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Industrial land use and heavy metal contaminated wastewater used for irrigation in periurban Zambia


Evaristo Mwaba Kapungwe (email:


Studies on urban and periurban agriculture in Zambia have not adequately tackled land use practices in relation to problems associated with wastewater irrigated farming. This study investigated land use practices in two wastewater irrigated farming areas in the industrial towns of Mufulira and Kafue respectively in the Copperbelt and Lusaka provinces of Zambia. Drawing on data from field interviews and focus group discussions, as well as laboratory analysis of the heavy metal content in the wastewater used for irrigation in farm plots at both sites, the study outlines the problems associated with wastewater irrigated farming, including the vulnerability context of those whose livelihoods depend on insecure access to vacant land for informal farming. The findings also confirm the heavy metal contamination of the wastewater used for farming, as well as seepage into the surrounding environment, from mining and industrial enterprises located amidst residential areas. The characteristics of mixed land use, high crop diversification, multiple cropping systems and multiple livelihood practices found in these areas of informal farming are similar to those noted in periurban farming in other developing economy contexts. Given that wastewater irrigated crop farming forms part of the livelihood portfolio among the majority of periurban populations, these preliminary results reinforce the need for municipal authorities to improve scrutiny of land use regulation, raise awareness among informal farmers of the hazards associated with using domestic sewage wastewater and untreated industrial effluents, and ensure improve treatment of the wastewater used for human consumption.