Case study 6: Zimbabwe climate proofing infrastructure and diversifying livelihoods in Zimbabwe

Chigwada, J., 2005. IDS Bulletin

Original research (primary data)
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The history, lifestyle and economic foundation of Zimbabwe are rooted in and around land and land-use for agriculture. Poverty is the main driver in causing unsustainable farming, grazing and woodfuel gathering that have led to dryland degradation and desert encroachment which present day governance structures cannot resolve. HIV/AIDS also imposes enormous burdens now and into the foreseeable future. Increasing temperatures will bring unpredictable precipitation patterns leading to more parched and dry conditions and possible increases in the frequency and intensity of extreme events such as cyclones. This case study examines how a small group of villagers in the Beithridge District came together to reduce their climate vulnerabilities through livelihood diversification. Rather than trying to rebuild a dam that had been destroyed by an unexpected cyclone, the villagers chose to use the leftover funds to rehabilitate wetland, buy goats, set up seed nurseries and switch from maize, which is difficult to grow in persistent drought conditions, to drought-tolerant and pest-resistant sorghum. A key part of their success lies in their establishing a new community institution endowed with legal personality: the Tongwe Community Development Group. The villagers were then able to receive, manage and utilise external funds in a timely fashion without intermediaries. This case study illustrates the need to “climate proof” future infrastructure to ensure precious investments are not “washed away” with climate change.

Case studies

Basic information

  • Case ID: INT-144-1
  • Intervention type: Combination
  • Intervention description:

    wetland was demarcated and fenced off to protect it from livestock trampling and grazing

  • Landscape/sea scape ecosystem management: No
  • Climate change impacts Effect of Nbs on CCI Effect measures
    Reduced water availability  Positive qualitative/ from anecdotal reports about the return of water after intervention implemented
  • Approach implemented in the field: Yes
  • Specific location:

    Mutubuki wetland in the Tongwe ward

  • Country: Zimbabwe
  • Habitat/Biome type: Wetlands |
  • Issue specific term: Not applicable


  • Notes on intervention effectivness: effectiveness determined from qualitative/anecdotal evidence about the return of water after intervention implemented "water flow improved and people downstream started receiving water from which they had not benefited from for ten years"
  • Is the assessment original?: Yes
  • Broadtype of intervention considered: Not applicable
  • Compare effectivness?: No
  • Compared to the non-NBS approach: Not applicable
  • Report greenhouse gas mitigation?: No
  • Impacts on GHG: Not applicable
  • Assess outcomes of the intervention on natural ecosystems: No
  • Impacts for the ecosystem: Not reported
  • Ecosystem measures:
  • Assess outcomes of the intervention on people: Yes
  • Impacts for people: Positive
  • People measures: anectodal assessment. The key project objectives were drought mitigation through the protection and sound management of the Mutubuki wetland The vlei, which was almost barren, was rehabilitated by planting grass In 2000, the MCDA constructed two small dams for the purpose of harvesting water from the wetland. In the same year, women groups started gardening using the available water. Water flow improved and people downstream started receiving water from which they had not benefited from for ten years.
  • Considers economic costs: No
  • Economic appraisal conducted: No
  • Economic appraisal described:
  • Economic costs of alternative considered: No
  • Compared to an alternative: Not reported

Evaluation methodology

  • Type of data: Qualitative
  • Is it experimental: No
  • Experimental evalution done: Not applicable
  • Non-experimental evalution done: Empirical case study
  • Study is systematic: