Wetlands are a major feature of the river basin and important for maintaining a wide range of goods and services that benefit both the national economy and local communities.  Estimates of their extent often vary between sources depending on the date of measurement and boundaries set.  In particular, dambos – shallow, seasonally-flooded valleys – collectively occupy a very large area, but are widespread and difficult to map.




Wetland Types

Lushwishi Swamp Upper catchment: on the Lushwishi River above its confluence with the Mininga River 99 km2 (13 x 13 km) Swamp
Lufwanyama Swamp Upper catchment, east of Lushwishi Swamp 74 km2 (< 13 x 9.5 km) Swamp
Mininga Swamp Upper catchment, on Mininga River 144 km2 (24 x < 8 km) Swamp
Un-named swamp On the upper Kafue River at 13o 30’ S 310 km2 (24 x < 19 km) Swamp
Lukanga Swamp Middle catchment 2,100 -2,590 km2 Seasonal and permanent swamp, lakes, channels, river bank and floodplain
Busanga Swamp Middle catchment on the Lufupa River in Kafue National Park 600 km2 Perennial and seasonal swamp
Kafue Flats Lower catchment 4,380 – 7,000 km2 235-255 x < 40-56 km Channels, lakes, seasonal and permanent swamp, river bank and floodplain

Source: Hughes & Hughes, 1992

 Water and wetlands in the Kafue river basin (Source: ESA)

Water and Wetlands in the River Basin (Source: ESA)

Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Sites)

The Kafue  Flats and Lukanga and Busanga swamps are listed as Wetlands of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention.  The Convention is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.

The Convention’s mission is “the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world”.

Kafue wetlands

The spreading wall of Mimosa at Lochinvar, pushing wildlife from the Park and providing cover for poachers

At the centre of the Ramsar philosophy is the “wise use” concept. The wise use of wetlands is defined as “the maintenance of their ecological character, achieved through the implementation of ecosystem approaches, within the context of sustainable development”. “Wise use” therefore has at its heart the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands and their resources, for the benefit of humankind.

Zambia became a Contracting Party to the Convention in 1991 and has now registered 8 Ramsar sites, but it has not yet enacted national legislation enabling their “wise use”. The Directorate of Wildlife Conservation in the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) is the lead authority.

The Kafue Flats Ramsar site covers 6,005 km2, the Lukanga Swamp 2,600 km2, and the Busanga Swamp 2,000 km2.

The ecological character and value of the Kafue Flats have been severely degraded in the past 40 years by the Kafue Gorge hydropower project, poaching, overfishing and more recently, the spread of an invasive shrub Mimosa pigra.


Further details on Ramsar sites in Zambia can be found here:   (Checked 2015-11-23)


Hughes, R.H. & Hughes, J.S. 1992.  A Directory of African Wetlands. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK/UNEP, Nairobi, Kenya/WCMC, Cambridge, UK