OnFrontiers Think Tank Insights: Mainstreaming Climate Change into Landscape Resilience and Restoration for Ecological Sustainability in Zambia

According to UNDP in Zambia, climate change – including rising temperatures and an increased frequency of droughts and extreme rain events – is negatively affecting local communities living in rural parts of Zambia. An OnFrontiers expert in sustainability and resilience, Mr.Mebeelo Kafungwa shares his insights in climate change and resilience in Zambia. Mr. Mebeelo Kafungwa is an Environmental Consultant at Whydah Consulting, Zambia.

Climate Change(CC) Action for Ecological Sustainability

This is an acknowledgment that strengthening links between project activities, economic sectors, research outcome and policymaking is critical to advancing local and national level sustainability in Zambia. Therefore, avoiding the adverse and positive impacts of climate change needs to be integrated into policy, legislation and institutional action. This is among the best means to mainstream climate change action into the Zambia Natural Resource Framework(ZNRF).

Policy and Institutional Action Overlaps

Climate change and sustainability lack of precise knowledge literacy in Zambian natural resource management framework are one of the main links to overlaps and gaps between various sectors. For example, mainstreaming sustainability targets through United Nations Sustainable Development Goals(UNSDG) agenda is lacking clarity and correlation to Zambian natural resource and economic challenges. This lack of an integrative transdisciplinary framework is among the main factors hindering climate change mainstreaming in Zambian policy and institutional framework. An ongoing illustrative example is that there is no clear link between the seventh national development(7NDP) (2017-2021) and UNSDGs National Agenda (2030) through identifying key performance indicators. These are two frameworks that might lead to policy overlapping during institutional practice and implementation in each sector.

Meanwhile, the UNSDG Agenda has not been able to develop practical indicators localized for each country’s national perspective. Thus, entangling the achievement of 7NDP with the UNSDG agenda needs to be conducted subjectively, practically and realistically. It would be better if the 7NDP developed its own indicators which are Zambia problem based. These participatory solutions must focus on people experiencing vulnerability to unsustainable development impact and climate change.

Policy and Institutional Action Gaps

To explain the policy and institutional gaps that contribute to the limitation of mainstreaming of climate change into ZNRF. Translation into tangible resilience building activities towards landscape resilience for economic development and ecological sustainability in Zambia. Specific gaps in policy and strategic plans have been highlighted below;

The Lands Act 2015

It does not emphasize the power of the President to spearhead the importance of conservation of natural resources in Zambia. There is little or no mention of his conditions to consider whether the purpose of the land being acquired is subject to pollution or degradation of natural resources. though the Act mentions that he has the right to reclaim land even after a Zambian or non-Zambian resident has obtained a license. There is need to emphasize the power to convert the degrading land into restored forests and national biodiversity as well.

Underground Water Use. The sinking of boreholes and any other means of groundwater natural resource. The Lands Act 2015 only emphasizes the power the President has on surface land and not underground.

The Forest Act 2015

It provides neither any clarification on indicators of forest degradation nor the terms of climate resilience achievements in Zambia are. There is need to explain the indicators of forest degradation for research institutions and clear thresholds identifying the unsustainable use of both national and local forests.

Climate Change Response and Strategy Plan

The plan only responded to the basic direct impacts of climate change which include casualties, famines, droughts, diseases, economic loss. It does not respond to indirect impacts of climate change such as the accelerated urbanization due to people searching for better livelihoods, environmental refugees, epidemics worsening public health e.g. cholera outbreaks in major cities, high energy demand for cooling.

The plan does not explore adaptation action from society responding on the need for change behavior and society norms to support the reduction of carbon emissions such as recycling, car sharing, walking, cycling for work, energy saving habits and building designs etc. It has not explained the main drivers of Green House Gas(GHG) emissions in Zambian cities exploring the economic base, individual consumption lifestyles, urban form and carbon intensity. It has not devised the energy use pattern related to weather conditions of the country. How is urbanization affecting the release of GHG gases in Zambia?

