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Summary of FCFA’s research on climate change in Zambia

FCFA’s research on climate change in Zambia was carried out in the capital city, Lusaka, by the FRACTAL consortium and led by the University of Zambia. FRACTAL aims to explore the decision-making process in southern African cities, to support how cities respond to the risks associated with the effects of climate change and the pressures of rapid social, economic and environmental change.  



Learning labs are engagements strongly focussed on mutual and integrated learning about identified development issues in cities. Drawing strongly on serious gaming, mess mapping and even improvised drama to encourage building trust, openness, and transparency, the labs had significant impacts and outputs in many of the cities.



The Embedded Researcher (ER) approach was adopted by FRACTAL to bridge the science-policy divide (most notably bringing climate science to decision makers). Early career researchers from local universities were appointed as Embedded Researchers to work within government spaces (e.g. municipalities) in Southern African cities. 

The ER in Lusaka was seconded from the Lusaka City Council and played a vital research and coordination role for the duration of the project. The ER supported co-production processes in Lusaka through facilitating learning and strengthening links between research on climate change in Zambia and governance. 



The Windhoek-Lusaka Learning Exchange Programme funded by the Small Opportunity Grants facilitated exchanges between the City of Windhoek and the City of Lusaka. 

Discussions took place around each city’s burning issues and how current policies and plans could be improved through the inclusion of climate information. Exchanges between Durban, South Africa and Harare, Zimbabwe facilitated further city-to-city learning. The city exchanges allowed for sharing of knowledge and past experiences on issues related to water and climate change in southern Africa.



Climate Risk Narratives are stories of various climate futures that have ideally been co-produced using a diversity of knowledge sources and perspectives. The co-production of knowledge uses climate information with stories of plausible futures from a wide range of stakeholders to bring together climate information and local knowledge into Climate Risk Narratives that can broaden conversations across sectors.



FRACTAL’s climate information distillation framework was developed as a humble science approach allowing for open interrogation of problem framing and assumptions. Climate Risk Narratives were used as entry points for engagements around climate risks in Lusaka. Engagements around climate change and water in Lusaka were further explored through the development of Water Evaluation and Planning (WEAP) systems. These were developed with stakeholders in a bottom-up manner to assess how climate change in Zambia might affect future changes in water supply and hydropower generation on the Kafue River. 


The Embedded Researcher approach was adopted by FRACTAL to bridge the science-policy divide in Lusaka. A Lusaka City Council official was appointed in a research and coordination role for the duration of the project. The Embedded Researcher in Lusaka played a vital role in co-production processes through facilitating learning and strengthening links between research and governance. 

In Lusaka, the FRACTAL team utilised Learning Labs as a mechanism to engage diverse stakeholders and co-explore climate risks within the City and co-produce knowledge for solutions. Five Learning Labs were carried out between 2016 and 2018 that focused on issues of water and climate change in Zambia and the city specifically.

The first Learning Lab in Lusaka invited stakeholders from the water and energy sectors of the City to explore the burning issues within these cities, alongside NGOs and civil society organisations. The first learning lab sparked interest in learning about climate change, the impacts of climate change in Zambia, and considering climate information in planning. The idea of producing policy briefs to guide decision-making on climate change impacts in Zambia, stemmed from an in-country discussion after the first lab. 

The initial lab was also followed by a water-specific City Dialogue, which revealed the need for better knowledge sharing and improved access to climate data. To support the use of climate change information in decision-making spaces, FRACTAL hosted a training workshop for city councillors in 2017.

The second Learning Lab continued engagements related to Lusaka’s water issues and stakeholders identified knowledge gaps in city processes associated with planning infrastructure, research, and health. Field trips to an informal settlement (during the second Learning Lab), and the Shaft 5 borehole in Lolayi, and the Lolanda treatment plant in Kafue (during the third Learning Lab) supported experiential learning alongside the Learning Labs. These trips allowed participants to see the reality of water issues in Lusaka, and ask questions to those managing the water sources and how to improve climate resilience in Zambia. 

During the third Learning Lab stakeholders further engaged in the water issues and began to co-explore solutions for water supply, water quality, groundwater extraction, and flooding in Lusaka. Lessons from inter-city learning exchanges between Windhoek and Lusaka were presented to stakeholders to further discussion around how cities can address water issues. The Learning Lab concluded with an update of the Climate Risk Narratives that had been co-produced to represent three possible futures for Lusaka.

The fourth Learning Lab aimed to further explore some of the issues which had previously been identified and would be developed into co-produced policy briefs. The key issues investigated during this Learning Lab were groundwater abstraction and water quality. This was supplemented with a water story from the Cape Town drought. 

Two dialogues with the city followed this Learning Lab. The governance dialogue in Lusaka allowed stakeholders to consider decisions that influence the water supply in the city and unpack climate terminology. A Talanoa Dialogue was hosted alongside the FRACTAL governance dialogue (framed under COP23) as a way to convene all levels of government to explore their National Determined Contributions ahead of COP24.

The whole learning lab process in Lusaka culminated in four policy briefs on flooding, groundwater, water supply and water quality. These policy briefs were disseminated at the final Learning Lab. Discussions were held around how these briefs could influence policy and decision-making, including through the development and implementation of the Lusaka Water Security Action and Investment Plan (LWSAIP). The information from these briefs has been integrated into community training to support the implementation of the LWSAIP and ultimately improve the climate resilience of Lusaka. 

  • Talanoa dialogues held in Lusaka contributed to the broader Talanoa process and fed into the UNFCCC climate negotiations at COP24.


  • Collaborative development of policy briefs on groundwater, water supply, water quality, and flooding in Lusaka.


  • Ongoing engagement with Lusaka City Councillors on climate risk and ward development planning (through the Lusaka Water Security Action and Investment Plan).