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Sustainable Diets for All (SD4All)

All Lusaka & Chongwe residents eat healthy, traditional, diverse, sustainably produced food in a food system shaped by all citizens

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Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

Hivos Southern Africa

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Large NGO (over 50 employees)

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

Lusaka City Council Chongwe District Council

Website of Legally Registered Entity

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 3-10 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?


Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?


Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Lusaka (capital of Zambia) and Chongwe (adjacent semi-rural/rural district which supplies much of Lusaka’s food). Combined area 2,923 km sq.

What country is your selected Place located in?


Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

Hivos has 55 full time staff across southern Africa, including 8 in Zambia, where it has had an office since 2015. 2 staff work on the food system in Zambia.

Zambia has the highest levels of malnutrition in southern Africa - 35% of all under 5s are affected by stunting and this is despite Zambia nearly a middle income country, having good agricultural land, being a large producer (and exporter) of maize and being fairly politically and economically stable.

William Chilufya, the Project Manager, is deeply concerned at the rise of diet-related illnesses amongst all people, especially the youth.  He laments the disappearance of traditional local foods, that gave his grandparents long healthy disease-free lives.  These foods are Zambian culture which is being lost in the rise of shopping malls and western fast food takeaways.  He believes that the food system work has got off to a good start in Zambia, with encouraging responses from all parts of society, who recognize the need for change. The government has responded favourably, especially to the evidence generating in the first years of the programme.  For example the previous Minister of Agriculture said in a Hivos video that she indeed did not want to be the ‘Minister of Maize’; and the government is taking recommendations from our recent Diversification study into a shadow Crop Diversification Strategy being developed.  William is optimistic that we are on the right path to achieve the vision but says it is critical that we sustain momentum. 

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

Lusaka is the capital of Zambia, and Chongwe is the adjacent semi-rural and rural district, the 2nd biggest supplier of Lusaka’s food.  They are part of the same ‘city region food system’.

Lusaka is a sprawling busy city, with roadworks and new shopping centres seeming perpetually in construction. It has typical urban problems of rapid population growth and struggling municipal services such as water and waste collection. Manufacturing, financial, transport, and retail businesses are the most important industries in Lusaka though most people making a living from unregistered micro-enterprises, offering services and trading goods across the city, with many involved in food production and selling, including at the city’s largest food market, Soweto. 

The most spoken language is Bemba. It is a patriarchal society, where cultural values and norms can hinder women and girls’ participation in society. The staple diet is nshima (maize) eaten daily 2 – 3 times per day by most people. The preferred relish is usually goat, beef, fish, or chicken—and a vegetable, usually rape (collard greens) and tomatoes, onions. Low income households eat less meat, usually eating their nshima with beans, vegetables, or dried fish. Groundnuts (peanuts), sweet potatoes, and cassava, are more seasonal, as are a wide range of fruits.  Traditionally eating is done without utensils and using the right hand only – the right hand is also for greeting and exchanges of money. Approx. 35% of under 5s are affected by stunting from lack of dietary diversity - ever fewer varieties of nutritious and traditional vegetables and crops are produced and consumed, even amongst the more affluent. Western takeaways like KFC are gaining a foothold and eating there is considered a status symbol by many. Diet-related illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease are increasing rapidly, putting the healthcare system under pressure. 

Approximately 80% of Lusaka city population get their food from the informal food sector (small roadside vendors, or groups of vendors at markets of varying sizes). These vendors source food from middlemen, who buy it from outside Lusaka, including from adjacent semi-rural and rural district, Chongwe. Chongwe has a population of about 140,000 people, mostly involved in small scale farming. Chongwe is one of the 2 largest suppliers of fresh vegetables to Lusaka. Chongwe has lost much of its forest to charcoal production, and unsustainable agriculture is further degrading the land, reducing its ability to hold water, steadily reducing its production potential and resilience to climate change. Farmers who can afford it, often overuse agrochemicals, harming the health of consumers, workers’ and the environment.

In politics, there is shrinking civic space and a need to empower citizens and CSOs to defend this space.   People are largely disengaged from governance and political issues, as they are not used to having a voice.

What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)


What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?


Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

Current –  despite being Africa’s second-largest copper producer and achieving middle-income country status in 2011, Zambia ranks among the countries with highest level of inequality globally. 58% of Zambians earn less than the international poverty line of $1.90 per day (compared to 41% across Sub-Saharan Africa). Along with Madagascar, it has the highest levels of malnutrition - 35% stunting of under 5s, partly attributed to loss of dietary diversity and monocropping. 23% are overweight or obese – leading to increase in diabetes, cancer and heart disease; marginalization of the informal sector despite their critical role in providing food for 80% of Lusaka residents; low knowledge of good nutrition especially amongst low income households and decreasing demand for diverse traditional healthy foods which struggle to compete with strongly-marketed easily-accessible well-packaged processed sugary grain-based foods – this loss of traditional foods equates to a sad loss of Zambia’s unique culture; high food losses at both ends of the production chain from Chongwe through to the markets in Lusaka due to inadequate storage and poor handling; unsustainable farming practices and negligible adjustment to climate change (increasingly erratic rainfall); weak interaction between all actors of the food system, with middle men sometimes exploiting farmers and marketers; 80% of national agriculture budget spent on production and procurement of maize only (mono-cropping = mono-diets); growing and consolidated corporate control in the food and agriculture sector with vested interests hindering shift towards diversification; weak city governance including of the food system; negligible participation of citizens in the city’s governance or food system.

2050 – without intervention, these challenges will be similar to except on a much larger scale as Zambia’s population is expected to triple by 2050; the challenges will be severely aggravated due to climate change which is increasing temperatures and causing more erratic rainfall (droughts and flooding). A degraded natural resource base (particularly soils ‘mined’ by conventional farming practices) will reduce agricultural production and the nutrition content of food (which depends on mineral rich soils); huge national debt burden will hinder government investment into critical sectors. Without citizen participation in creating a healthy sustainable food system, residents will be passive consumers of unhealthy monodiets, with food produced, packed and sold by a narrow range of large multinationals;  Possible collapse of ecosystems could lead to water and food shortages, which would lead to social instability and insecurity and increasing authoritarianism.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

Taking a holistic city region food system approach that brings together all actors to address collectively agreed priorities, we will continue to promote agricultural diversification (production/push factor) and healthy diets (consumption/pull factor) across Lusaka and Chongwe. We will do this by empowering citizens/CSOs to build their understanding of their food system, and give them a voice and platforms to influence how it should change; we will continue to gather evidence, especially citizen-generated, and use it to collectively lobby for better policies and practices. We will support changemakers, frontrunners/innovators, residents with passion and good ideas to improve access to healthy traditional food. Continuing this journey brings us closer to our vision of ‘All Lusaka & Chongwe residents eating healthy, traditional, diverse and sustainably produced food through a food system that is shaped and driven by citizens themselves’. Progress to date includes:

KNOWLEDGE & EVIDENCE - Increasing awareness/understanding of the food system and need for change in policies/practice, including recommendations. Studies to date include: •Nourishing diversity: A five-point plan to enrich our food systems •Celebrating Local Food Value Book and Diversity - a collaboration with the Min. of Traditional Affairs, linking diets to culture •True Cost of Maize in Zambia •Beyond Maize: Exploring Agricultural Diversification in Zambia (recommendations from this are informing the National Crop Diversification Strategy) •Informal Food Markets in Zambia: Perspectives from vendors, consumers and policy makers.

MULTI-ACTOR ENGAGEMENT VIA FOOD CHANGE LAB – the lab enhanced shared understanding of the current food system and challenges, strengthening collaboration among consumers, farmers, entrepreneurs, civil society and government. It is fostering collective leadership/commitment to drive positive change. Participants mapped the food system, better understood lived realities from one another, and agreed priority areas for intervention: engaging youth and the informal sector, and promoting diversification (from farm to plate). Out of this came ‘prototypes’ – small-scale interventions to test solutions – and focused advocacy messaging. Lusaka and Kitwe city councils responded well, and are now setting up their own Food Policy Councils, to develop Food Policies for their cities! The informal sector prototype included training women marketers on nutrition and food safety at Lusaka's largest food market. These women are now nutrition and food diversity ambassadors. 

