Reducing Poverty in ZimbabweReducing poverty in Zimbabwe involves understanding the effects of a poor economy and extreme weather events. Based on data from 2019, the UNDP reported in 2023 that an estimated 25.8% of people in Zimbabwe suffer from multidimensional poverty (multi-faceted poverty that goes beyond monetary means). In addition, 26.3% are at risk of falling into multidimensional poverty. Amid severe weather patterns, the nation requires sustainable solutions to help vulnerable and impoverished farming communities establish resilience and protect their livelihoods. Fortunately, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is working with communities in Zimbabwe to help them rise out of poverty by centering its efforts around several main focus areas. In particular, ADRA’s environmental efforts provide a lifeline to communities in Zimbabwe facing severe impacts of extreme weather events.

High Unemployment

Environmental changes in Zimbabwe present themselves through droughts, heatwaves and floods and disrupt ecosystems and the food supply chain. This aggravates rural farmers’ income streams and Zimbabwe’s overall economic development. Cities and towns across the country experience heavy monetization due to hyperinflation. This makes basic urban commodities like electricity, food and water too expensive for impoverished people to afford.

Food Insecurity

Environmental changes have also increased food poverty in Zimbabwe. With agriculture serving as the primary source of income for the nation, “low agricultural output” and a growing number of “urban food shortages” have detrimental impacts on urban and rural dwellers.

A more comprehensive picture provided by the World Food Programme illustrates that about 3.8 million people in rural areas and 1.5 million people in the urban population face food insecurity in the nation. This is due to climate challenges and an unstable economy. These environmental changes reduce the primary materials needed to process food in the markets. With the unstable economy, food prices fluctuate, making food security out of reach for impoverished Zimbabwean households.

ADRA’s Environmental Measures

The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), a global humanitarian organization that delivers relief and development assistance for sustainable change, is implementing environmental measures for reducing poverty in Zimbabwe. ADRA’s Zimbabwean office spoke to The Borgen Project, saying, “We have experienced climate-induced droughts, El Niño, climate-induced floods, mudslides and cyclones. Farmers are experiencing changing season cycles, animal deaths, etc.”

ADRA celebrated its 40-year anniversary by implementing the #plantafruittree project. This project involves planting 40,000 fruit trees across “schools, farms, homesteads, and institutions” in Zimbabwe from August to December 2023. It aims to reduce extreme weather impacts and raise community health. “As we commemorate ADRA’s 40 years of disaster response, humanitarian relief and development assistance, we are committed to promoting initiatives such as tree plantings that not only can help improve natural air quality, decrease erosion and remove pollution but also generate wellness benefits for residents in all communities,” says ADRA President Michael Kruger on the ADRA website. In August, ADRA planted the first 1,000 trees to commemorate the project.

ADRA’s poverty-alleviating reforestation strategy supports Sustainable Development Goal 13 (Climate Action), purifying the air and establishing resilient ecosystems that can minimize the adverse impacts of extreme weather patterns. It can also provide time for governments to plan out disaster response strategies and improve human health in Zimbabwe.

Looking Ahead

The citizens of Zimbabwe struggle to make ends meet under an impoverished economy, an unstable government and drastic environmental changes. Non-governmental organizations like ADRA wholeheartedly deliver environmental relief to this vulnerable population to practically overcome the issue of reducing poverty in Zimbabwe.

– Amy Contreras
Photo: Unsplash

Causes of Poverty in ZimbabweOnce on its way to becoming a middle-income nation, Zimbabwe’s society and economy has experienced great deterioration since 1997. Approximately 72 percent of the country’s population now lives in chronic poverty, and 84 percent of Zimbabwe’s poor live in rural areas.

When looking at the causes of poverty in Zimbabwe, it is necessary to take the effects of the 2008 financial crisis into account. As a result of the crisis, Zimbabwe saw its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) decline by 17 percent. By comparison, the GDP growth rate for other African countries was five percent.

Although Zimbabwe made great progress to recover from the 2008 crisis, its GDP growth rate is declining since 2013. According to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), this decline is the result of stalling investments and adverse climate conditions that hurt the agricultural sector. Nearly 60 percent of Zimbabwe’s workforce is employed in the agricultural sector.

Drought and Poverty in Zimbabwe

As a result of the 2015-2016 drought that affected most of southern Africa, the rural poor have become more vulnerable to the loss of both their food security and their livelihoods. A 2016 study by the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC) shows that approximately 4.1 million Zimbabweans, nearly a quarter of the population, face food and nutrition insecurity due to the drought.

ZimVAC is a consortium of the Zimbabwean government, agencies of the United Nations, NGOs and other international organizations. Formed in 2002 to assess the issues facing Zimbabwe’s poor, it is overseen by the Food and Nutrition Council of Zimbabwe which works to find multi-sector solutions to the country’s food insecurity.

Some of the groups heavily impacted by food insecurity are children and pregnant or lactating women. Zimbabwe has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the region as well as one of the highest rates of HIV globally, at approximately 15 percent as of 2014. Women and children living in food insecure homes are HIV prone and either already or in danger of becoming malnourished.

Children under the age of two that do not benefit from optimal breastfeeding are more likely to contract diarrhea or pneumonia. They may also not develop to their full potential. Acutely malnourished children under the age of five are more likely to contract diseases that require intensive care.

Drought and reduced rainfall also negatively affected the quality and availability of water. Almost half of households lack sufficient water for their livestock. Eighty-one percent reported having insufficient water for their crops. Zimbabwe’s average rainfall is projected to drop by 10 percent by the end of the century. IFAD asserts that the rehabilitation and maintenance of irrigation systems must be of the utmost importance to stabilize agricultural production. Improving irrigation systems would minimize crop failure, raise household incomes and increase food security for rural smallholder farmers.

To understand the causes of poverty in Zimbabwe, the poor performance of the country’s manufacturing industry must also be explored. Manufacturing surveys estimate that industrial capacity utilization decreased from 57 percent in 2011 to 36.3 percent in 2014. This is mainly because of an erratic power supply, a lack of capital, higher input costs, antiquated machinery and deficiencies in infrastructure.

IFAD believes that by prioritizing climate-smart, efficient agricultural production and investment in infrastructure and industrial capacity building, the causes of poverty in Zimbabwe will be diminished.

Amanda Lauren Quinn

Photo: Flickr