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Acronyms Used in Zimbabwe


Department of Research and Specialist Services


Environment Resource Centre for Southern Africa


Environment and Remote Sensing Institute


Permanent sample plots


Southern African Research and Documentation Centre


Scientific Industrial Research and Development Council


State of Environment Report


Worldwide Fund for Nature (southern Africa)

Country Profile

Land Surface

Land Area

391, 109 km2

Area formally conserved


Area transformed by cultivation

13% (including permanent pastures)



12.05 million (1997 estimate)

Urban percentage


Population growth rate



GDP in 1998: US$ 8 235m at current prices

GDP Growth rate (1993-1998): 2.8 at constant prices

Contribution to GDP by tourism and hunting: large

Contribution to GDP by crop agriculture and livestock: 22% (1996)

Contribution to GDP by forestry: small from commercial forestry, but locally significant from use of the woodlands for craftwork.


Political system: Parliamentary democracy, most power held centrally

Provinces: Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South, Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland East, Mashonaland West, Masvingo, Midlands, Manicaland.

Environmental issues are predominantly handled at national level.


Zimbabwe is generally dry and warm. The diurnal average surface temperatures vary from 15oC in July to 22oC in January. Average summer precipitation varies from 400 mm in the south to about 900 mm in the mountainous north-east. In winter the average precipitation is less than 70 mm. Annual average rainfall is between 400 and 700 mm.


Three biomes: Savanna, Grassland, and Forest, with savanna (including woodlands) predominating.

Major Environmental Issues

Pollution and toxicity

Zimbabwe is the second most industrialized country in SADC, after South Africa. Industries are concentrated around Harare, with ore smelters located close to the ore sources (principally along the Great Dyke). A combination of vehicle emissions, dust and smoke from domestic fires is a potential air quality concern in larger cities such as Harare. Water is not generally abundant, and the maintenance of water quality is a serious issue.

Biodiversity preservation

Zimbabwe has a rich biotic heritage and is highly dependent on tourism. It has a long history of biodiversity preservation, through the national parks, forest reserves and innovative community-based sustainable-use schemes such as CAMPFIRE. Nevertheless, the natural resources are under pressure from a growing population with limited economic alternatives.

Land quality

Of the four countries in this survey, Zimbabwe has the greatest fraction of its land area in good quality agricultural land. The economy of Zimbabwe has a large agricultural component, and the majority of people are dependent on the land. The distribution of people and productive agricultural resources is uneven, leading to problems of land degradation where large numbers of people and livestock are concentrated on marginal lands.

Freshwater resources

The Zambezi River in the north is one of the largest rivers in Africa, but does not currently supply water to the rest of the country, which is water-scarce in most parts. The geology is generally not conducive to large groundwater supplies.

Climate change

Like the rest of southern Africa, Zimbabwe is strongly influenced by fluctuations in rainfall. An improvement in the water balance as a result of climate change would be a great benefit; increase water stress, on the other hand, would be a substantial development challenge.

Status of National Environmental Observing Systems

Institutional framework

Government Organizations




Ministry of Transport

Meteorological office

Collects, analyses and disseminates weather data

Ministry of Mines, Environment and Tourism

Dept. of National Parks and Wildlife Management

Wildlife, biodiversity

Division of Mines

Air pollution, waste

Ministry of Lands and Agriculture

Dept. Research and Specialist Services

Soils, veterinary services, survey, agricultural and livestock research

Ministry of Water Resources

Dept. of Water Development

Surface and groundwater hydrology

Parastatal organizations

University of Zimbabwe; several departments and the Institute for Environmental Studies

Education and research; coordinating centre for environmental training in SADC

Forestry Commission

Natural and plantation forests and woodlands

Scientific Industrial Research and Development Council

Remote sensing laboratory

Non-governmental Organizations

Southern African Research and Documentation Centre

State of environment studies, strictly speaking a SADC organization rather than a Zimbabwean one

Many others

Many small NGOs active in the environmental field, ranging from natural history societies to environmental activist groups. Few major data holdings

Analysis of existing sites

Name of site Responsible agency




Tier 2: Long-term, permanently staffed sites conducting advanced observations on many variables, often with experimentation

None known

Several of the tier 3 sites have the potential to become tier 2 sites

Tier 3: Long-term, staffed sites routinely observing a core set of variables (research stations)

Matopos DRSS

~20.1 S

~28.4 E

Agricultural research station and adjacent national park, long-term fire trials and bush clearing trials. ICRISAT sorghum research station

