Local Ecological Knowledge on Climate Change and Ecosystem-Based Adaptation Strategies Promote Resilience in the Middle Zambezi Biosphere Reserve, Zimbabwe

Kupika, O. L. G., et al., 2019. Scientifica

Original research (primary data)
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Understanding local community perceptions on impacts, causes, and responses to climate change is vital for promotion of community resilience towards climate change. This study explored local ecological knowledge (LEK) held by local communities on climate change trends and impacts in the Middle Zambezi Biosphere Reserve (MZBR), Zimbabwe. The objectives of the study were to (i) investigate local community perceptions on trends and causes of climate change, (ii) identify biophysical impacts of climate change at the local level, and (iii) explore the ecosystem-based adaptation strategies towards climate change. The study used a mixed methods approach where a household questionnaire survey (n=320), key informant interviews (n=12), and focus group discussions (n=8) were used to collect data between April 2015 and October 2016. Results from the study show that local communities have observed decreasing rainfall and increasing temperatures as key indicators of climate change. Local communities observed water scarcity, changes in vegetation phenology, livestock and wildlife mortalities, and food shortages due to drought as the major impacts on their livelihoods. LEK can contribute to adaptive management strategies that enhance resilience of socioecological systems (SES) in the face of climate change by providing information on the status and use of biophysical components of the environment and by highlighting potential local adaptation strategies that can sustain key livelihood practices.

Case studies

Basic information

  • Case ID: INT-265-1
  • Intervention type: Protection
  • Intervention description:

    Middle Zambezi Biosphere Reserve (MZBR) – a UNESCO biosphere reserve

  • Landscape/sea scape ecosystem management: Yes
  • Climate change impacts Effect of Nbs on CCI Effect measures
    Drought  Positive **No quantified outcome measure but based on perceptions of local community members from questionaires and focus group discussions. Below are relevant summary statements from authors regarding how climate impacts have been addressed Drought: [Positive] Key informants and FGD participants identify wild fruits and forest products, which they used to sustain livelihoods during periods of drought….Harvest wild fruits, e.g., muchekecha, and wild legumes such as Dioscorea praehensilis Benth (mupama), and the air potato, Dioscorea bulbifera (manyanya), and Rhynchosia venulosa (mukoyo) during drought periods… Mupama tree is also used during drought periods. For ex- ample, respondents mentioned the tree species provided food relief to most vulnerable and poor households during the most severe 1991/2 and 2007/8 drought period. Key informants reported that Rhynchosia venulosa (mukoyo) is as one of the popular drought relief plant species among the local community members. Key in- formants and FGD participants stated that traditional beer- brewing experts use the roots of the legume to brew beer, which can be sold locally or taken to the border town of Chirundu for sale. Key informants suggested that com- mercialization of the by-product from the legume is im- portant in contributing towards household income during drought periods.
  • Approach implemented in the field: Yes
  • Specific location:

    study was conducted in the Chundu Communal and Nyamakate Resettlement Area (Table 1) located in the transitional zone of the Middle Zambezi Biosphere Reserve (MZBR), in the northern margins of Mashonaland West Province, Zimbabwe.

  • Country: Zimbabwe
  • Habitat/Biome type: Tropical and subtropical forests |
  • Issue specific term: Community-based adaptation
    Ecosystem-based adaptation


  • Notes on intervention effectivness: Effectiveness determined based on perceptions of local community members as to their adaptation strategies in the biosphere reserve, gaining insight as to how the natural resources in the reserve enable them to adapt to climate hazards. Household surveys and focus group discussions
  • 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: N/A
  • Assess outcomes of the intervention on people: Yes
  • Impacts for people: Positive
  • People measures: N/A
  • 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: