Zambia is vulnerable to climate change, which to a large extent causes land degradation. Degraded land often has significant impacts on the lives and livelihoods of many people, especially those communities that depend on natural resources. The low productivity of land caused by land degradation causes low crop yields, poor animal productivity and animal diseases. As Zambia’s population, especially the rural population, is dependent on agriculture, these factors undermine social economic and environmental development and continue to deepen the poverty crisis [1].

As outlined in Zambia’s Land Degradation Neutrality National Report [1], to understand the trends in land degradation, three indicators (forest cover, land productivity and soil organic carbon) were observed over a 15-year period (2000-2015). During this period, the country lost 11,008 km² (2.3%) of forest cover and grassland decreased by 361.54 km² (0.22%). Cropland increased by 7,163.41 km² (11.08%); wetlands and water bodies also increased by 0.38% and 1.61%, respectively; while artificial surfaces had the highest proportional increase (265.52%).

Under the tree covered area, a decline in productivity of 0.4% was experienced over the period. Only 1.6% of tree cover (8302.98 km²) was considered as having moderately declined while 2.5% (11,624.55 km²) was described as stressed. But 43% (195,667.62 km²) was deemed stable and 53% of forest cover increased in its productivity. Land productivity under cropland decreased by an average of 4% (3057.23 km²), attributed to poor agricultural practices. 68% of cropland remained stable, while 4% was described as stressed. The areas under grasslands and wetlands experienced a 20% general increase in productivity. As expected, areas under artificial surfaces reduced in productivity by 5%.

During the assessment period, the conversion of tree cover and grassland to cropland resulted in about 12% losses in soil organic carbon (SOC). When tree cover and grasslands were converted to wetlands, there was a gain of 74% of SOC. The greatest loss in SOC was incurred during the change in land use from tree cover and grassland to cropland between the years 2000 and 2015 [1].


Rapid population growth comes with demands for more land for settlement and agricultural and infrastructural development, among others, which eventually contributes to land degradation [1].

Deforestation caused by agriculture, infrastructure development, and charcoal production has contributed to land degradation and loss of soil fertility in Zambia [1]. Forests are also threatened by extended droughts, which also lead to land degradation and loss of soil fertility, as well as forest fires [2]. Both small scale farmers who shift from land to land in search of fertile land, and commercial farmers who expand vast areas of land and extensively use inorganic fertilizers contribute greatly to land degradation [1].

As identified in Zambia’s Land Degradation Neutrality National Report [1], the main drivers of changes in land cover are deforestation, agriculture extensification, charcoal production, infrastructure development, high poverty levels, soil and water pollution due of chemicals used on land, erosion and siltation, gaps in the legal framework and enforcement, challenges in policy and legislative enforcement, and lack of monitoring activities that cause land degradation.


Key policies and governance approach

As part of Zambia’s efforts to find solutions for avoiding, minimizing and reversing land degradation, the country has accepted to adopt the Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) Target Setting Process. The objective of LDN “to maintain or enhance land-based natural capital and associated ecosystems functions and services" aims at achieving no loss to maintain the status quo or make gains through land restoration activities [1].

At the policy level, there are several frameworks that have been formulated in support of Sustainable Land Management including, among others, the Forest Policy, National Energy Policy, Second National Agricultural Policy, and the National Policy on Wetlands. Concerning the legal framework, key laws in Zambia that support SLM include the Forest Act (2015), Environmental Management Act (2011), Energy regulation Act (1995), Urban Planning Act (2015), Land Act 1995, Wildlife Act 2015 and the Water Resource Management Act (2011) [1]. Additionally, the country has developed its National Drought Plan [3].



As outlined in Zambia’s Land Degradation Neutrality National Report [1], weaknesses in the current legal and institutional framework for LDN include inadequate enforcement of land management-related legislation, conflicting application of legislation, poor stakeholder management, and insufficient funding and human capacity.


Goals and Ambitions

LDN is achieved by 2030 (no net loss) [1]:

  • By 2030, the deforestation rate in Zambia is reduced by at least 50%.
  • By 2030, 40% of households adopt appropriate alternative energy sources from fuel wood.
  • By 2030, maintain and/or improve the SOC content (no net loss).
  • Good agricultural practices that mitigate loss of forest cover and SOC are increased from 6000 km² in 2015 to 10,000 km² in 2030.
  • By 2030, Zambia shall seek to halt land use change of wetlands and ecologically sensitive areas and normal functions of these areas shall be achieved (no net loss).
  • By 2030, integrated land-use planning adopted and practiced across the nation.
  • By 2030, Land Degradation Neutrality Values have been integrated in the Eight National Development plan, Programmes and other planning processes.
  • By 2030, 50% of agricultural land is under sustainable agricultural practices compared to 2015.
  • All degraded land in mining and quarrying areas rehabilitated by 2030 compared to 2015.
  • By 2030, increase forest cover by 5% compared to 2015.
  • By 2030, the production of timber wood fuel (charcoal & firewood) is strengthened and regulated compared to 2015.
  • By 2030, the mining industry contributes to management of surrounding indigenous forests and establishment of forest plantations for local communities’ timber needs compared to 2015.
  • By 2030, Catchment Management Plans for the six catchments of Zambia incorporate measures to mitigate against or prevent land degradation developed.
  • By 2030, increase national water storage by at least 10%.

[1], [2]

  • Regional and country integrated land use planning, particularly at district and subdistrict level, represent some of the best opportunities for accelerating implementation of land degradation neutrality, climate change, and biodiversity management.
  • For the success of achieving land degradation neutrality, there is a need to have participation from a cross section of stakeholders, such as the public and private sectors, research institutions and academia, and civil society organizations in natural resources management.
  • The media will be required to sensitize the public about the dangers of not meeting land degradation neutrality or informing the public about what UNCCD and the government of Zambia plan to do about this voluntary agreement.
  • Integrated watershed management can prevent land degradation, siltation, deforestation and depletion of ground water designated watershed areas.