Marondera DRSS

18.11 S

31.33 E

Agricultural research station, specializing in maize, tobacco and horticulture, some long-term miombo woodland studies

Makoholi DRSS

~20 S

~31 E

Agricultural research station, specializing in livestock

Chesa forestry research station Forestry commission

Various research projects related to woodland management

Kariba Univ. of Zimbabwe

16.31 S

28.50 E

Fisheries research station

Sengwa National Parks

~17 S

~28 E

Ecological research station, now largely dormant

Tier 4: Locations which are periodically visited

Forestry Commission

Concentrated in national forest reserves in the northwest

Permanent sample plots for woodland growth and mortality

Parks and Wildlife


Designated national water bodies

National networking

It is unclear which Government agency has the mandate to coordinate environmental information systems in Zimbabwe. The Institute of Environmental Studies at the University of Zimbabwe has taken a lead in establishing a SADC regional network for training in environmental issues. The environmental technical community is small, and well networked through personal contacts.

International networking

Zimbabwe is a signatory of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Convention on Biodiversity and the Convention for Combating Desertification, as well as many other international environmental treaties. It is the location of the head office of several SADC-region networks, such as those operated by FAO, IUCN, and SADC Food Security.

Legal framework for data handling

Much of the Government-held data is in principle public domain, but accessing it is not easy. Organizations such as the Meteorological Service charge for weather data, other than the standard summaries and forecasts. The national land cover map held by the Forestry Commission is available in the public domain at 1:1 million scale, but the 1:250 000 product is sold (at a price considerably below cost recovery). There is significant resistance to access by non-Zimbabweans, based largely on a feeling that national efforts in data collection are being exploited without due sharing of the credit or cost of collection, or that the data may be used in ways not to the national benefit.

Sectoral Environmental Information Systems

Weather and climate

Meteorological information has been collected on a regular basis since the 1950s although earlier records exist since 1869. Daily rainfall data are collected from 120 stations, and reported by telephone to either the Harare or Bulawayo offices of Meteorological Services. Additional synoptic data such as temperature and relative humidity are collected from 64 stations and reported monthly. In addition, about 1 200 rainfall records are submitted monthly on a voluntary basis by various individuals and organizations. There is a two-week delay in the compilation and capture of the data. Data are captured in the WMO CLIMCOM database. Early records are still in paper or punch card format. Staff shortages have constrained the production of the annual report for the Meteorological Services. Routine data outputs are readily available but there is a charge for unusual or specific information requirements. A ten-daily and monthly summary is mailed to users. The meteorological service has a web page with current forecasts.

Users of the data include the Food Early Warning System (FEWS) of FAO, aviation authorities, the general public and the agricultural sector. Additional rainfall and temperature data are collected by the Forestry Commission and the Department of Water Resources for their own use.

Water resources

Water resource information for Zimbabwe is available in the form of the SADC Water Resource Database on CD-ROM. The database covers the SADC region and includes surface water bodies, watersheds, rivers and aquatic species distribution. Some basic water quality parameters are included where data are available.

Surface water resources

Quantity of flow

A network of gauging stations and weirs records dam levels and the amount of flow in rivers. Dam levels are recorded twice a week, and telephoned through to the central Hydrology Office in Harare where the amount of water in each dam is calculated and summed for each province. The change in water volume is monitored weekly for each of the important national dams. Automatic gauging stations (approximately 10 data loggers and 200 chart recorders) on the key river systems capture runoff data (flow/second). The daily average is sent to the central data processing office where records are maintained. The sediment load of certain rivers is also monitored to a limited extent.

At the local catchment level, abstraction of water from dams and rivers is monitored by catchment authorities.

Water quality

River water quality is monitored routinely by provincial pollution control officers. A network of sampling sites is visited at least every three months, although the ideal frequency is monthly. Chemical analyses, which include common inorganic ions, are performed by the Water Quality Analysis Laboratory in Harare. The laboratory maintains computerized records of the samples and provides the pollution control officers with paper copies. Trend analysis is difficult and tedious to perform thus monitoring and control of pollution appears to occur when there is a pollution incident. A summary 'State of the River' report is produced each year.

Non-routine studies include some monitoring of the effects of chemical weed control on water quality as well as some monitoring by mines and industry.

