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CRS in Zambia

Zambia is a peaceful country with vast agricultural lands. However, Zambia continues to suffer the devastating impacts of a mature AIDS epidemic, chronic food insecurity and widespread poverty. More than 74.5 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. Poverty is made worse by a high birth rate (43 births/1,000 population) and a relatively high HIV and AIDS burden (13% of adults age 15-49). More than a million children have been orphaned or made vulnerable due to HIV and other causes. 

Many rural families rely on subsistence farming, with limited access to farming inputs, credit or savings. During the "hungry season," when food is scarce, many families eat only one meal a day. 


People Served:  587,602  (FY 2014: 118,294 direct; 469,308 indirect)

Population: 14,638,505 (July 2014 est.)

Size: 290,587 sq mi; slightly larger than Texas


CRS' History in Zambia

In 2000, Catholic Relief Services began operating in Zambia on a small, privately-funded project working with four dioceses. However, a variety of shocks over the past two decades—including floods, severe droughts and a devastating AIDS epidemic—have led to a dramatic increase in the scale and scope of CRS' operations.

Since 2002, we have supported smallholder farmers in Zambia to sustainably increase and diversify agricultural production for improved food security, nutrition and livelihoods. CRS’ agriculture activities provide a pathway to prosperity for vulnerable rural households. CRS helps them recover, build and grow to become more prosperous and resilient. Along the way, CRS supports families to transition out of poverty and achieve food security through access to financial services, sustainable agricultural production and marketing systems. USAID’s Mawa project has provided agriculture extension and advisory services, with emphasis on conservation agriculture, through 520 lead farmers to 9,390 smallholder farmers, with plans to expand to 20,000.

Through the Savings and Internal Lending Communities (SILC) methodology, CRS Zambia builds the capacity of poor families to establish a secure savings system with positive returns, an internal loan fund structure and a social insurance fund for emergencies. CRS’ particular goal with SILC is to enable the economically active poor, especially women, to develop their own reliable financial services within the community and to support community self-reliance and resilience.

As one of the leading providers of support to faith-based health institutions, CRS Zambia works in collaboration with local partners to improve health outcomes, build economically vibrant communities, and ensure equitable access to high-quality health care. To date through the CDC’s AIDSRelief Transition Project, CRS and its partners have improved pediatric and adult treatment of HIV and AIDS, clinical and laboratory practices, and compliance of 13 faith-based health facilities.

In order to ensure long-term sustainability, CRS partners with faith-based and community-based organizations to strengthen and support direct service delivery for vulnerable children. Currently, CRS Zambia is overseeing highly innovative projects in OVC care and support.  Among CRS’ work in this sector are two projects that seek to build the capacity and skills of Catholic religious women working in the field of child welfare. Across the globe, sisters have long been recognized for their deep commitment to relieving suffering and promoting human development.