poverty in Zimbabwe

After 57 years of colonial rule, African guerilla forces wrested control of the territory that had been Southern Rhodesia since 1923. By 1980, Robert Mugabe was elected to the position of Prime Minister of Zimbabwe.

Following Zimbabwe’s independence, the economy, which was mainly supported by the agricultural industry, fell on tough times. In 2000, the government chose to instigate a policy of land redistribution from whites to native Africans. This reorganization placed the fate of the country’s economy in the hands of comparatively inexperienced farmers.

Cash crop production, once a huge contributor to the Gross Net Product, was nearly lost as a result of unyielding droughts. Additionally, those farmers who produced the dietary staple maize faced further difficulty in production, due to the government’s lack of support in areas such as water management.

To further demonstrate the severity of the country’s situation, look no further than the 72.3 percent of the population living in poverty in Zimbabwe.

Here are 10 facts to clarify the state of poverty in Zimbabwe:

  1. Since the early 1990s, roughly 20 percent of Zimbabweans have emigrated in search of greater economic prosperity elsewhere. This has left a large gap in the nation’s workforce and knowledge base.
  2. With the majority of males moving from rural agricultural towns to the cities, women are increasingly becoming single heads of household.  
  3. Poverty in Zimbabwe is mainly concentrated in the northern province of Matabeleland, and in the southeastern regions of Manicaland and Masvingo, where water is extremely scarce.
  4. As of 2015, 16 percent of Zimbabweans were food insecure, meaning they were unable to obtain nutritious and plentiful food for their families.
  5. Just 7.6 percent of farmers in Zimbabwe practice conservation agriculture, a method of soil management that ensures nutritious soil and increases crop production.
  6. Zimbabwe suffered from 12 years of sanctions imposed by the U.N. in opposition to President Mugabe’s continued rule after the disputed election of 2002. In 2015, the U.N. lifted those sanctions and offered the government $273 million in aid, which was intended for collaborative development projects.
  7. About 28 percent of children in Zimbabwe are stunted from a lack of adequate nutrition in their diets.
  8. Zimbabwe’s Gross Domestic Product has been declining since the 2008 financial crisis. In the years immediately following the crisis, it fell by 17 percent.
  9. 86 percent of households in which the woman is widowed are impoverished.
  10. 57 percent of women living in rural areas use contraceptives. The maternal mortality rate is 960 out of 100,000 births, with a dramatic increase in rural areas.

The question now is whether or not Zimbabwe will be able to improve its situation in the coming years. Unfortunately, with the economic growth rate dropping to just 0.5 percent between 2015 and 2016, there may be a need for an increase in external development aid if there is any hope of reversing the effects of poverty in Zimbabwe.

-Katarina Schrag

Photo: Flickr