LAND degradation is one of the world’s most pressing environmental problems and Zimbabwe is listed among countries prone to it.
This has resulted in Zimbabwe receiving funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) under the GEF 7 funding.
The project is designed to help the country address the provisions of three conventions that include the UN Convention on Combatting Desertification (UNCCD), UN Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD) and UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
Focus areas of the project are climate change, biodiversity and land degradation.
Land degradation falls under the UNCCD convention and is regarded as a pressing issue because of its serious impact on the environment, agricultural activities and food security.
It is cited as one of the major environmental challenges affecting community livelihoods, particularly in communal areas.
Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu is on record saying the GEF project will provide significant support to the country in order to avoid further land degradation, desertification and deforestation of land and ecosystems.
Implementing agency of the GEF 7 project are the Food Agriculture Organisation (FAO) while the Environmental Management Agency (EMA), Forestry Commission, Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZPWMA), Community Technology Development Trust (CTDT) and World Vision are executing agencies.
EMA is hosting the project on behalf of the Government of Zimbabwe and has been given the mandate of running the day-to-day needs of the project.
Although there are many causes of land degradation, mining and gold panning in mineral rich districts has contributed to serious land degradation in the country.
According to EMA, about 1,5 million small scale gold panners are operating across the country’s rivers, plantations, grazing areas, fields, urban areas, roads, rail and electricity transmission servitudes. A survey conducted by EMA, in 2021, shows that a total of 11 163 hectares of land and a stretch of 1 555km of riverine ecosystems have been degraded countrywide.
The GEF project funding, therefore, is also designed to help the country meet its Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) targets which were set under the UNCCD Convention in 2017.
An estimated 36 percent of land in the country is considered degraded and urgently needs rehabilitation.
Titled: ‘A cross-sector approach supporting the mainstreaming of sustainable forest and land management to enhance ecosystem resilience for improved livelihoods in the Save and Runde Catchments of Zimbabwe’, the project is targeting the miombo and mopane woodlands of Runde and Save catchment.
It seeks to address the problem of land degradation in the country through the promotion of sustainable forest management and sustainable land management.
In simpler terms, the aim of the project is to avoid land degradation, reduce land degradation and restore degraded land.
In a her presentation on the update of the project at an Environmental Reporting Workshop held recently in Harare, Precious Magwaza, a senior environmental officer said there is need to change the mindset of the people.
“If people do not have livelihood options, they will turn to the environment and if the environment is targeted, people will be affected,” she said.
The project is being implemented across three provinces of Manicaland, Masvingo and Midlands as well as across eight districts that include Chipinge, Chimanimani, Buhera, Chivi, Shurugwi, Masvingo, Chipinge and Zaka, covering 44 wards.
The targeted landscape features 733 430 ha of mopane and 2 406 806 ha of miombo woodlands, including protected areas, croplands, grassland and settlement areas.
The criteria used for selection of the wards to be targeted by the interventions of the project are; land degradation level measured by indicators such as land vegetation cover, erosion, invasive alien species, land productivity, soil organic carbon and illegal mining.
The project will also focus on communities’ vulnerability in relation to indicators such as poverty levels, food and nutrition security.
Another focus of the project is arid regions which comprise wards located in the agro-ecological regions as well as Natural Regions Three, Four and Five.
Minister Ndlovu is on record saying the GEF project’s mandate is in line with the Government of Zimbabwe’s ideas of putting sustainable land and forest management strategies in National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1) to reduce and avoid further land degradation.
Zimbabwe is implementing this project with surrounding regional countries.
Since 1994, Zimbabwe has implemented about 43 projects since joining GEF and through the Ministry of Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry, the country has been a regular recipient of GEF grants.