Environmental Management Act no 12 of 2011

If Zambia is to achieve the set goals in the 7NDP which include the achievements in line with global goals on low-emission, climate resilient and sustainable environment by the year 2030. If more considerations are made to highlight the gaps in the environmental management Act on Climate Change. It does not recognize climate change as a major problem and issue the nation is facing. Climate variability and vulnerabilities that come with it have not been explained and no strategy has been recommended in the Act. For a nation with a young climate change policy that is not integrative, it is recommended that the Environmental Act 2011 be revised to mainstream climate change mitigation and adaptation in the environmental management framework of the nation. Furthermore, implementation staff from both government, non-governmental organization and private need to understand the significance of mainstreaming climate change in the practice of environmental activities such as Environmental and Social Impact Assessment(ESIA). Thus, a distinct section on climate change is missing in the Act.

National Policy on Climate Change 2016

This policy has not recognized the use of traditional knowledge in coping and adaptive strategies towards disaster risks reduction. The policy does not explain how Zambia seeks to decarbonize the transport sector. With the aim of becoming a middle-income nation by 2030, many Zambians will be able to afford motor vehicles and a high demand for energy to sustain their daily household and industrial livelihoods. Meanwhile, an increase in the use of cars and high demands of energy reciprocates into an exponential rise in carbon emissions increase by 2030. However, the policy has not clearly defined the strategy of decarbonizing the transport sectors national economy by 2030. It does not mention the process of capturing emission data from each major economic sector and the potential to reduce these numbers. For example, the agriculture and urban sector transformative expansion from vegetation, forest and wetland sectors. Clearly indicating that the policy has no effective monitoring and evaluation capacities and functions to activate the ability to be responsive to rural-urban climate vulnerabilities and risks such as floods, water scarcity, food insecurity, public health crisis, persisted growth of slums and land use change & forestry.

Main Challenges Leading to Overlaps and Gaps

During the implementation of Zambian policies, climate change action faces the four main challenges that tend to lead to observed overlaps and gaps. (Eisenack et al, 2014; Moser and Ekstrom, 2010). These include;

1. The Lack of Implementation Resources such as finances, political will, technological, and human.

2. No Consideration of Time Frames. Not having decisions clear for any new leader to avoid ending the short-term political leadership ideas from overlapping into his own e.g. mayors, ministers etc. at a local and national government that might only be in power for a short time. However, making sure that their vision is respectable and set to continue even after they leave office. In respect to people and ecosystem through adopting a participatory mandate for Zambian society that allows political leaders to recognize climate action as a long-term mitigative process that people want and not what leaders want.

3. No Clarity in Responsibilities. There is no political leadership, mainstreaming has not been done into policy frameworks, it is not incorporated into final decision making and prior planning.

4. No Practical Guidance. Instead of high-level debates among experts, practical guidance is needed to reduce overlaps/gaps and increase climate resilience. For example, practical knowledge of the vulnerabilities that are to come with urban agglomerations is ignored while priorities are given to social economic projects such as roads. Hence, ignoring the climate change action in advance through a focus on landscape resilience for development.

Suggested Ways of Mainstreaming Climate Change in Zambia

Among the main means of mitigating climate change and approaches that contribute to building climate resilience are Ad hoc approaches, Stand Alone (Strategic) and Mainstreaming. Of the three mainstreaming stands out as the best process to achieve means of adaptation and mitigation to the impacts of climate change in Zambia. In this process, climate change is not the main goal. But allows climate change to be integrated into the various national goals. For example, as Zambia seeks to achieve and become a middle-income nation by 2030. It must not only seek economic development but also inclusive sustainable development. Meaning that during the implementation of developmental plans such the seventh national development plan-2016-2021, climate resilience must be among the issues to consider during policy and institutional action especially during decision making for the future.

