Zimba Town Council plans ahead to ensure no one is left behind

October 21, 2020

Accurate and accessible geospatial data plays a pivotal role in district planning for Zimba District, Zambia, where planners are trying to facilitate development. Through an interview with Josephine Chiila, District Planning Officer in Zimba, we learn how GRID3 population, settlement and infrastructure data are being used to identify service provision gaps and inform future development decisions.

Josephine Chiila

Zimba Town Council, District Planning Officer

District officials in Zimba, a rural district located in the Southern Province of Zambia, are putting together an Integrated Development Plan (IDP) for 2020-2030. The plan will highlight key issues within the area and provide concrete actions that Zimba Town Council will take in accordance with national planning standards.

While developing the plan, officers recognised the need for data that accurately depicted where people and resources were located in order to inform planning decisions. They tried to collect this information themselves but faced numerous challenges. Josephine Chiila, District Planning Officer, explains more:

“Zimba, which was initially under Kalomo district, was declared a district in 2012 by His Excellency the late Republican President of Zambia, Michael Chilufya Sata. For a period of time, there were no census projections for Zimba because previous surveys only looked at the entire district when it was under Kalomo. Because of this, information about the area was scanty. We tried collecting this information ourselves but experienced difficulties due to the cost associated with obtaining data, poor connectivity, and issues with accessibility. You find in your day to day planning that some places are inaccessible. The terrain is bad but you need to enter a certain area to collect data. We aim at addressing multi-sectoral targets, objectives and government priorities from our Seventh National Development Plan and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, but how do you collect data from these hard-to-reach areas? This is why the GRID3 data proved to be valuable.” 


Districts in Southern Province, Zambia

Credit: Lighton Phiri/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA-4.0

Zimba district planners learnt about GRID3 data from the Zambian Ministry of Local Government head office. Using GRID3 population, settlement, and infrastructure data, planning officers were able to create maps that show where people live and the location of important infrastructure such as schools, health facilities, and water access points in relation to settlements. 

“According to national standards, health facilities should be within a 5 km zone of a settlement. We discovered people in Zimba do not have adequate access to health facilities because 60% of settlements are located outside of the buffer zone. From this, we understand there are gaps in service provision and we will use the data to help us plan the location of services going forward,”

Chiila explains.

In the map above, health facilities are spaced at a radius more than the national accessibility standards (the current standard is that health facilities should be within a 5 km zone of a settlement). For instance, in order for the furthest person to access a health facility, they need to travel around 40 km (in Kanyanga Ward) to the nearest health centre. This makes it difficult for people  to access health services. Inadequate and uneven distribution of health services signifies a need for more health facilities constructed to cater for the district’s increasing population.

After analysing the data, the next step in finalising the district’s future development plans was to obtain community buy-in through a process called participatory mapping. Officers have been sharing these maps with the local community, including traditional leaders, enabling them to understand the gaps in services and contribute to development decisions in the area.

“Right now, we are in the process of brokering planning agreements with traditional leaders and the response has been great so far. We also had community meetings where we presented the maps developed from the GRID3 data. The community appreciated the maps because they were able to visualise current service coverage and gaps in their respective areas. The moment we explained the situation to the community members using maps, it was easier for them to understand the issues they were facing and we were able to come up with priority projects to solve the underlying issues,”

says Chiila.

While Zimba district planners continue to engage with the community to help solidify planning decisions, they will digitise the maps to improve public access. 

“GRID3 data has provided us with a resource inventory containing information we never had. We are now able to analyse accessibility to community services. The data acts as a driver for change in terms of development. This information is now at our fingertips and planning will be made easier.”

To access GRID3 data, please visit our Data page.

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