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Zimbabwe is situated in the southern part of Africa, occupying a total land area of approximately 390,757 km2. The country is land locked and is bordered by Mozambique to the East, South Africa to the South, Botswana to the West and Zambia to the North and North-west. The country’s main topographical features include the central watershed, running from southwest to northeast and ranging from 1200m to 1500m above sea level. The watershed is 650 kilometres long and 80 kilometres wide. The highest elevation is along the eastern border with Mozambique where mountain peaks range from 2300m to 2500m. The Zambezi and Limpopo River Valleys found in the north and south respectively have the lowest altitude of around 500m [1]. The country lies wholly within the tropics with a sub-tropical climate. The annual rainfall ranges from below 400 mm in the south to over 1000 mm in the eastern parts of the country [2].

Zimbabwe is divided into ten administrative provinces: Bulawayo, Harare, Manicaland, Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland East, Mashonaland West, Masvingo, Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South and Midlands. Harare is the capital city and has the major administrative and commercial functions [1].

Important National Context

Zimbabwe’s population almost doubled over the span of three decades, rising from 7.5 million in 1982 to 13 million at the last national census in 2012 [3]. The World Statistics Pocketbook 2021 estimates Zimbabwe’s current population at 15.092 million, as of 2021 [4]. A large proportion of the country’s population is youthful. At the last national census (2012), 41% of the population was below the age of 15 and 20% between 15 and 24 years. Overall, 70% of Zimbabweans were below 30 years old. Zimbabwe’s population is mainly rural, with two thirds of the population living in rural areas in 2012 [3]

According to the World Bank estimations, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country reached $21.4 billion in 2019. The annual GDP growth peaked at 11.9% in 2011 and has been decreasing since: in 2019 the annual GDP growth rate was at −8.1%, well below the average annual GDP growth of low-income countries (4.4%). The country’s economy is largely dependent on services (61.3% of GDP, 2018), followed by industry (20.6% of GDP, 2018), agriculture (8.3% GDP, 2018), and manufacturing (10.6% of GDP, 2018) [5].

Zimbabwe’s economy is highly reliant on agriculture which, along with forestry, employs 70% of the population (directly or indirectly). Agricultural production is largely rainfed and sensitive to fluctuating weather patterns [6]. The number of people under the food poverty line was estimated to be about 6 million in 2019 and between 7.6 to 8 million in 2020. This trend has been caused mainly by droughts, cyclones and floods which exposed a number of citizens to food insecurity, hunger and starvation [7].  

Over the past century, Zimbabwe has endured various natural hazards, including droughts, epidemic diseases, floods, and storms. From 1900 to 2017, the country experienced 7 drought events, 22 epidemic episodes, 12 floods, and 5 storms, which resulted in the death of 7000 people, with more than 20 million people affected, and total damage estimates of 950 million USD. The country’s GDP growth has been severely impacted by a series of major droughts. For instance, the drought in 2013 caused economic damage of up to 500 million USD and affected over 4 million residents. Epidemic diseases, particularly bacterial and parasitic types, contribute to significant portion of total deaths and total affected people by natural hazards [5].

Environmental Governance

The Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate has overall responsibility for the environment, water, and climate related issues in the country [8].

The Environmental Management Agency (EMA) is a statutory body responsible for ensuring the sustainable management of natural resources and protection of the environment, the prevention of pollution and environmental degradation, and the preparation of Environmental Plans for the management and protection of the environment. EMA was established under the Environmental Management Act [Chapter 20:27] and enacted in 2002 [9].

The main regulation on environmental issues is the Environmental Management Act [Chapter 20:27] of 2002. The Act is supported by the following regulations: Environmental Management (Atmospheric Pollution Control) Regulations, 2009 (Statutory Instrument (SI) 72 of 2009); Environmental Management (Environmental Impact Assessment and Ecosystems Protection) Regulations, 2007 (SI 7 of 2007); Environmental Management (Effluent and Solid Waste Disposal) Regulations, 2007 (SI 6 of 2007). These regulations aim to ensure that economic activities do not cause harm to the environment [1].

National context alignement with the EU Green Deal

Zimbabwe’s Vision 2030 seeks to transform Zimbabwe to an upper middle-income economy by 2030. The National Development Strategy (NDS1), 2021-2025, supports Vision 2030, targeting an annual GDP growth rate of above 5% and the creation of at least 760,000 formal jobs over the five-year period. NDS1 aims to increase agriculture production, especially by smallholder farmers, which will increase Zimbabwe’s prosperity, food security and resilience against climate change [6]. This is very much aligned with the EU’s Farm to Fork Strategy which is aimed at accelerating the EU’s transition to a sustainable food system whilst mitigating and adapting to climate change [10].

The country has also adopted several policies and strategies to reduce emissions and address climate vulnerabilities, consistent with the EU Green Deal and the EU’s focus on prioritizing climate action consistent with the Paris Accord. These include Zimbabwe’s National Climate Policy aimed at building a climate-resilient and low-carbon economy; the Low Emission Development Strategy (LEDS), which includes mitigation measures across all the sectors of the economy; and the Climate-Smart Agricultural Investment Plan (CASAIP), among others [6].

In line with the NDS1, EU-Zimbabwe cooperation for the period 2021-2027 will be focused on the following priority areas: (i) Good Governance and Citizens’ Rights; (ii) Green Economic Growth (GEG) covering the sectors of climate smart agriculture, natural resources management and renewable energy; and (iii) Social Recovery and Human Development (SRHD). Two Team Europe Initiatives (TEIs) have also been conceived for Zimbabwe: Gender equality through women’s empowerment; and Climate smart agriculture-based resilience building [11].

Key Environmental-Development Challenges

Climate Change

With increasing climatic variability, natural disasters will occur more frequently and have the potential to hit the most vulnerable parts of the population in a disproportionate way [5]. All citizens are exposed directly or indirectly to climate-related hazards that impact them and their assets [6]. In 2019, the Zimbabwean economy declined by 6.0% largely on account of a number of factors including climate change-induced Cyclone Idai which ravaged parts of the country as well as the El Nino induced drought which negatively affected agricultural production and electricity/power generation. In the affected areas Cyclone Idai caused significant loss of lives and left about 270,000 people in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, besides causing widespread property and infrastructure destruction [7].  



In Zimbabwe, 142,000 people were living on degrading agricultural land in 2010, an increase of 30% in a decade. This brought the share of rural residents who inhabit degraded agricultural land up to 2% of the total rural population. Land degradation can severely influence populations' livelihood by restricting people from vital ecosystem services (including food and water), increasing the risk of poverty. The annual cost of land degradation in Zimbabwe is estimated at 6% of the country's GDP.

Assessments of the costs of action against land degradation through restoration and sustainable land management practices versus the cost of inaction highlight the strong economic incentive for bold actions against land degradation. Returns are estimated at 3 USD for every dollar invested in restoring degraded land in Zimbabwe. Further, within the various climate change mitigation alternatives, land-based mitigation options rank among the most cost-effective opportunities to sequester or avoid carbon [12].