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Poverty in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe was once a rising economy in Africa, with its mining and agricultural industries propelling the country forward. However, Zimbabweans now struggle with war, internal corruption, hyperinflation and industrial mismanagement. A closer look at the country provides insight into the context of poverty in Zimbabwe.

8 Facts About Poverty in Zimbabwe

  1. Poverty affects 76.3% of Zimbabwean children living in rural areas as of 2020.
  2. Roughly 74% of the population lives on less than  $5.50 a day and the average wage per month is $253.
  3. Half of Zimbabwe’s 13.5 million people live below the food poverty line and about 3.5 million children are chronically hungry.
  4. Approximately 1.3 million Zimbabweans were living with HIV as of 2016. However, the number of HIV cases has been declining since 1997 because of improvements in prevention, treatment and support services.
  5. About 60% of rural Zimbabwean women face period poverty, meaning they lack access to menstrual supplies or education. Girls who experience period poverty miss an estimated 20% of their school life.
  6. Due to famine and the HIV/AIDS crisis, the average life expectancy for a Zimbabwean was only 61 years as of 2018. However, life expectancy has steadily risen since 2002 when it was only 44 years.
  7. In 2019, two million Zimbabweans had no access to safe drinking water due to the impacts of drought.
  8. The government allocates a significant portion of the national budget toward education. As a result, Zimbabwe’s adult literacy rate is 89%, one of the highest in Africa.

Why Poverty is Rampant in Zimbabwe

Since Zimbabwe gained its independence in 1980, its economy has primarily depended on its mining and agricultural industries. Zimbabwe’s mining industry has immense potential as the country is home to the Great Dyke, the second-largest platinum deposit globally. Additionally, Zimbabwe has more than 4,000 gold deposits.

However, the country’s mining sector is inefficient — its gold output dropped 30% in the first quarter of 2021. While illegal gold mining hurts the industry, Zimbabwe’s lax mining licensing laws also allow foreign companies to mine minerals at cheap costs for years on end, leading to a lack of incentive to accelerate mineral production.

Furthermore, the Zimbabwean government’s decision to support the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the Second Congo War drained its bank reserves, alienated its allies and caused the U.S. and the EU to impose sanctions. Subsequently, Zimbabwe’s economy collapsed. As a result, the government began printing more money, leading to widespread hyperinflation of the Zimbabwean dollar.

NGOs Combating Poverty in Zimbabwe

The situation in Zimbabwe is improving. In 2021, Zimbabwe’s GDP could potentially grow by nearly 3% thanks to increased agricultural production, increased energy production and the resumption of manufacturing and construction activities. Unemployment rates will likely continue to decrease. The rebound is primarily due to increased vaccination efforts, with China providing two million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to the country.

In addition, multiple NGOs are fighting poverty in Zimbabwe. For example, Talia’s Women’s Network seeks to end period poverty in the country’s rural areas by helping 250 girls gain access to menstrual products. The project also seeks to provide the girls both with an understanding of the menstrual process and with access to support structures to combat early childhood marriage, gender-based violence and unwanted pregnancies.

Another organization, Action Change, supplies lunch to 400 primary students in Zimbabwe. It also works to break the cycle of poverty by providing resources for education. Zimbabwe spends 93% of the estimated $905 million it allocates toward education on employment costs, leaving only about 7% of the budget for classroom resources. Action Change provides schools with resources such as textbooks.

American Foundation for Children with AIDS helps 3,000 children and guardians who have AIDS by providing them with livestock and food self-sufficiency training. Meanwhile, the organization also provides resources and training to fight food insecurity and ensure that children eat well.

Stimulating the Agriculture Industry

The key to reducing poverty in Zimbabwe is stimulating the country’s agricultural industry. Nearly 66% of Zimbabweans rely on their small farms for survival. However, great inequality in water access exists between the country’s many small farms and few large commercial farms. Equality in water access would increase productivity and income for small farmers. A revitalization of the agricultural sector would spur economic growth and alleviate poverty in Zimbabwe.

Although the country still has barriers to conquer to truly eradicate poverty, it also has immense potential to become an African superpower.

Matthew Port Louis
Photo: Flickr

Gogo OliveSeventy-two percent of Zimbabweans live under the national poverty line, making it the 22nd poorest country in the world. Gogo Olive is a charity whose focus is to mitigate some of the problems faced by Zimbabweans, specifically women. Here is how one charity is changing the lives of Zimbabwean women.

The Problem: Difficulty Making a Living

One hardship faced by many women is HIV/AIDS, a disease that affected 1.3 million Zimbabweans in 2016. This results in many widowed parents who have to provide for their families by themselves. Providing for their households, however, is a difficult task when job opportunities are so limited. The unemployment rate in Zimbabwe is currently at 11.3 percent, and increases when excluding the large numbers of subsistence farmers and those working in the informal economy. This, however, is not the main problem for Zimbabweans.

The real problem, according to the International Labour Organization, is the poor quality of employment, characterized by low wages, no sick leave for employees and poor working conditions. In this way, the great need in Zimbabwe is decent jobs. Gogo Olive has met this need by employing women to knit goods, primarily in the form of knitted animals.

