Lusaka, Zambia: The African city championing climate resilience through solid waste management (SWM)

By Climate Champions | November 30, 2022

Location & Region:  Lusaka, Zambia / Africa

Partner: Cities Race to Resilience, ICLEI

Implementers: Lusaka City Council (LCC)

Area and sector: Urban / Waste management

As dense hotspots of rapid social, economic and environmental change, cities can be key to driving sustainable, low-emission development. However, cities specifically in the Global South are often overlooked, characterised by, among other things, expanding informal settlements, high rates of unemployment and weak local economies.

As torchbearers leading the fight against climate-related impacts and disasters, Cities Race to Resilience signatories from Africa have demonstrated their commitment to implementing adaptation and resilience actions across different aspects of urban planning. This has led to commitments across nature-based solutions, water and waste management, community engagement (and the participation of those most vulnerable to climate change), and governance.

Cities Race to Resilience aims to ensure that city voices are put front and centre and heard at the highest international level of climate change negotiations. It also strives to ensure that climate resilience goals are treated with the same urgency as mitigation.

One city in the initiative is Lusaka in Zambia. Among the main climate challenges facing the capital city are extreme weather events including drought and severe flooding, especially in the rainfall season. In addition to climate change impacts,  Lusaka also faces increasing population growth, with a growing peri-urban population living in informal settlements.

Particular vulnerabilities experienced in these peri-urban settings, unrelated to weather hazards, are exacerbated by climate change. For example, key risk factors for cholera in Lusaka include the increase in waste produced by a growing peri-urban population living in informal settlements, which might result in blocked drains, which plays a significant role in driving up flood risk, and hence health risks related to standing water – such as cholera.

Because a high proportion (70%) of Lusaka’s population lives in informal settlements, waste management in the city is a significant challenge when it comes to these weather-related hazards. Areas may become inaccessible, meaning that door-to-door collections cannot be made, and waste will not be collected by services.

For this reason, Lusaka has a strong solid waste management (SWM) programme in place, that includes monthly clean-ups in the city which sees the Mayor’s office work directly with ward councillors as well as communities to clean out drainage systems. Part of this locally-led activity includes a desensitisation programme, whereby the community, including youth, are educated on the issues around waste and climate-related flooding. This action ties in directly with the city’s commitment to improving community engagement and working with citizens to build resilience.

Lusaka City Council (LCC) is responsible for the formulation of city by-laws and carries out direct sweeping, waste collection, and transportation of waste to the final disposal site services. The city has engaged with private operators and community-based enterprises (CBE) to ensure proper solid waste collection and disposal. Another issue remains the separation of waste and specifically the removal of organic (mostly food) waste.

The Council is also working closely with the University of Zambia to address this issue and understand the potential of the organic waste market. By undertaking research with partners from the university, the LCC is working to understand how waste can be processed, in order to produce liquid fertilizer, which in turn can be used to support local communities to grow their own vegetable produce, and in this way address vulnerabilities related to the basic needs of food and nutrition amongst some of the most marginalised community members.

Under Cities Race to Resilience, Lusaka has committed to various actions to build resilience in the city. Through the Covenant of Mayors in Sub-Saharan Africa (CoMSSA), the city has developed a Sustainable Energy Access and Climate Action Plan (SEACAP). This will guide the integration of resilience-building activities across urban planning, and ensure that all necessary activities related to adaptation and resilience-building are implemented, that funding is allocated for these activities, and that reporting takes place on these activities for the purposes of accountability.