Sustainable Forest Management Impact Program on Dryland Sustainable Landscapes

News from the field: Zimbabwe

Field visit to Runde and Save Landscapes advance more impactful community seed banks and action against invasive specifies to enhance agricultural productivity

In Zimbabwe, implementation of the Dryland Sustainable Landscapes Impact Program (DSL-IP) is under way aiming to halt and reverse negative trends of land and forest degradation, while enhancing climate resilience of degraded areas of Miombo and Mopane woodlands. Focusing on the Save and Runde basins, the DSL-IP applies holistic and integrated land and forest management approaches in support of achieving land degradation neutrality. 

DSL-IP’s efforts promoted to date have included a focus on community seed banks and eradication of the lantana camara, an invasive species representing a major cause of degradation in communal land and forests, and affecting approximately 3 044 ha across targeted districts.

A recent field visit took place in Runde and Save landscapes to monitor, assess, and review progress achieved, and come up with recommendations for project activities in Chimanimani, Chipinge, Zaka, Masvingo and Shurugwi. 

The field visit gathered together colleagues from the FAO office in Zimbabwe, members from the DSL-IP Zimbabwe project management unit, Government authorities from the Agricultural and Rural Development Advisory Services, Rural District Councils, Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority, Women Affairs, traditional and community leaders and communities and partners, including the Environmental Management Agency, the Community Technology Development Trust (CTDT), the Forestry Commission,  and ‘’Zama Zama Garden’’ – a forest and farm producers organization based in Shurugwi. 

Through observations, meetings and interviews with project stakeholders, the field visit evaluated the use and impact of community seed banks, in view of the upcoming agricultural season, and appraised the use and impact of project assets. At the same time, it was possible to track the spread of lantana camara, which particularly affects Zaka, Masvingo, Chipinge, Buhera, Shurugwi and Chivi. 

Promoting community seed banks to advance land degradation neutrality 

As part of the DSL-IP implementation in Zimbabwe and with the support of the Community Technology Development Trust (CTDT), two community seedbanks are being established in Masvingo (Ward 22) and Zaka (Ward 17). Progress includes already set-up fencing, solarized boreholes and nurseries (for indigenous tree species), and 200m2 nursery shades. Moreover, at the Masvingo Ward 22, seedling production has commenced with 340 pockets of julbernadia globiflora (mutondo), 240 of afzelia quansensis (mukamba), 200 of carica papaya (pawpaw) and eight pockets of avocado established. In addition, seed scoping for nursery seed is also underway with 40 kg of miombo woodland seeds of julbernadia globiflora and Bracystegia speciformis (mutondo, musasa) already harvested. 

Community seed banks members have also been trained on nursery establishment, and tree nursery management.
Community seed banks are a key ally to achieve land degradation neutrality serving as a center of excellence on: (i) production of Neglected and Underutilized Species (NUS), Farmer Field Schools (FFS) and roll-out of Agro-Pastoral Field Schools (APFS); (iii) production, conservation, preservation, and access to climate resilient seeds; (iv) nurseries; and (v) appropriate harvesting equipment, local processing equipment and facilities. 

Located in the land degradation hotspots, community seed banks are thus designed to enable members and beneficiaries to tackle several, inter-related challenges, including: 

  • wetland restoration;
  • gulley reclamation;
  • woodlot management; and
  • sustainable land management.

Promoting community seed banks as nuclei will help develop and trial inclusive FFS and APFS models for the dissemination of integrated agro-silvo-pastoral practices. In addition, they will help in the provision of locally adapted seed as well as prototype harvesting equipment, local processing equipment and facilities. These have also been adapted to include nurseries, and are thus expected to help improve production of local tree. 

Tackling invasive species with tangible results

Invasive species represent a major cause of degradation in communal land and forests. Lantana camara is of major concern, and thanks to mitigation and control measures, 0.1 ha of infested areas have been cleared in Ward 22 of Masvingo district around the community seed banks, while in additional five villages a total of 3 ha in Ward 17 of Zaka district have been cleared. These areas are now accessible by people, and have been targeted for interventions such as natural regeneration during the forthcoming rain season. 

Working with Forest and Farm Producer Organizations for impact at scale

As part of DSL-IP activities, a strong emphasis is placed on enhancing capacity of Forest and Farm Producer Organizations (FFPOs) for sustainable land and forest management, supporting market access, and developing business plans, as well as forming community seed bank networks, thus increasing their resilience and improving their livelihoods.

In this context, the Zimbabwe Forestry Commission is working with ‘’Zama Zama Garden’’, a fledgling FFPO with 18 members (12 female and six male) focusing on a nutritional garden. Results achieved to date have included the production of 1 200 tree seedlings (mostly acacia and fruit trees), and successful use of seedballs for sustainable forest management. 

Leonard Rugwerera, Community Seed Bank Chairperson, Zaka Ward 1 was quick to praise the vital role of community seed banks in helping farmers: “The community seed bank has been a real marvel for me and the rest of the community. Seeing a nursery consisting of indigenous tree species is certainly a first for us. With this new revelation, we will certainly replenish our forests through planting our very own indigenous trees.”

Samson Binton, District Economist, District Development Coordinator's Office, Chimanimani commended the timely intervention of the DSL-IP project in Zimbabwe and its alignment to Zimbabwe national priorities: ‘’The DSL-IP has come at an opportune time, during the implementation of the National Development Strategy. Coordinating its development in the Chimanimani district, I have noticed that the project is aligned to the Environmental Protection, Climate Resilience and Natural Resource Management thematic area of the Strategy.”

The way forward

Going forward, the project will continue investing in strengthening community seed banks as platforms for inclusive community-based rural development. Construction of community seed banks structures will start shortly, while FFSs and APFSs will be established, with a view to serving as launch pads for: (i) promotion of climate resilient crops; (ii) introduction of new traditional grains with unique characteristics; (iii) participatory variety selection; and (iv) seed multiplication. 

The project will deepen its work with the ‘’Zama Zama’’ Forestry group in Shurugwi, including through arranging training on group dynamics, and upscaling work with seedballs. 

Watch the photo album from the visit!

Suggested reading: In Zimbabwe, FAO promotes Bee Farmer Field Schools to provide rural youth with new skills & green job opportunities to address climate change & biodiversity loss. Read more


Credits / Author: Federica Matteucci with the support of the Global Coordination Project and the Zimbabwe Child Project Team