Food & Daily life

Cities and shanty towns

More than one-third of Zambians live in urban areas, many crowded into shanty towns which have sprung up around the cities.

Here, large markets provide a wide range of goods, services and food, though they also act as a general meeting place.

Washing clothes

Washing clothes

In this video… Theresa tells us how families go about washing their clothes. No washing machines here!

Some sellers walk the streets with their wares (ranging from frying pans to fruit). Others work from wooden market stalls, where tradesmen such as cobblers and tailors can also be found.

Rural life

Daily life in rural communities revolves around agriculture, livestock and fishing (along lakes and rivers).

Some village men head for the towns and cities to find work. Women often stay behind to care for children and elders. Looking after the household involves many tasks, such as fetching water from wells and collecting wood for cooking stoves.

Many women carry out subsistence farming, growing food for their own families. They rely on local crafts, such as basket-weaving and pottery, for earning a little money or having items to exchange.

Ground maize

A versatile staple

For breakfast, nshima is usually served thin and sometimes with sugar. For lunch and dinner, the consistency is thicker (like mashed potato) and it is eaten with a tasty relish of meat, fish or vegetables.

For many Zambians, the staple food is maize/corn (known as 'sweet corn' in the UK). The local cuisine is based on nshima, a stiff porridge made from ground maize.

Watch one of the videos in neighbouring Malawi – Our Staple Diet – to see maize being ground into flour.

Other local dishes include ifisashi (green vegetables in peanut sauce) and samp (a crushed maize and bean dish).

Being creative

Wire toy

In this video… Children in Zambia tend not to play with shop-bought toys, because families don't have the money to buy them. So the children make their own toys.

Locally-brewed beers

Beer is the most popular alcoholic beverage. Clear beers include locally-brewed South African brands (such as Mosi), as well as more expensive imported lagers.

Cloudy beers are popular among the less well-off. Zambia’s small home-brew industry offers cloudy brands such as Dr Livingstone’s Lager, Safari Stout, Zikomo Copper Ale and Baobab White, made from the fruits of baobab trees.

Chibuku (also known as 'Shake-Shake') is also popular. This beer is made from maize/sorghum and tastes a little like a sour alcoholic milkshake.


Insects such as grasshoppers, caterpillars, cicadas and flying ants are delicacies. During the rainy season, Zambians look forward to the once-a-year feast of fried termites.

The rains bring vast numbers of termites out of their nests to find mates. The insects can be caught swarming in the air and then dropped into a bowl of water. Alternatively, once they have shed their wings, they can be collected from the ground – this avoids having to pull off the wings before cooking. The termites are thrown into a hot frying pan with a dash of oil and then sautéd until crisp and golden brown. They’re served in a bowl like peanuts.