The global collaborative Framework for Food Systems Transformation Tool developed by UNEand One Planet Network (of which Hivos is part) was released early 2019, indicators from this tool are now being applied to measure changes in the food system.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

All actors, especially citizens, will understand the food system, and be active in shaping it so that all people have access to healthy diverse sustainably produced foods. Stunting will be down to 5% of under 5s and the % of the population overweight or obese will also be less than 5% (along with a decline in rate of associated illnesses); the informal sector is well organized and appreciated for its role in providing healthy diverse food to all residents; the markets are clean, safe and pleasant, with renewable energy-powered storage and processing facilities in all markets and at production/aggregation sites in Chongwe too;  traditional diverse healthy food is easily accessible and embraced by all as part of Zambia’s heritage; trees cover the city, including food forests, keeping the city cool, providing food, and habitat for city fauna.  Regenerative agriculture practiced in Chongwe, has restored soils and water retention, and yields have increased, despite climate change. Agro-forestry and re-forestation reversed much of the deforestation – charcoal is a dirty distant memory, with solar powered ecooking and other technologies providing clean energy for residents of Lusaka and Chongwe, including for post-harvest production which has reduced food wastage to negligible amounts. A wide variety of once lost traditional crops ideally suited to the local climate, are now commonly produced – both commercially and informally with the rise of urban agriculture -  and easily accessible across Chongwe and Lusaka; the government is investing 80% of its national agriculture budget on production and procurement of a diverse range of nutritious healthy crops (only 20% on maize). Lusaka and Chongwe District Councils encourage the participation of citizens in governance of the food system, whose importance is valued by everyone.  All citizens feel a sense of connection, agency and pride in their food system, valuing its critical role in their wellbeing and culture.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

These interconnected themes will be addressed simultaneously using 3 key approaches:

1) Connecting multiple stakeholders to co-create solutions & innovations – Hivos brings together citizens and other actors in the food system using multi-actor platforms such as the Food Change Lab and Food Policy Council. In Lusaka, participants in the food change lab mapped the food system and agreed that priority areas to address in the food system include the informal sector, young people, diversification (demand).  This approach is ‘system focused’. This approach is not just informed by citizens, but rooted in the community and led by citizens themselves who truly understand the local context, problems and solutions.

2) Support front runner and develop ideas – we support entrepreneurs, SMEs and city makers whose ideas bring solutions to local problems in the food system; this can include small businesses that increase access to diverse healthy food; or community leaders managing community food gardens.  This support for local solutions shows that the approach is ‘community rooted’.

3) Influence policies and scale solutions – evidence (especially citizen generated evidence) will be used for collective lobbying (by networks of CSOs, NGOs, media and other citizen representative groups) to shift the food system towards inclusivity and sustainability.  Policy changes, when combined with social accountability and tracking to monitor implementation, can be transformative.

The interconnected themes will look like this in Lusaka:

Environment – greenhouse gas emissions, water pollution and soil erosion are included in the cost calculations of products and production systems – true cost accounting has been adopted; this makes regenerative agriculture cheap in comparison to industrially produced food!  Regenerative agric practices have steadily increased yields as well as the soil and landscape’s ability to withstand drought.

Diets – increased demand for a wide range of local diverse healthy and traditional foods by all citizens; nshima (maize) remains an important part of people’s diets but is not eaten every day, instead diverse small traditional grains are now widely produced and accessible. As a result of this, malnutrition and obesity have been reduced, along with associated illnesses.

Economics – Lusaka and Chongwe have a vibrant circular economy, with food and waste being consumed and recycled and minimized; local entrepreneurs and SMEs play a critical role in producing and increasing access to diverse healthy food and have created many jobs for young people and women; Public private partnerships (PPPs) have enabled the provision of critical services such as renewable energy powered storage and processing facilities.

Culture – diverse traditional foods are widely consumed, including by young people, recognized and celebrated as a key and unique part of Zambian culture;

Technology – is inclusive, accessible and widely used to connect consumers and producers and improve ease of doing business and flows of information between all actors in the food system, leading to a more efficient system with less waste.  Renewable energy powers the food system from farm to plate, from water pumping, production, processing, transport and storage.

Policy – the Lusaka City Council and the Chongwe District Council are effectively implementing local food policies they developed in 2020, with active participation of citizens.   These policies, which reflect citizen’s vision and choices, have shifted the food system towards one of inclusivity and sustainability, benefitting all citizens and the environment.

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Attachments (3)

Informal Sector study of Lusaka Kitwe.pdf

Recognizing the importance of their role, a study that can help us better understand and work with the informal sector.

Beyond maize_ Exploring agricultural diversification in Zambia from different perspectives (1).pdf

A study that is now being used to inform development of a National Crop Diversification Strategy

Zambia Food Change Lab_online.pdf

A key output is the current ongoing establishment of Food Policy Councils housed/owned by the Lusaka and Kitwe City Councils, and these will develop food policies for their cities :-)


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The concept of sustainable diets presents an opportunity to successfully advance commitments to sustainable development and the elimination of poverty, food and nutrition insecurity, and poor health outcomes.

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