FAO in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe at a glance

Zimbabwe is a landlocked southern African country with a total land area of over 39 million hectares, with 33.3 million hectares used for agricultural purposes. The remaining 6 million hectares have been reserved for national parks and wildlife, and for urban settlements. The country comprises of four physio-geographic regions, which are the Eastern Highlands, the Highveld, the Middle veld and the Low veld. Zimbabwe borders with Botswana, the Republic of South Africa, Mozambique, and Zambia. It has a population of 12.084.304 inhabitants, of which 41.9% are below the age of 15 years.

Sectors relevant to FAO

Agriculture. Agriculture is the backbone of Zimbabwe’s economy as Zimbabweans remain largely a rural people who derive their livelihood from agriculture and other related rural economic activities. Agricultural activities provide employment and income for 60-70 percent of the population, supplies 60 percent of the raw materials required by the industrial sector and contributes 40 percent of total export earnings. Agriculture contributes approximately 17 percent to Zimbabwe’s GDP. As the main source of livelihood for the majority of the population, the performance of agriculture is a key determinant of rural livelihood resilience and poverty levels. General challenges facing smallholder farmers (SHF’s) include low and erratic rainfall, low and declining soil fertility, low investment, shortages of farm power - labour and draft animals, poor physical and institutional infrastructure, poverty and recurring food insecurity. Agricultural production is also vulnerable to periodic droughts. The peasant sector, which produces 70 per cent of staple foods (maize, millets, and groundnuts), is particularly vulnerable as it has access to less than 5 per cent of national irrigation facilities.

Nutrition. Chronic malnutrition and stunting remains a major challenge in Zimbabwe. The country has a double burden of malnutrition, where less than 10 percent of children aged 6–24 months consume the minimal acceptable diet, while 6 percent of children under the age of five are over-weight (ZDHS, 2010-11). Children living in rural areas are more likely to be stunted and underweight than those in urban areas due to a combination of reduced food availability caused by poor agricultural performance, lower access to food due to high levels of poverty and poor food utilization due to lack of knowledge on how to use the available food.

Animal Production Livestock and livestock products contribute significantly to the economy of Zimbabwe, with cattle accounting for 35-38 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contributed by the Agricultural Sector. It is estimated that up to 60 percent of rural households own cattle, 70-90 percent own goats, while over 80 percent own chickens. The importance of livestock in rural livelihoods and food security lies in the provision of meat, milk, eggs, hides & skins, draught power, and manure. They also act as strategic household investment. Small ruminants (sheep and goats) and non-ruminants, particularly poultry, are an important safety net in the event of a drought – they are easily disposable for cash when need arises or during drought crisis. Zimbabwe’s smallholder system has the potential to grow and become the mainstream of the livestock sector’s performance indicator.

Forestry.;Forests cover 40 percent of Zimbabwe’s total land area accounting for 15,624,000 Ha. FAO reports on the State of the Forests of the World show that Zimbabwe has had a steady deforestation rate in the last twenty years. This rate averages 327,000 ha lost annually since 1990 or more that 6 million ha of forests lost in the last 2 decades. For the rate of deforestation, Zimbabwe ranks 3rd among African countries after Sudan and Nigeria.