Western province is characterized by difficult geographical and climatic conditions. It has limited arable land resources that can sustain crop production. Since independence the province has experienced a period of economic relative isolation compared to other provinces. The province is also characterized by high population densities in certain areas especially the river valleys and the plains.
Western province is the second province with the highest poverty levels in Zambia. The fisrt is Luapula Province. About 80% of the population in the province is regarded as being poor and at least 70% of those in the poor category are women. The main stay of the people in western province is low subsistence oriented agriculture with low productivity in crop and livestock production supplemented by fishing. Crop production is the main contributor to daily subsistence. In reasonably good rainfall years, most areas are, at aggregate level, self sufficient in staple food. However, food security varies across agro-economic zones and within these areas there is a large variation among households.