Skip to main content

Supporting policy with scientific evidence

We mobilise people and resources to create, curate, make sense of and use knowledge to inform policymaking across Europe.

Publication | 2024

Zimbabwe - Country Climate and Development Report


Action area 2 focuses on supporting conservation agriculture, landscape restoration and food and water security.

Zimbabwe’s most pressing climate-related priority is managing food security. Maize accounts for more than half of the average calorie consumption for the majority of Zimbabweans. However, the climate modelling for this report indicates that, under dry/hot scenarios, maize yield losses could be up to 20 percent by the 2040s. In the lower-lying south of the country, these losses increase to over 30 percent by the 2040s. To address both the challenge of disrupted agricultural development and the future threat of climate change impacts, Zimbabwe needs to re-engineer its agricultural knowledge innovation system.

Observed climate change indicates that the frequency of droughts has risen from 1 in 10 growing seasons within the period 1902–1979 to 1 in 4 growing seasons within the period 1980–2011. Together with the downturn in the macroeconomic context and the disruption to modes of agricultural production following land reforms, many Zimbabweans have become more vulnerable to variability in rainfall patterns.

Under the BAU scenario, re-vitalizing the agricultural knowledge innovation system can build on the Government’s conservation agriculture program to bolster smallholder resilience. No-regrets and low- cost actions include re-prioritized public spending toward: (i) participatory research and extension to rigorously test and promote conservation agriculture technology packages adapted to the newly defined agroecological zones; (ii) improving smallholder farmers’ access to finance and irrigation technology that enable them to tap into the existing 10,000+ dams, as well as existing ground and surface water sources; (iii) sub-catchment management land and water use planning to map land degradation and establish agreements on water abstraction rights; and (iv) scaling-up access to agricultural insurance markets.

Deforestation can be slowed by harnessing voluntary carbon markets to promote efficient cook stoves.

In the medium term there may be new agricultural export opportunities for Zimbabwe, as other parts of the world face water resource availability constraints. With other parts of the world facing chronic water scarcity due to a combination of population growth and climate change (e.g., countries around the Mediterranean), Zimbabwe could take advantage of opportunities to revitalize its agricultural export industry, particularly in high-value horticulture, to the other parts of Africa, as well as to Europe and East Asia. Under the ASP scenario, the greater flows of mining revenues accruing to the public sector could accelerate investment in agricultural development and expanding irrigation. Zimbabwe plans to develop underutilized ground and surface water resources to expand irrigation by 130,000 hectares.

There would also be much greater scope for investment in the agricultural research and extension system to drive forward: (i) crop-switching to drought- and heat-tolerant crop varieties; (ii) improved rangeland and pasture management practices; and (iii) breeding programs for climate-resilient livestock. Improving incentives for investment in mechanization and precision agriculture, including for smallholders (e.g. two-wheel tractors), would raise productivity levels. Pursuing these climate and agricultural development investments under the ASP scenario would lead to import substitution, both of staples and in the dairy industry, which is currently importing powdered milk.

At-scale landscape restoration could make the ASP scenario more resilient and reduce GHG emissions. The benefits of investing in large-scale landscape restoration were estimated to be over US$400 million a year to Zimbabweans. This would further enhance the resilience of the ASP scenario aligned with Vision 2030. These benefits are based on investments in restoring degraded natural habitats, riparian buffers, conservation agriculture as well as expanding community conservancies and improved management of tourism facilities in state protected areas. The mitigation benefits of this large-scale land restoration are estimated to reduce emissions by an average 11 million tCo2e per year up to 2050 as compared to the BAU scenario with continued land degradation. This is equivalent to around a quarter of Zimbabwe’s current annual emissions. Using a relatively low estimate of US$4.5 per tCO2e, landscape restoration could generate around US$50 million a year in carbon credits. Valuing these emissions reductions at the social value of carbon would generate around $686 million a year in global benefits