Groundwater resources

Size of resource

Geophysical information and geographical location are captured whenever a new borehole is drilled. Although over 16 000 boreholes are recorded in Zimbabwe, the total number of boreholes is estimated to be in the region of 50 000. Information captured in the Department of Water Resources groundwater database includes water levels and quality, the nature of the geological formation and the results of pumping tests. Water levels are monitored on a monthly basis in order to optimize rates of abstraction by users. The geophysical and hydrogeological features of the principal aquifers are reported on an ad hoc basis - primarily as investigations into a portion of the aquifer are completed.

Groundwater quality

See above, under water quality

Land cover, Land use, Land quality

The Zimbabwe Land Reform Programme has stimulated the digitization of commercial farm boundaries at a scale of 1: 250 000 in order to produce a National Land Inventory.


Land cover and land use change for southern Africa has also been mapped by the WWF southern Africa regional office using Landsat images and aerial photos. Vegetation change is mapped by the Office of the Surveyor General (data from mid-fifties to mid- nineties).


The soils of Zimbabwe were mapped at a scale of 1:1 000 000 in 1978/1979. Although there is large uncertainty with respect to the accuracy of the information for some areas, this map is generally widely used to provide soils information for the country. Plans to accurately map soils at the 1: 50 000 scale for the entire country have only been achieved for the Banket area. All soil data held by the Chemistry and Soil Research Institute is captured and stored in a computerised system, which cannot be manipulated to perform searches on particular fields.

The communal areas (also known as the Tribal Trust areas) of Zimbabwe have been mapped at a scale of 1: 250 000 in a Physical Resources Inventory. The information is presented as land units, which represent a combination of features such as geology, erosion, soils and land use.

A project under the auspices of the FAO and UNEP aims to update the 1979 soils map with information from the communal lands study. Information will be digitized and contribute to revision of the 1:1 000 000 Soil Map of the World.

Soils are also mapped at various scales for clients such as the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management and Department of Agriculture. However, these data are only available with the permission of the client.

Agricultural productivity

Crop and plantation areas and yields

Agricultural statistics are collected by the Central Statistics Office, as well as the individual farmers cooperatives for each of the commercial crops.

The Forestry Commission is responsible for conducting an annual survey of the plantation timber production and processing in Zimbabwe. Questionnaires are sent out to registered plantation owners and roundwood processors. Information is requested on tree ages, areas under commercial species, new afforestation, loss of plantation areas and causes, as well as production of wood-based products. The information is compiled in a survey report, which is also provided to the FAO. However, the last survey was conducted in 1992/1993. The Timber Producers Federation, based in Mutare, also conducts ad hoc surveys on forest production.

Agricultural inputs: fertilizers and pesticides

Not known.

Livestock numbers and diseases

Livestock data are collected as part of the large mammal aerial survey conducted annually by WWF and the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management. The Central Statistics Office holds information on livestock numbers for both commercial and communal farms.

Disease outbreaks for both livestock and wild life are tracked by the Department of Veterinary Services.

Indigenous biological resources

Plant resources

The conservation and exploitation of indigenous forest products in demarcated forests is the responsibility of the Forestry Commission. The Indigenous Resources division estimates the amount of timber removed on a yearly basis, but there is no central data collection process.

The Forest Extension Services conduct inventories of forests in communal lands for District Information Management Systems in order to understand the rate of timber abstraction from these areas.

Forest areas are mapped on a scale of 1:250 000 in a land cover mapping initiative for the country (VEGRIS). No detailed species data are captured - only vegetation structure (for example, woodland, bushland, grassland, forest plantation).

Research on approximately 50 permanent sample plots (PSPs has been ongoing since the 1930s. Plot sizes range from 0.4 to 12 hectares. Individual trees are marked and their diameter growth tracked at three-year intervals. Since 1993 height measurements have been included. The PSP information is captured digitally, and is available to interested parties for research purposes, planning of harvesting schedules and to aid the Indigenous Resources Division with conservation and exploitation decisions.

Animal resources

Statistics on wild animal numbers are maintained by the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management in order to set hunting quotas and understand the effects of hunting on animal populations. Data are provided by National Parks game scouts, district councils and private land owners throughout the year. Annual reports on hunting statistics for the National Parks are available within the Department.

Population studies of crocodiles are conducted in order to monitor their rate of utilization. Statistics on the number of eggs collected and number of crocodiles released are passed to CITES from the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management.

Freshwater fisheries

Yearly statistics on fishing activities since the 1970s are available. The information is provided by the commercial fishing companies operating on Lake Kariba and recently information for both Zambia and Zimbabwe have been compiled in a single report. Data include the number of fish caught, their weight and value, the number of fishermen, rare species and so forth. Data are recorded monthly for pelagic stocks. The capture of larger fish species near the shoreline is also monitored.