In a natural resource system framework that has overlaps and gaps in policy such as the ZNRF. Mainstreaming proves to be a most viable framework to integrate climate resilience and ecological sustainability achievement. Because mainstreaming is a process of considering climate risks to development projects and of adjusting project activities and approaches to address these risks. (Baker et al, 2012; Dobson et al, 2015) . Among the means recommended on how to apply climate lens in the natural resource framework of Zambia are:

I. To measure how a policy might be affected by climate change impacts.

II. How impacts are addressed in existing planning.

III. How further adaptation is required to address future climate challenges and opportunities.

Guiding Principles of Climate Action

It is therefore recommended that the following eight guiding principles for climate change planning (UN-Habitat, 2015) be integrated into the natural resource framework. These include;

1. Ambitious: Zambian needs to set goals and targets that must be monitored by set indicators. These goals must be ambitious but realistically targeting the challenges of natural resource in policy and ecosystem management plans.

2. Inclusivity: As these goals are been implemented and set for action. May the involvement of all stakeholders not only high-level non-government and governmental institutions and organizations must be invited/consulted thoroughly as stakeholders but also the vulnerable people that benefit and suffer the impacts of climate change be considered throughout the process.

3. Fair and Equity: May these solutions that evolve from this dialogue be fair and provide an equitable framework that allows everyone to benefit and share the cost of climate action and resilience building.

4. Comprehensive and Integrative: Any climate action solutions suggested must not only be integrative but also have clarity on the mandate to deliver local sustainable development and benefits while specifically explaining the target to be achieved.

5. Actionable: Any action and the proposed strategic plan must be realistic and practically achievable.

6. Evidence-Based: Explanations of problems need to be backed up by scientific or past seen/experienced evidence using assessments of vulnerability and emissions and other empirical inputs to inform decision-making on climate-related matters.

7. Transparent and Verifiable: Goals for ecological achievement against climate change must be made in an open decision-making process and measured, reported, independently verifi¬ed, and evaluated

8. Relevant: Among the gaps in the ZNRF is the implementation of copy and paste innovations from different parts of the world without verifying what the current local situation is. Therefore, it is recommended that all plans and solutions be relevant to the local scene before any action is taken.


• Baker I., Peterson A., Brown G., McAlpine C. (2012) Local government response to the impacts of climate change: An evaluation of local climate adaptation plans, Landscape and Urban Planning, 107: 127–136.

• Dobson, Skye, Hellen Nyamweru, and David Dodman. 2015 “Local and participatory approaches to building resilience in informal settlements in Uganda.” Environment and Urbanization 27.2: 605-620. Available:

• Eisenack, K., Moser, S. C., Hoffmann, E., Klein, R. J., et al, (2014). ‘Explaining and overcoming barriers to climate change adaptation’. Nature Climate Change Vol. 4 (10):867-872.

• Government of the Republic of Zambia,2017, Seventh National Development Plan(7NDP) 2017-2021, Ministry of Development Planning(MDP)

• Government of the Republic of Zambia, 2015. The Laws of Zambia, Lands Act, 2015. Government printers, Lusaka.

• Government of the Republic of Zambia, 2015. The laws of Zambia, Forest Act, 2015. Government printers, Lusaka.

• Government of the Republic of Zambia, 2011. The laws of Zambia, Environmental Management Act, 2011. Government printers, Lusaka.

• Moser SC, and Ekstrom JA. 2010. “A Framework to Diagnose Barriers to Climate Change Adaptation.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 107 (51): 22026–31. doi:10.1073/pnas.1007887107.

• Ministry of Lands, Natural Resources, and Environmental Protection. (2012). National Policy on Climate Change. Republic of Zambia

• Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Natural Resources, 2010: National Climate Change Response Strategy.

• UN-Habitat. 2015. Guiding principles for climate change planning


This policy brief was prepared to complement the findings of the policy and institutional action review analysis conducted with the aim is to highlight the gaps and overlaps identified during the individual review process. With the hope that this short and accessible format may inform the high-level policy makers, project developers, research networks, stakeholders and enhance research uptake and mainstreaming of climate change into ecological sustainability and economic development of Zambia.

Mr. Mebeelo Kafungwa is an Environmental Consultant at Whydah Consulting, Zambia. This article originally appeared on linkedin with the same title

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