The USAID Alternatives to Charcoal project is reducing deforestation related to the production of charcoal. The project uses a market-driven approach to catalyze a shift in urban household cooking away from charcoal towards private sector-led, low-emissions technologies and fuels. 

The household energy sector in urban Zambia is dominated by charcoal. Over 75 percent of peri-urban and urban households use charcoal as their primary cooking fuel source, regardless of income. Charcoal is accessible, affordable, and the culturally preferred cooking fuel of choice. The demand for charcoal is rising exponentially, propelling an increase of charcoal production in rural areas and over-exploitation of Zambia’s highly biodiverse forests, threatening their rich biodiversity

Zambia has one of the highest deforestation rates in the world, losing between 180,000 and 250,000 hectares each year. Nearly 25 percent of deforestation and forest degradation is attributed to charcoal production. Charcoal use also contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions that drive global climate change. Wide-spread adoption of alternative technologies and fuels is currently hindered by cultural barriers, poor business enabling conditions, and value chain inefficiencies. The USAID Alternatives to Charcoal project addresses these and other barriers to reduce urban demand for charcoal and to protect Zambia’s forests and natural resources for generations to come.


  • Life of Project: January 2021 - January 2026
  • Geographic Focus: Urban: Lusaka, Ndola, Solwezi, Kitwe
    Rural: Lufwanyama, Kalumbila, Solwezi, and Mumbwa districts
  • Implementing Partner: Tetra Tech ARD
  • Chief of Party: Dr. Catherine Picard -
  • Total USAID Funding: $24.9 million
  • USAID Zambia Contact: Dr. Catherine Tembo -

goal one

Reduce charcoal energy consumption by 25 percent in Lusaka and by 5 percent in urban areas outside of Lusaka. 

goal two

Reduce deforestation directly attributable to charcoal production by 6.69 percent.

goal three

Identify and remove market barriers to enable a 38 percent increase in the household use of alternative technologies and fuels.

goal four

Support the Government of the Republic of Zambia to improve the business enabling environment for low emission alternative technologies and fuels.

goal five

Increase consumer use of low emission alternative technologies and fuels.

goal six

Support alternative livelihoods in charcoal producing communities and improve capacity to regulate and enforce charcoal supply chains.


  • Awarded $1 million in grants to businesses promoting clean cooking in Zambia.

  • Reached four million people with information on clean cooking technologies and fuels using live demonstrations, community influencers, and a telephone hotline.

  • Engaged more than 110 private sector partners to identify barriers/opportunities.

  • Connected clean cooking companies with potential investors and banks and mobilized $4.1million in support of clean cooking.

  • Supported the Government of the Republic of Zambia to establish a national Charcoal Task Force.

  • Trained over 120 government officers in conservation law enforcement.

  • Supported the Ministry of Energy to re-establish the Energy Sector Advisory Group to enhance coordination across Zambia’s energy sector and removed customs duty on liquefied petroleum gas cylinders.

  • Trained 185 urban influencers and religious leaders to promote clean cooking through live demonstrations, information sharing, and women’s savings and loans groups.