Welcome to Zambia


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Eclipse Journal
Geography and Climate
People and Ethnic Groups
Faith and Values
Flora and Fauna
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Geography and Climate

Oddly shaped and slightly larger than the state of Texas, Zambia covers 752,610 sq kms.  Border countries include Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire), Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.  

Zambia sits on a high plateau, sloping sharply in the north down to Lake Tanganyika which Zambia shares with Tanzania, Burundi and Congo (Zaire).  There are three major rivers; the Zambezi which forms the border with Namibia and Zimbabwe, the Kafue which flows into the Zambezi south of Lusaka (the Capital) and the Luangwa which also flows into the Zambezi.

Zambia's most impressive geographical aspect is Victoria Falls which is shared with Zimbabwe.  On the Zambezi river at Livingstone, the falls are 2kms wide, 100m deep and 546 million cubic meters of water flow over them every minute.

There are three seasons in Zambia.  Cool and dry from May - August, hot and dry September and October and rainy from November - April.  However because of the high altitude, the average daytime temp year round is 79F/26C.  Average rainfall in the wet season is 178mm/month. 

What is the weather like today in Zambia?  Follow this link for the weather.

Try converting the temperature in your town from Fahrenheit to Celsius.  

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Zambia's economy has historically been based on agriculture and copper mines.  A decline in copper prices since the 70's however, has caused the country to slip further and further into debt and they now rely heavily on help from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.  Privatization of the largest copper mining company (Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines) should help with debt relief but inflation and unemployment rates remain high.  

The mining of other minerals such as zinc, cobalt and lead also add to the economy.  Agriculture employs 85% of the country with tobacco as a major export and tourism dollars are also helping and currently add $30 million per year to the economy.

 Find out how much your money is worth in Zambian kwachas.  Click here!

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Early Zambian history parallels early human history.  The first "upright-walking" animals became established in southern Africa 4 million years ago.  30,000 years ago humans had developed a hunting and gathering society.  The earliest known people, the San by about 20,000 years ago developed tools and 10,000 years ago developed pottery.  3,000-4,000 years ago the Bantu people migrated from the west and brought metal working and farming abilities.  1,000 years ago the Gokomere people (a Bantu tribe) developed gold mining, finer ceramics, jewelry making, textiles and carvings.  Cattle herding became a mainstay of the community.

During this time, Arabs arrived on the eastern coasts of Africa and begun trading with the Bantu.  From the coast the Arabs pushed inland and developed trade routes.  While gold and ivory were important trade items, the demand for slaves was growing.  Zambia became a busy slave-trade route with slaves being forced to march across Mozambique to ships that would carry them to the slave markets in Zanzibar.  80,000-100,000 Africans were killed or sold into slavery every year.

In the early 1800's a loosely organized group of tribes developed into a centralized nation of people called the Zulu.  Under the rule of a chief named Dingiswayo and later a chief named Shaka, the Zulu's desire for power displaced thousands of people.  Tribes fled before them and many invaded their neighbors.  By the 1820's the effects of this difaqane (forced migration) were being felt in Zambia. People were displaced and tensions were high.

In the 1850's David Livingstone the missionary, reached Victoria Falls.  In an effort to end the slave trade and convert the natives to Christianity, his writings encouraged other missionaries to come to Zambia and a great influx of European explorers, hunters and prospectors began.  The area thus began to attract the attention of Cecil Rhodes.  

Rhodes was a British millionaire who owned diamond mines in South Africa.  In order to protect his (and British) interests, he formed the British South Africa Company (BSAC).  In an attempt to consolidate their power in the region, Britain backed BSAC's efforts to obtain land rights.  Rhodes staked claims to African chiefs' land by granting British "protection and aid" in return for sole rights to the minerals found there.  By the end of the 19th century, Northern Rhodesia, as it was called, was ostensibly under British rule.

For the next two decades, Zambia was virtually ruled by the BSAC.  In 1911 Northern Rhodesia was formed with Livingstone as its capital.  In 1924 the colony was put under direct British control and in 1935 the capital was moved to Lusaka.

During this time, African nationalism started to come into its own.  The United National Independence Party (UNIP) was formed with Kenneth Kaunda as its leader.  During the 60's, massive campaigns of civil disobedience and minor conflict led to the naming of the independent country of Zambia.

After independence, Kaunda became president and his rule was based on a mixture of Marxism and traditional African values.  But corruption and a fall in copper prices in the 70's could not be overcome.  In addition, access to the coast was denied by Rhodesia and South Africa because of Kaunda's support of liberation movements in the region.  This led to Zambia being declared one of the world's poorest countries.

By the early '80's Rhodesia had become Zimbabwe and access to the coast was restored.  But serious shortages of food, fuel and other commodities along with a rise in crime led Zambia to request economic aid from the International Monetary Fund.  By 1991, unhappiness with the situation led to uprisings from the people and elections were called for.  Kaunda was voted out and replaced by Frederick Chiluba, a former trade union leader and head of the Movement for Multipart Democracy (MMD).   Further loans from the IMF and World Bank with their strict rules led to a worsening of conditions for Zambians.  

Currently the situation is not much changed.  $2 billion in aid flows into the country every year but it is swallowed up by inefficiencies, high debt, high unemployment and a rapidly growing population.  Zambia still has its work cut out for it.

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People and
Ethnic Groups

The population in Zambia is about 9.6 million with about 50% of the people concentrated in the major cities.  This makes the countryside very thinly populated with only about 13 people per square km.  98.7% of the population is African with 1.1% European and 0.2% other races.  

There are 35 different ethnic groups in Zambia and although English is the official language, there are over 70 other languages spoken including Bemba, Kaonda, Lozi , Lunda, Luvale, Nuanja and Tonga.

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Dance makes up an important part of Zambia culture.  All the different ethnic groups have their own forms but one of the best known is the makishi.  This dance was brought from the north by the Luvali or Lukashe people and then adopted by other ethnic groups.  It is used mainly for boys' initiation ceremonies but can also be used for other celebrations.  

Music is also important and many of the ethnic groups use drums as their primary instrument.  The Lozi and Bemba peoples are especially well known for their drumming ceremonies.  The kuomboka ceremony of the Lozi celebrates the moving of the litunga  (king) from his dry-season palace to his wet-season palace.  A large wooden barge employing over 100 rowers,  carries the king from Lealui to Limulunga, a journey of six hours.  During this time 3 royal war drums are played continuously.  These drums are over 1m wide and are said to be at least 170 years old.

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Faith and Values

50-75% of the Zambian people are Christians, 24-49% are Muslim and Hindu and 1% have indigenous beliefs.  Indigenous beliefs also continue to figure prominently in Christian religions as well.

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Flora and Fauna Zambia's great diversity of landscape and plentiful water feed a huge diversity of wildlife.  Miombo woodlands cover the plateaus and mopane woodlands can be found in the hotter south.  The many rivers support hippos and crocodiles and Zambia's wildlife preserves support large mammals.  There are lion, leopard, and spotted hyena; cheetah and wild dog (which are rare); there are also elephant, buffalo and antelope.  Large herds of zebra, impala and puku can also be seen.  Endemic species include the Thornicroft giraffe, Cookson's wildebeest and the Kafue lechwe.

Birding has become popular in Zambia as there are over 750 species including a number of unusual species in the northern and western parts of the country.  Most notable is the shoebill stork found in the the Bangweulu Wetlands and in only one other place in Africa.

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Source: CIA World Fact Book, Lonely Planet Publications, ABC News Country Profile, Guide To Zambia by Chris McIntyre

Kim and Don Greene, Authors; publication date May 1 2001