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Updated on January 13, 2012

Zambia has a population of 12,935,000 (2009), which is 99% African. About 30% of the population live in the towns and a further 40% live within 40 km (25 miles) of the railroad, which runs from the Rhodesian border through Lusaka and northward to Ndola near the Zaire border.

The towns are growing rapidly despite a rural development program aimed at checking the alarmingly strong drift to the urban areas. The fastest-growing city is the capital, Lusaka (1,742,979), a commercial, manufacturing, transportation and cultural center. Other major towns include Kitwe (547,700) and Ndola (774,757) and the mining towns of Mufulira (125,336), Chingola (157,340), Luanshya (117,579) and Kabwe (210,000). Maramba (Livingstone) near Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River, is Zambia's "tourist capital" with a population of 97,000.

Zambian Culture

The population consists of more than 70 tribes, each with its own customs and language or dialect.

The major groups are the Tonga-Ila, living in the south, the Lozi of the west, the Bemba, living in the north (especially in the Copperbelt), the Lunda in northwest Zambia and the Ngoni in the east. There are six main languages but English is the official language.

More than 75% of the population are illiterate. The University of Zambia at Lusaka was founded in 1965. Though African beliefs linger in some rural areas, most Zambians are Christians and the various Christian groups continue to play an important role in education, medicine and other spheres.

Agriculture in Zambia

An estimated 2% of the land surface is under cultivation at any one time yet 70% of the population rely on traditional subsistence agriculture. This is characterized by the northern plateau "citimene" cultivation in which patches of bush trees are topped or felled, heaped and burned, and millet is sown in the ash. A new "garden" for millet is made annually but old ones produce crops of groundnuts, kaffir corn and vegetables for several years . When yields fall, whole villages move to new locations. Supplementary crops, especially cassava, are grown on hoed village mounds. Surpluses are rare. Citimene cultivation is closely adapted to poor sandy soils, thick bush cover, sparse population and simple ax-and-hoe technology; it is supported by fishing, hunting and food gathering.

Cattle are raised in all areas, except the north, but their distribution depends mainly upon tribal custom and also on tsetse-fly distribution. Regarded as a valuable investment, cattle are not readily killed.

In contrast, the areas around the railroad support commercial farms. These were originally developed by Europeans but most of them have now been taken over by African farmers and cooperatives. This zone, fortunate in its red-brown loams and tobacco soils, accounts for most commercial agricultural output. The chief crops are corn, tobacco, groundnuts, cotton, fruit and vegetables. Nearly all of the crossbred beef and dairy cattle are raised in this zone.


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    • 910chris profile image

      910chris 6 years ago from North Carolina

      Very informative Hub. I visited Zambia back in 1997 and it was a beautiful country. The people there are very nice and love to barter. I still have many souvenirs and my most prized is a Mountain Dew can that is called, "The African." It tasted more like Iced Tea than Mountain Dew, but I guess the people that live there do not know that!