selfish interests of the political leaders. This I hope will help us to survive the harsh realities of life.”

Kudyela Scenario

Most un-probable idealistic dream country for any nation. I do not know of any such a country except heaven on earth beliefs.

Nalimai Scenario

Changing the positives to negatives makes this scenario plausible as summarised; “A country with low economic growth and with institutions that are inefficient and highly unadaptable.” This scenario would eventually be similar or same as Yazanda Scenario. 

3           a) What solutions would support the drivers of the best scenario and help overcome obstacles encountered on the way?) 

Best Scenario drivers include everything every nation aspires and key ingredients include strong economic growth in a balanced ecosystem, good governance anchored on institutions that are accountable to citizens exhibiting observance of the rule of law and a motivated and highly educated and skilled citizenry.

b) How about overcoming challenges of the worst scenario?

Challenges of the worst case scenario could take many generations to overcome because the challenges are compounded by complex related vices or factors that require complete overhaul. It requires massive investments in awareness and education because an educated society is likely to find solutions to the challenges they face. It also calls for moral transformation to ensure leadership is morally upright. Leadership should be seen to lead by example and make decisions and act in such a way as to strengthen institutions and not take advantage of weak institutions to corruptly enrich themselves. Strategic investment in economic sectors such as agriculture and manufacturing as well as in the education sector could in the longterm reverse this scenario. The “king” should not only ask citizens to sacrifice, but he must be the first one to be seen to be “tightening and not loosening and increasing notches to his belt”

4)            What are the key steps needed to get a change process in motion and who needs to be involved?

The solutions to overcoming worst case scenario as given in 3(b) above are applicable here. It requires setting up institutions that are accountable to the citizens and not self serving the leadership. Change process requires the mobilization and therefore involvement of citizens to ensure change is wholly owned as the case was when Zambia ditched the One Party system of governance in favour of multiparty democracy. Any attempt or perceived attempt to change this agreed form of governance is rejected by citizens because they were involved in the change process. 

Having participated in this scenario setting session for Zambia last year, it is interesting to take a second look at them and probably with hindsight, re-evaluate my position on them.

In terms of the main drivers of development of  Zambia in the next 30 years, a number of factors are important but two immediately come to mind. Infrastructure development, especially in terms of transport infrastructure which opens up the country and improves efficient movement of goods and services in a prerequisite.  Second to infrastructure development is the old song of diversification of the economy from its historical over-reliance on copper to a well functioning agricultural sector supported by a robust Agro-processing industry which adds value to agricultural products

Because of  climatic uncertainties, cross cutting issue of climate proofing all these programmes or strategies will be crucial to ensure they remain climate-resilient.


Revisiting the scenarios for the future, I feel reality is somewhere between Mwadya Mweka and Kudyela but very difficult to ascertain as it depends on a lot of factors.



The drivers and obstacles to development for Zambia in the next 30 years are the Zambian people themselves. Unless the mindset of an average Zambian is changed to begin to believe that only Zambians can clearly define their economic direction, it would be impossible to land in "KUDYELA" scenario. Right now I can safely say that we are under the "MWADYAMWEKA DAD". It is from this scenario that I believe its only Zambian's who can best sort out this scenario through a democratic process. Zambia has over the years seen some of the worst economic decisions being pronounced and implemented by the very people whom we elect into power to try and sort out the economic injustices. Without any doubt these decisions have negatively contributed to setting of wrong priorities not only in the agricultural sector but throughout the spine of the nation. The net result of all the poor decisions coupled with lack of long-term planning has been declining rural development. I want to agree with the other contributors that the general management of the Zambian economy has been that of a black box rather than transparency. 

I want to believe that things will only get better when the generation that grew under UNIP has completely disappeared from the face of Zambia. The UNIP generation spends more time on how to fix each other rather than fixing the economy so that we can have a Zambia where no one goes to bed without a meal or indeed waking up without any assurances of breakfast. The MMD generation is also another problem as the philosophy of "MWADYAMWEKA" is deeply enshrined in nearly all the citizens.

