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Coping with Drought and Climate Change in Zimbabwe

Published: 17th September 2014 17:00Last Updated: 18th September 2014 8:22

Coping with drought and climate change in Zimbabwe. UNDP 2011.

Project description

This project aimed to enhance the capacity of local people engaged in agriculture to adapt to climate variability and change through the demonstration of a range of gender-sensitive approaches. Through this project, vulnerable farmers and pastoralists enhanced their livelihood strategies and resilience by increasing the use of mixed crops and enabling them to take up adapted crop and livestock management practices.

Adaptation context

Around 70% of the population in Zimbabwe derive their livelihoods from rural activities, but only about a third of the country receives adequate rainfall for agriculture. Increased incidence of droughts over the last 30 years has led to significant losses in agricultural productivity, resulting in critical shortages in fuel and food.  In addition, rain-fed maize production on the basis is the dominant crop, whereas livestock production in communal areas is constrained by overgrazing in the wet season leading to shortage in the dry season. The project helped improve food security by reducing reliance on one or two crops and on rain-fed agriculture, promoting the use of in-field rainwater after harvesting and drought-resistant crops to increase yields and shared use and management of wildlife resources (e.g. crocodile farming and fisheries development). A further aim was to enable vulnerable communities to use climate warning systems, which was achieved by developing a culture of using locally observed rainfall records to evaluate decisions about cultivation (e.g. when to plant, when to weed using cultivator and when to harvest), and weather forecasting, particularly for medium range (10-14 days). Overall, the project has helped develop national awareness about climate change, laying the technical foundation and contributing important field experience in Southern Zimbabwe and beyond.

Key messages

1. Knowledge building. The project was part of a set of regional projects on Coping with Drought and Climate Change being implemented by UNDP (Ethiopia, Kenya and Mozambique), which has organised mechanisms for knowledge exchange that will contribute to a better understanding of the dynamics of climate variability and appropriate responses in different parts of Africa.

2. Community participation and inclusiveness. Participation of beneficiaries in local communities took place both in the design and implementation phases of the project.

3. Political ownership, collaboration and approval. The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Management in Zimbabwe was responsible for the implementation of the project (through its Environmental Management Agency), in collaboration with the UNDP, which highlights the fact that high-level political support was obtained for it.

4. Financial sustainability. The project envisioned sustainability as obtaining chiefly from replication by a growing number of residents in the Chiredizi district and beyond, of the activities demonstrated at project sites, such as optimised crop diversification and livestock management, which have yielded high productivity and allowed higher incomes to be derived.

5. Building local capacity. The project enabled capacity to be built locally through provision of training and through pilot demonstration (‘learning by doing’) to beneficiaries by extension workers (from Agritex). In Farmer Field Schools, residents learned techniques about mixed crop production, in-field irrigation and moisture conservation which they subsequently reproduced for themselves.

6. Transferability. The replication of optimised crop production is being encouraged through Farmer Field Schools, a learning platform that enables farmers to learn about production methods through practices. Replication of best practices, in turn, have been encouraged through exchange visits to neighbouring farms, visits by policy makers and dissemination through public awareness campaigns.

7. Monititoring and Evaluation. Monitoring was undertaken throughout the period of project implementation and evaluation was carried out at the end of implementation by independent consultants. Key indicators include increase in agricultural productivity, number of service providers in Chiredzi making use of climate information in their operations, number of household by gender using adapted farm management practices, number of small-holders by gender making use of climate information in decision-making. Pivotal outcomes were achieved, particularly increased awareness of the role that crop diversification, moisture conservation and small-scale irrigation can play in enhancing resilience to climate change, along with development of methods that improve seasonal weather forecasting and reliable and accurate advice provided to farmers by extension workers.

Lessons learned

  1. Develop institutional capacities and policy frameworks at national and local level.
  2. Use bottom-up and participatory processes in project design. 
  3. Identify adaptation responses on the basis of assessments/analysis and evidence. 
  4. Learn from past interventions. 
  5. Farmer-managed demonstrations are an effective way of trying adaptation measures. 
  6. Make monitoring and evaluation a priority.