Country Profiles

Zimbabwe - Country Profile

Biodiversity Facts

Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Zimbabwe presents a rich diversity of life forms. At species level, the country supports an estimated 4,440 vascular plant species, 214 of which are endemic, 672 bird species, 450 of which breed in Zimbabwe, though none are strictly endemic, 196 mammal species, 156 reptile species, 57 species of amphibians, 132 fish species. Exotic or introduced plant species number approximately 1,500. In terms of vegetation, Zimbabwe is well endowed with forests and woodlands covering 53% of the land area. A further 13% is covered by bushlands, while 0.3% of the area is under commercial plantations. Over a quarter of the woodland area is found on state lands, namely, national parks, wildlife reserves and forest reserves. Although some species, such as insects and microorganisms, have not yet been adequately documented, a general decline in biodiversity has been observed in recent years. The IUCN Red Data List reports numerous endangered and vulnerable mammal species across the country, among which are the black rhinoceros, brown hyena, white rhinoceros, hippopotamus, lion and the African elephant. Fish species diversity and population in some of the major water bodies of the country are on the decline, as a result of over‐fishing, water pollution, drying of water bodies and the introduction of invasive alien species. Whilst there is no study undertaken to determine the trends in diversity on plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, the introduction of hybrid seed on crops like maize has significantly reduced the levels of species diversity on the crop.

Of major economic importance to aquatic biodiversity conservation are fish genetic resources, the crocodile and the hippopotamus and, to a lesser extent, reptiles and ducks. Crocodile farming has now notably become an important economic activity in two ecozones, the Zambezi Valley next to the Kariba dam and the Lowveld. Wild mushrooms such as Cantharellus cibarius, C. pseudocibarius, Amanita zambiana and Termitomyces spp. substantially contribute to household food security when in season. Poverty is exacerbated by the degradation of biodiversity in agriculture, forestry, and fisheries which are often a basis of livelihoods for people in developing countries. For example, the conservation of exotic forests biodiversity in Zimbabwe provides genes for infusion in the breeding populations and has a direct impact on human health, with plants with medicinal value amounting to over 500 species across the country.

Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Excessive harvesting for both domestic and commercial uses, as well as conversion of forest areas to agricultural land, pose the threat of deforestation in forest reserves. The proportion of total land area covered by forest has been falling significantly (at a rate of 330,000 hectares per year). Woodland cover declined from 53% in 1992 to 42.34% in 2008, while crop‐cultivated land expanded from 27.48% in 1992 to 41.24% in 2008. This results in habitat destruction, threatening numbers of highly important species, such as medicinal plants. The frequent occurrence of wildfires, human encroachment, fragmentation of ecosystems, logging and mining also pose threats to ecosystems in the wildlife estate, notably to aquatic life, terrestrial biodiversity and productivity of both livestock and crops. Invasive alien species, such as water hyacinth, are one of the greatest drivers of biodiversity loss. Their development is notably driven by the pollution of water as a result of frequent sewer bursts in urban centers and untreated effluent from industries and mining (such as organ chlorine pesticides). Invasive alien species exacerbate poverty and threaten sustainable development through their impact on agriculture, forestry, fisheries, human health and on wild biodiversity, which is often a basis of livelihoods of people in developing countries. With regard to agriculture biodiversity, the biggest threat is the introduction of genetically modified varieties, some of which can completely replace local varieties and landraces, whilst others can become super weeds as they outperform other crops in growth habits and resistance to chemical weed control.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

In 1998, the Government of Zimbabwe, in close consultation with key stakeholders, developed the country’s Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan. The plan aimed at meeting the needs pointed out in the context of the CBD, including the participation of local communities in biodiversity conservation and the development of research programs and awareness-raising among the various stakeholders. Although the further development and elaboration of the Action Plan has been impacted negatively by the economic challenges faced by the country since 2000, as well as by a lack of financial and institutional support, some substantial achievements have been reported.

A multi-stakeholder forum (“National Biodiversity Forum of Zimbabwe”) has been established to begin a review of the NBSAP. Groups will be selected within the Forum to work on five thematic areas (forest biodiversity, agro-biodiversity, protected areas, inland waters and wetlands, policy and legislation). Future plans include addressing resource mobilization issues and conducting national consultative workshops on the Ecosystems Approach, monitoring and evaluation. In regard to target-setting, sectors will develop their own targets which will be incorporated into the national targets.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

The country has identified areas of particular importance for biodiversity conservation, with over 832,662 hectares under gazetted forests and 5,403,500 hectares under national parks, safari conservancies and other protected areas. In 2010, UNESCO designated 44,000 km2 in the Zambezi Valley as a biosphere zone. The introduction of wildlife and forest-based land reform, reforestation, the implementation of the National Fire Strategy and integrated water resource management minimize the level of biodiversity loss. Efforts have notably been made to restore agro‐biodiversity on selected food crops (maize, sorghum, millet). Farmers’ landraces have been promoted through community seed banks and in situ collaboration (communities) and ex situ collaboration (national gene banks).

In this respect, the amendment of the seed laws that recognize the farmers’ right to conserve, save, and market local seed is a major achievement. Empowerment of local communities through the recognition of their rights has increased through the introduction of access and benefit-sharing regulations. Awareness-raising on the importance and contribution of biodiversity to the national economy has been promoted through various programmes (e.g. awareness-raising programs on wildlife management for policy-makers and legislators, Environmental Education Policy (2005), national schools debates on sustainable forest management issues). Appropriate research and extension approaches to biodiversity conservation and sustainable use have been developed. Notably, surveys have been carried out in regard to large mammals and vegetation and on inventories of medicinal plants. Research has been carried out on invasive species (e.g. Forest Invasive Insect Species Program) to establish the extent of infestation by Thaumastocoris peregrinus and Leptocybe invasa in the country. Progress has also been made in regard to clearing major water bodies of the water hyacinth, while drought-tolerant varieties have been introduced in drought-prone areas of the country.

Support mechanisms for national implementation (legislation, funding, capacity-building, coordination, mainstreaming, etc.)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

The legal framework supporting CBD implementation comprises various pieces of national legislation (e.g. National Environmental Policy, Environmental Management Act, Environmental Education Policy, various plans for the National Parks of Gonarezhou, Matopos and Hwange). Biodiversity conservation mainstreaming is assured at various levels, with some pieces of sectoral legislation being used as mainstreaming channels (e.g. Wildlife‐based Land Reform Policy, Access and Benefit Sharing Regulations, Forest based Land Reform Policy, Draft National Agricultural Policy, National Energy Policy). Gender mainstreaming is also being promoted in recognition of the key role played by women in relation to biodiversity, especially in rural areas. Several cross-sectoral projects have been developed (e.g. CAMPFIRE program under which rural people are granted the authority to manage their wildlife and natural resources for their own benefit). Finally, the Millennium Development Goals have served as a key platform for mainstreaming biodiversity into national strategies.

As for Multilateral Environmental Agreements, the UNCCD, CITES and UNFCCC have played a key role in enhancing biodiversity protection. Financial support was assured by CIRAD and the Global Environmental Facility, which supported community-based natural resource management projects and the Traditional Medicine Biodiversity Conservation and Utilization Project. UNDP, UNEP, UNCCD, CITES and UNCBD Secretariats also provided funding.

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Tools for monitoring and reviewing implementation include the establishment of biodiversity inventory and monitoring programs (World Biodiversity Database, Plant Collection Database, Environmental Impact Assessments to monitor development projects), and the Millennium Development Goals with their associated targets and indicators, two of which are relevant to biodiversity conservation. No indicators were especially established for monitoring progress towards the 2010 Global Biodiversity Target.