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

The Crop Production Sub-Sector: Crop production in Zimbabwe has been a technical pursuit involving government, the private sector, development partners and farmers. The leading commercial crops are tobacco, cotton, soya bean, maize and horticultural crops. Maize, a cereal produced by 85% of rural farmers with an average national yield of 1.39 metric tons per hectare, is also the country's staple crop and accounts for a substantial proportion of the arable land cropped and inputs applied. However, while over 75% of the country’s districts claim cereal sufficiency, only 29% of rural households and 58% of urban households are food secure. The country is prone to recurrent droughts and flooding largely as a result of climate change and variations in weather and rainfall patterns. Zimbabwe has the potential to irrigate 366,000 ha, of which the equipped area is 181,000 ha, while the equipped area that is actually irrigated is only 124,000 ha. The crop sub-sector also continues to face a myriad of challenges relating to low production and productivity, limited investment in irrigation infrastructure, the limited number of, and access to existing input and output markets, including limited access to finance, among others.

The Livestock Production Sub-Sector: Livestock play an important role in local farming systems, as they offer opportunities for risk coping, farm diversification and intensification, and provide significant livelihood benefits. The key livestock species in the country are cattle, goats and poultry. The national beef cattle numbers increased from 5,443,770 cattle in 2019 to 5,478,648 during 2020. The average national calving rate is 39%, the cattle offtake rate is 6% while the mortality rate is 9%. Milk production is currently 67 million litres annually from a herd size of 14,000 milking cows, which falls well below the 120 million litres demanded annually. Smallholder cattle production systems are characterized by subsistence, extensive and production systems with a slow rate of commercialization. The Goat Breeders' Association of Zimbabwe estimates that there are between 3 and 4 million goats in Zimbabwe . Overall day old chick production decreased by 2.5% from 73.4 million in 2019 to 71.4 million in 2020 . Livestock production systems are constrained by climate change, prolonged dry seasons, poor nutrition and inadequate dry season feed, high stockfeed prices, transboundary pests and diseases, erratic dipping schedules, high livestock mortalities, and lack of market access.

The Forestry Sub-Sector: Forests, woodlands, bushlands and wooded grasslands cover about 55 percent of Zimbabwe’s land area and are made up of indigenous forests and plantations of exotic commercial species. Zimbabwe is dominated by the dry Miombo woodland, which covers in excess of 17 million hectares . The country also has a well-developed plantation forest resource base covering some 155,353 hectares (about 0.4 percent of the country's total land area) . Some 71 percent of the planted area is under softwoods (pines), 13 percent under hardwoods (eucalyptus) and 16 percent under wattle. The forestry sector contributes about 3% to the GDP and employs about 14,600 people, largely from exotic plantations and commercial indigenous timber . Existing opportunities include enhancing benefits from insatiable demand for commercial indigenous hardwoods, the commercialisation of Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs), support for crop and livestock production, and protecting forests as a habitat for wildlife which is the basis of tourism. It is also critical to sustainably manage forests, diversify livelihoods sources and build communities’ capacity to withstand shocks in times of crises.

The Fisheries and Aquaculture Sub-Sectors: Zimbabwe’s fishery subsector comprises capture fishery, aquaculture and recreational fishery components. The country has relatively developed aquaculture and is retained to be one of the top-ten fish farming countries in Sub-Saharan Africa for a decade. According to the World Bank, capture fisheries production in 2018 was estimated to be about 115,297 metric tonnes per year . Two species contribute over 84 percent of the fish production viz: (i) Kapenta, and (ii) the Nile tilapia. Trout is also produced in the Eastern Highlands for the urban markets and for recreational fishing. Other commercial fish stocks exploited by fishers in Zimbabwe are in the Chivero, Manyame, Mutirikwi and Mazvikadei reservoirs. While recent statistics are not available, obtainable data shows that per capita fish consumption is very low, amounting to about 2.2 kg in 2010 . In 2014, imports of fish and fishery products were valued at USD 27.9 million, showing great potential for import substitution through enhancing local production e.g. by supporting the government’s recent efforts of making fisheries a key sub-sector. Critical issues within the sub-sector include the lack of an integrated policy for developing and managing fisheries and aquaculture sub-sectors; and a lack of statistics which makes it difficult for management, reporting production statistics and the sector’s contribution to the economy.

Food and Nutrition Status: The country experienced an increase in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) score from 28.8 in 2016 to 34.4 in 2019 attributable mainly to drought . Over 4.3 million people in rural areas were severely food insecure, while 2.2 million in urban areas were cereal food insecure and in precarious life circumstances in 2020 . Food insecurity in some peri-urban areas is comparatively higher than that of some rural areas given the relatively higher population densities and lack of access to agricultural land . Over 1.1 million children and women required nutrition assistance in 2020 with an estimated 95,000 children acutely malnourished in the same year. The country faces the triple burden of malnutrition, including undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies, overweight and obesity. Stunting and micronutrient deficiencies including vitamin A, zinc and iron constitute major public health problems in Zimbabwe. Nationally, stunting affected one in almost every 4 children, with Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) rates in 2020 being 4.5%, an increase from 3.6% in 2019 . Micronutrient deficiencies such as anaemia (32%), vitamin A deficiency (21%) and iodine deficiency disorders (16%) affect mostly infant and young children as well as women of reproductive age. Limited diversification of production, maize dominated consumption patterns and lack of disposable income among the rural and urban poor have exacerbated malnutrition in the country. The country has, however, recently benefitted from strategic cooperation and partnerships with several bilateral and multilateral agricultural development programmes, including, inter alia, the Zimbabwe Agricultural Growth Programme (ZAGP), the Zimbabwe Livelihoods and Food Security Programme (LFSP), the Feed the Future Zimbabwe (FTFZ) activity, the Smallholder Irrigation Programme (SIP) and the Zimbabwe Resilience Building Fund (ZRBF). These efforts have gone a long way in improving food and nutrition security, resilience and productivity in the target communities.