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 .
In Zimbabwe, agricultural dry lands constitute approximately 42% of the total arable land, and large tracts of these lands are subject to various degrees of degradation, which reduces the social and biological potential of the land and increases the effects of desertification. Land degradation in the form of soil erosion, deforestation and crop nutrient mining are common and are worsened by periodic droughts and floods .
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 .
The main drivers of land degradation in Zimbabwe, as identified during the land degradation target setting process, include: forest clearing for agricultural expansion, road construction and settlements; over dependence of rural communities on fuel wood to meet their energy requirements; overutilization of trees for curing tobacco, construction and fencing purposes, brick burning and wood carvings; population pressure particularly in communal areas; droughts, floods and climate change; expansion of small and large mines; high level of poverty among rural communities; poor agricultural practices, inappropriate land management practices and limited investment in land; inappropriate land use resulting from non-adherence to land classification and land use plans; veld fires which deprive the land of forest and grass cover resulting in soil and gully erosion; and electricity shortage which force people to turn to biomass fuel to meet their energy requirements in both urban and rural areas .
Key policies and governance approach
The Government of Zimbabwe has put in place a policy and legislative framework to address the country’s development and the management of its land resources, including the National Conservation Strategy. This was the country’s first attempt to have a holistic approach to issues related to development and land resources protection and management. It draws linkages between land, water, energy, biodiversity, poverty and population issues to design programmes for land degradation control .
Zimbabwe made the commitment to make its contribution to the attainment of Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) by 2030 by participating in the Land Degradation Neutrality Target Setting Programme (LDN TSP). Zimbabwe has set national voluntary LDN target, established an LDN baseline, and formulated associated measures to achieve LDN. Existing action plans and programmes that are relevant to LDN in Zimbabwe include the Second National Action Programme (2015 to 2030), National Climate Change Response Strategy and Action Plan, National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, Vision 2030, and the Poverty Alleviation Action Plan. Three of which relate to Zimbabwe’s commitments under the Rio conventions .
The Environmental Management Act of 2002 is the major legal framework that was enacted to improve the management of land, forest, energy and water resources. The Act makes provision for regulations to promote the sustainable use of land resources through environmental impact assessment, environmental audits and penalties for those who misuse the land and pollute the environment. Other existing laws and regulations that benefit LDN include the Forest Act, Communal Lands Forest Produce Act, Agricultural Research Act, Water Act, Agricultural Land Resettlement Act, Parks and Wildlife Management Act and the Mines and Minerals Act .
Successes and remaining challenges
Zimbabwe has put in place a good policy and legal framework as well as institutional arrangements that can support the objectives of Land Degradation Neutrality. However, there is a need to create an effective mechanism for the enforcement of the existing policy and legal frameworks. Additionally, there is a need to improve cooperation and coordination amongst relevant ministries implementing the various policies and legal frameworks relevant to LDN. Strong coordination among participating institutions eliminates duplication and contradictions.
As outlined in the country’s Final Country Report of the Land Degradation Neutrality Target Setting Programme, a weakness of the current legal framework is that there is no standalone legislation that regulates land degradation issues in Zimbabwe. Further, concerns were raised over the lack of a national land use plan to guide appropriate land use systems for each of Zimbabwe’s five agro-ecological regions. The national working group recommended that the production and implementation of land use plans be taken as part of the country’s agrarian and land reform process .
Goals and Ambitions
LDN targets at the national scale :
- Improve land cover of forest, wetlands, shrubs, grasslands and sparsely vegetated areas by 70% by 2030 compared to 2008.
- LDN achieved by 2030 compared to 2008 and an additional 10% (3,905,700 hectares) of the country’s total land area has been improved (net gain).
- Promote the synergistic programming and implementation of the Rio and other Conventions.
- Good coordination among relevant ministries implementing the various policies and legal frameworks relevant to LDN is needed. Strong coordination among participating institutions eliminates duplication and contradictions.
- Good laws and regulations are only helpful if they are effectively enforced. There is need to create an effective mechanism for the enforcement of the existing policy and legal frameworks.
- Personnel responsible for administering various legal frameworks related to land degradation control need to be empowered with adequate resources to enable them to enforce the laws. The institutions also need to be adequately staffed.
- Conduct education and awareness raising for LDN for policy makers, legislators, land users and general public through meetings, workshops, field days and the media.
- Link land degradation neutrality to the country’s developmental, employment creation and poverty reduction strategies and identify areas and projects for joint action.
- It is recommended that the production and implementation of land use plans be taken as part of the country’s agrarian and land reform process.
- The current land tenure system should also be reviewed with the objective of giving title deeds to land users as it was felt that lack of title deeds discourages investment on the land.
- Appropriate penalties are required in order to deter potential offenders from abusing land resources. The current penalties for illegal mining are so low that offenders opt to pay the fines and return to their illegal mining activities which are very destructive to the land. Fine schedules need to be reviewed and judicial personnel educated on LDN issues.
 THE GLOBAL MECHANISM United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (2018). Country Profile Zimbabwe. Investing in Land Degradation Neutrality: Making the Case. An Overview of Indicators Assessments.