However, not all looks like "YAZANDA", I can foresee a generation within the next 30 years that is going to put things right. Day by day I see the Zambian people becoming more aware of their role in national development than it were 30 years ago.

Andrea Cattaneo


I would like to follow-up on Dr. Bourgeois’ invitation to go deeper into the “raison d’être” of the different scenarios (in his comments on Malawi).  Despite Zambia’s 6-7% annual economic growth in the last decade, such growth has not translated into significant poverty reduction. The World Bank reports that 60% percent of the population lives below the poverty line and 42% are considered to be in extreme poverty. The urban picture is far better than the rural: in the Copperbelt and Lusaka provinces, for example, poverty incidence is fairly low (22% and 34% respectively), whereas in the rest of the country, which is dominated by agriculture, poverty rates are greater than 70%. Almost 90% of Zambians who live below the extreme poverty line are concentrated in rural areas. Despite vast potential and stated commitments to diversification, the mining sector continues to dominate the economy.

What will the situation be in 30 years? From an outsider’s perspective, for the positive “Kudyela Scenario” to come to fruition, Zambia’s growth will need to translate into a corresponding increase in job creation and progress on poverty reduction. Zambia’s natural resources will need to be fully harnessed to foster structural transformation and inclusive job creation. Currently the country is dependent on copper mining, which accounts for about 80% of foreign exchange earnings and only 6% of total revenues (African Dev. Bak, 2013). Thus, Zambia’s long-term economic prospects hinge on the prudent utilization and deployment of copper revenues as well as harnessing the potential for agricultural development. The challenges that are likely to be encountered, as often occurs in extractive-based economies is that rents from these activities are captured by a country’s elites instead of being put to use for the broader development agenda of the country. This would indicate that there is a risk that the “Mwadyamweka Scenario” may occur.

1.Main drivers of development in Zambia in the next 30 years

- Stable political situation

-national policies formulation and implementation to enhance agricultural productivity

-transparency in land and natural resources utilization and management

-  quality education and vocation training  to national needs

-  increasing participation of Zambians in decesion making processes in key industries such as minerals

-government policsies and availability of funds to support SMEs


- growing rate of urbanization

- very high student teacher ratio causing atleast 30% drop out rate at every level of education leading to unemployment among youths

- lack of finance to boost agriculture, promote education and research

- devastating impacts of climate change on agriculture, hydro power generation, living beings

2.  Scenarios for Zambia

All four scenarios are plausible although following changes should be considered in descriptions.

There has been an awareness in the country to fight corruption so to say irresponsive institutions does not look appropriate. We can say weak institutions which  lack  resources to implement policies and are not able to provide basic services to rising population.

4. Key steps to get a change and who needs to be involved

Promote agriculture and local industry for production of consumers goods.

Educate the society to participate in development.


The main factors that have impacted negatively on development in Zambia can be associated with multiple facets ranging from policy failure to poor allocation of resources to areas that have impacted on delivery of the well intended areas of actions. Important to reflect on include among others:

a. Failure in restructuring policies that impeded and destroyed the production and value addition infrastructure across the country. The policy decision to privatize most enterprise compounded rapid scale down in delivering government services and exposed industrial base as well as institutional memory to rapid deterioration.

b. The transition from socialist policies to capitalist approach lacked safeguards and systematic progression that led loss of institutional and technological knowledge including skills necessary to provide productive and strategic input in key institutions.

c. lack of financial discipline exposed key institutions necessary for growth to reduced liquidity compounded by declining motivation to provide important services such as extension support and oversight.

Hi, I think the comments I made about Malawi's scenario do also apply here (related to the compatiblity of the future states of the two identified uncertainties and their interconnection).

All scenarios offer different challenges and opportunities - but perhaps the Nalimali scenario offerst the toughest challenge. Institutions are working reasonably well and are adaptive, but nevertheless they are not able to overcome the problems of a struggling economy, which means their adaptive capacity has been overwhelmed. How could this situation be remedied? Could fruitful collaborations between the government and socially responsible private sector help overcome the problems?