Conserved areas

The boundaries of National Parks are available in digital format from a variety of sources. A wetlands inventory for the Zambezi Basin resides with the Biodiversity Foundation in Bulawayo. The WWF maintains a database with all farm boundaries on it, particularly in relation to conservation on private lands.

Rare and endangered species

The WWF southern Africa regional programme assists with an annual aerial census of large mammals in communal areas and national parks. Rare and endangered species such as rhinos are individually monitored by game scouts and farmers and the data sent to the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management. Distribution data for the endangered and endemic plants of the Miombo are collected by the National Herbarium.

Problem organisms: weeds, pests and diseases

Ad hoc studies on water-borne diseases such as bilharzia have been conducted collaboratively by the Departments of National Parks and Wildlife Management, and Health. Aquatic weed control studies are also conducted by the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management. Data are not readily accessible.


The National Herbarium in Harare has a comprehensive collection and is linked to the SABONET system.

Mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians

The National Museum in Bulawayo is a key repository of information and expertise. A long history of amateur naturalists in societies such as the Ornithological Society of Zimbabwe has also contributed to a relatively well-known and documented mammal and bird fauna. The Department of National Parks and wildlife has data on large mammals, as does the WWF (especially for privately-held land).


The monitoring of aquatic systems in Zimbabwe is generally conducted on an ad hoc basis with particular emphasis placed on water bodies of national importance such as Lake Kariba. No routine monitoring of limnological parameters is currently undertaken, nor are there any biomonitoring programmes underway.

An aquatic species distribution database is currently available for the SADC region as part of the SADC Water Resource Database. At present the database is limited to fish species for which distribution data were derived from Skelton's 'Complete guide to freshwater fishes in southern Africa'. There is a collaborative effort underway to update the fish distribution information using museum records from the southern African region.

Air quality

There is no systematic, national air quality monitoring programme in Zimbabwe, nor is there a centralized, accessible database from which trends and spatial patterns can be derived.

Air quality has been measured at eight stations in Harare for the past twenty to thirty years, but information on the study has apparently never been published. A few mining and industrial operations reportedly monitor their emissions, but data are not readily available.

Ancillary data: economic activity and population statistics

The Central Statistics Office collects demographical information from census data. The last census was conducted in 1992.

User Needs Assessment

Data and information needs

State of the Environment Reporting

The SoER database for Zimbabwe is a 1:1 000 000 spatial coverage of the country, termed the Integrated Resource Information System (IRIS). The themes captured thus far are climate, temperature, agroecological zones, ecological zones, vegetation classification, geology, soils, erosion hazard, land use patterns, hydrological zones, transport networks, airport locations, mining activities and administrative boundaries. A SoER document for Zimbabwe is available. It is envisaged that future SoER reports for Zimbabwe will be available both on the Web and as paper documents. The Zimbabwe SoE report will be updated every five years and will be based on regularly updated District Profiles.

District profiles are currently under development in a pilot project in the province of Mashonaland East. So far, information has been compiled for eight districts in the province. Detailed information at the 1:50 000 scale is/will be collected to provide the input for the national SoE. In addition, the information will support the district authorities in their management of natural resources.

The ERCSA section of SARDC assists with State of the Environment reporting for the SADC region (Lesotho and Malawi) and even further afield (the Gambia and Eritrea).

A SoER for the Zambezi River Basin is currently underway which spans eight countries and focuses on issues such as gender, pollution, energy and biodiversity.

State of the Forests

The Forest Resources Assessment 2000 (FAR2000) Programme is an initiative of the FAO Forestry which aims to report on the state of the world's forests for the year 2000. The Zimbabwe Forest Commission will be responsible for providing the relevant information.

Climate Change

Meteorological data is accessible to track patterns of climate change in Zimbabwe. Systems such as the Drought Monitoring System and the Food Early Warning System are also used on a local scale to provide climate information. However, these generally provide historical information instead of predictive information, which would be more useful for crop planning purposes.


Biophysical data to support the Convention on Combating Desertification is the responsibility of the Department of Natural Resources. Land use change and land cover change are important information sources but appear to be scattered across a variety of organizations (DNR, Forestry Commission, WWF-SA).


The Department of Natural Resources would be the responsible agent for collating and providing biodiversity information. However, apart from regular information on large mammals, which is supplied to the DNP&WM, biodiversity data for other taxa is scattered across museums, educational institutes and individual researchers.

