All-woman fishing co-op builds climate resilience in Zambia

Sponsored content: A fish farm initiative in Zambia promotes gender equality and food security for generations

Maibibia Lialengwa, chairperson for the fish farming project, tends to her fish (Photo: CIF Action)


There’s an old Chinese proverb that says if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. But if you teach that same man how to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.

In Zambia’s Sioma District, on the all woman cooperative on Mbeta Island, they are taking the idea a step further with the launch of a fish farm initiative.

This fish farm initiative has the potential to feed the community and strengthen livelihoods for generations to come.

The Climate Investment Funds (CIF), or Licinceo Zamwiha in the local Lozi language, is financing the Strengthening Climate Resilience project and specifically targeting women with customized support that includes gender as an investment criteria.

The funding is helping the country’s efforts to strengthen institutional structures for resilience, whilst improving the capacity of communities in the Barotse sub-basin, an area that is amongst the country’s most climate vulnerable regions.

For this project, CIF is investing US$36 million through the Pilot Program for Climate Resilience (PPCR) to accelerate climate resilience efforts across 14 districts and transform livelihoods for local communities.

The Barotse Sub-Basin is home to over one million people, who are more vulnerable to the impacts of a changing climate because of their heavy dependence on climate sensitive sectors such as agriculture.

Increased and more frequent climate impacts are exacerbating poverty levels and economic decline. In Mongu District, an 8-hour drive from Lusaka, Zambia’s capital, almost 60 percent of the population are extremely vulnerable. People are considered “extremely vulnerable” if they are earning less than 10 ZMW (83 cents US) of cash income/adult/month and/or suffering from more than 5 months of food insecurity a year[1].

In this context, CIF, through PPCR, is supporting a fish farm project targeting 25,800 households in eight districts, with about 32 percent of the target households headed by women. In addition to farming, the project aims to help communities diversify their livelihoods, for example by including the cultivation of mushrooms, rich in micronutrients, and the introduction of small livestock.

The diversification means the community can strengthen nutrition through the introduction of animal protein—from fish to pigs and other livestock that are made possible by CIF funding.

Because of the project’s gender focus, at least 30 percent of individual ‘champion grants’ are reserved for women at the local level and women accessing climate information services is emphasized. One of the women at the forefront of this effort is NaMakando Nyambe who manages an all-woman fish farm cooperative on Mbeta Island in Sioma District.

“This project will help us to improve our standard of living, reduce poverty levels, send our children to school, and become more food secure,” said Nyambe.

The group has two fish cages, located in a lagoon naturally created by the southern Africa’s mighty Zambezi River, which flows through the area.

Each cage was built and initially populated with 10,000 fish, at a cost of about 70,000 Zambian kwachas. The community expects to exceed that initial investment in returns.

Sustainability and adaptation is a high priority for this community because increased flooding continues to destroy maize crops, historically a year-round crop. As part of the fish farm project, the community is also planting other vegetables to ensure steady food sources throughout the year.

In each project area, the provincial government assigns a fisheries assistant, to provide real time technical support to the community and ongoing capacity building. The assistant reports to a district fisheries officer, such as Nasilele Silishebo, who is responsible for ensuring that PPCR funding for Sioma District benefits the community and helps them achieve their project goals.

According to Silishebo, “since 2015, we have been able to fund three projects through PPCR, including integrated fish farming, which has been very important because of the impact of climate change. So instead of just fish farming, communities also benefit from integrating pig farming.”

The project has already created employment for 15 people and Silishebo is confident that number will grow as the cage farming initiative matures.

For Nyambe, a grandmother and an elder in the community, transferring knowledge to the next generation is a key to making the project sustainable. She says, simply, “we have talked to our children and grandchildren about the issues concerning climate change. They are aware that they benefit from the [PPCR] project, including school fees. They also participate in our meetings. So, as we get older, they are prepared and they can take over from their elders.”

[1] Zambia Strengthening Climate Resilience (PPCR Phase II) Project Appraisal Document 2013.

This post is sponsored by Climate Investment Funds.