Requirements raised by potential users of GTOS


Key Stakeholders


Person contacted

Areas of interest

ALCOM - Aquatic Resource Management
for Local Community Development
(Located in Fisheries Research Unit,
National Parks Complex, Sandringham
Drive, Harare)
PO Box 3730
Harare, Zimbabwe
tel: +263-4-724985/734797

Mr Lieven Verheust

Water resources

Department of Mines, Environment and Tourism
(cnr Samora Machel/Jason Nyerere)
Pbag 7753, Causeway
Harare, Zimbabwe
tel: +263-4- 757 881/74

Ms Mukahanana

Department of National Parks and Wildlife
PO Box CY 140, Causeway
Harare, Zimbabwe
tel: +263-4-707624/708344
cell: 011 605 224

Mr K Moyo

Wildlife utilization

Dr Richard M Gurure

Aquatic ecology

Department of Natural Resources
Block one, office 72, Makombe Building,
Cnr Herbert.Chitepo Ave/Harare St.,
Harare, Zimbabwe
tel:+263-4-705 671/705 661

Mr Robert Mkwanda

Environmental information management

Mr Simon Bere

Application development specialist

Department of Research and Specialist
Services - Chemistry and Soil Research
PO Box CY 550, Causeway
Harare, Zimbabwe
tel: +263-4-704531/41

Mr Julian Spurway

Section Head: Pedology and soil survey

Mr Moyo

Pedology and soil survey

Department of Water Development
(Kurima House 3rd Floor, (opp. Mutual
Centre), Harare St., Harare)
PO Box CY 726, Causeway
Harare, Zimbabwe

Mr Musariri

Surface hydrology

Department of Water Resources
(Kurima House 3rd Floor, (opp. Mutual
Centre), Harare St., Harare)
Private Bag 7767, Causeway
Harare, Zimbabwe

Ms Mawango

Pollution Control Officer

Mr L Sengayi


Environment and Remote Sensing
Institute (ERSI) - Scientific Industrial
Research and Development Council
Hatcliff, Zimbabwe
tel: +263-4-860 320/1-9

Ms Sharon Gomez

Environment Resource Centre for
Southern Africa - Southern African
Research and Documentation Centre
(15 Downie Avenue, Belgravia)
PO Box 5690
Harare, Zimbabwe
tel: + 263-4-737301
fax: +263-4-738693

Lovemore Sola

Head of Environmental Programme

Food and Agriculture Organization of the
United Nations - Sub-regional Office for
Southern and Eastern Africa
(6th Floor, Old Mutual Centre, cnr Third
St/Jason Moyo)
PO Box 3730
Harare, Zimbabwe
tel: +263-4-791 407/20
fax: +263-4-703497

Owen Hughes

Integrated Resources Management Officer

Michel Laverdiere

Forest Conservation Officer

Mark A. Smulders

Food Systems Economist

Forestry Commission
(Forest Research Centre, 1 Orange Grove
Drive, Highlands)
PO Box HG595, Highlands
Harare, Zimbabwe
tel: + 263-4-496878/9 or 498 436

Mr Chemist M. Gumbie

Forest biometry

Meteorological Services
(Cnr Gaul Ave/Hudson St., Harare)
PO Box BE150
Belvedere, Zimbabwe
tel: +263-4-774 893/890
cell: 011 208459

Dr MC Zinyowera

Office of the Surveyor General
(Electra House, Cnr Jason
Nyerere/Samora Machel Ave, Harare)

Mr Ruben Mavimu

SADC - Food, Agriculture and Natural
Resource Office and Food Security Unit
(43 Robson Manyika St (Cnr 2nd St.),
Merchant House, 3rd Floor)
PO Box 4046
Harare, Zimbabwe
tel:+263-4-796 847
fax:+263-4-795 345

Mr R Mugwara

University of Zimbabwe
PO Box MP 167
Mount Pleasant
Harare, Zimbabwe
tel: +263-4-303 211
fax: +263-4-333 407

Ms Kathy Verbeck
Department of Soil Science
tel:+263-4-303 211 x1412

Soil science

Dr Barnibus Chipindu
Department of Physics
tel: +263-4-303211 x1926

Meteorology and air pollution

Mr Dan Semayo
Institute for
Environmental Studies

Data structures

WWF Southern Africa Regional
Programme office,
(10 Lanark Rd (Cnr 2nd St.)
PO Box 745
Harare, Zimbabwe
tel: +263-4- 730 599

Dr David Cumming


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