The Solution: Gogo Olive

Gogo Olive was founded by Julie Hagan as a way to create jobs for six women through knitting. Since its inception in 2008, the charity has grown to include about 80 knitters who produce hundreds of these knitted animals each month. According to the website, “Knitting was chosen as it only requires basic materials and can be done anywhere and at anytime, which suits the lifestyle of a Zimbabwean woman.”

The charity operates on two levels. Gogo Olive Knits creates jobs and generates income for women by selling their knitted products. Gogo Olive Cares focuses on meeting the other needs of the women. This includes establishing savings plans, running educational workshops, distributing care packages, and setting up an emergency fund to help with health costs and school fees. This is how one charity is changing the lives of Zimbabwean women: they not only provide an income, they also include additional benefits that have no doubt helped the poor greatly.

Gogo Olive Knits presents a flexible way to earn income. The knitters are paid monthly for each product they produce. According to Ruth Hagan, they can earn up to $250 monthly.

An additional benefit of working for Gogo Olive is the educational workshops. The majority of the knitters have had little education, a problem which keeps them in the poverty trap. Some of the topics covered are budgeting, HIV/AIDS awareness, healthcare, single parenting and farming techniques.

Beyond Income: Gogo Olive Cares

Gogo Olive Cares also provides an emergency fund for people in special circumstances. This includes school fees for their children and medical fees for medication or treatment that the women would otherwise be unable to afford. Ruth Hagan shared a story about one of the knitters who received a payment from the emergency fund. “In January, one of our knitters accessed the fund which allowed her to have a hip replacement following living in considerable pain for a number of years.” The knitter, Florence, is now back at work and able to walk with a crutch.

The benefits extend far beyond simply meeting physical needs. Ruth explains, “We love that we are able to teach a skill and offer employment to many ladies. Not only does this allow them to make enough money to feed their children and pay for school fees but it also gives them each a sense of value and worth as they have meaningful occupation.”

Ruth Hagan said of the experience, “It is great to be a part of positively impacting lives of so many in Zimbabwe.” Seeing how one charity is changing the lives of Zimbabwean women goes to show that any good deed, big or small, can have an immense impact.

– Olivia Booth
Photo: Flickr

Banana farming in Zimbabwe
Banana farming in Zimbabwe has evolved from a subsistence crop to a commercial enterprise, transforming rural communities in the eastern part of the country.

In 2010, USAID funded the Zimbabwe Agricultural Income and Employment Development (Zim-AIED) program that worked with banana farmers in the Honde Valley in eastern Zimbabwe to improve agricultural practices, access to markets and the production of high-quality bananas.

The Food and Agriculture Organization also implemented the Mupangwa irrigation scheme in the Honde Valley to help farmers improve banana cultivation and link them to markets and other farmers in the region.

Prior to USAID intervention, banana farming in Zimbabwe was a low-income enterprise. Farmers earned less than $200 per year due to a lack of formal markets and very low harvest yields. Bananas were only grown on a small scale and sold on the roadside to middlemen that took advantage of these small-scale farmers by paying low prices only to sell them for much higher prices.

Where monthly yields used to be only 30 to 50 kilograms of bananas, individuals are now able to produce over 1,000 kilograms per month. The region has gone from producing 2,000 tons in 2011 to more than 27,000 tons in 2017, contributing more than $7.5 million to the rural economy each year.

Banana farming in Zimbabwe has been wildly successful because the trees are easy to manage. Banana trees require a humid tropical climate, good drainage and fertile soil. The Honde Valley in eastern Zimbabwe ticks all of these boxes and thus is perfect for banana farming.

By 2015, about 600 banana farmers had received technical assistance in agricultural techniques. They were able to transform their farming practices to increase their production and incomes drastically. Those farmers then passed on their knowledge to neighbors and others in their community. Now, the Honde Valley is home to more than 5,000 commercial banana farmers, each earning an average of about $4,200 per acre per year.

Banana farming in Zimbabwe has opened many other doors for rural farmers and their families. Access to credit and bank loans has increased dramatically, school enrollment has increased and local small and medium-sized businesses have sprung up in the region. Young people that had left the country in search of employment have returned to eastern Zimbabwe to take up small-scale banana farming. Half of the African population is under 25 years old, so providing decent employment opportunities is vital for the young labor force.

Commercial banana farming in Zimbabwe has also empowered women. Women constitute approximately 60 percent of banana farmers in the Honde Valley. Many of the newfound banana farmers are widows trying to make ends meet to support their families. Other women help supplement their husbands’ incomes with the profits from banana farming.

Banana farming in Zimbabwe has helped pull rural communities out of poverty, improve nutrition and food security, increase incomes and empower individuals throughout the Honde Valley.

– Sydney Lacey

Photo: Flickr

poverty in ZimbabweAfter 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.

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 by 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

Poverty in ZimbabweThe Republic of Zimbabwe, a landlocked nation in southern Africa, was once known as one of the best in health and education on the continent.

However, between 1990 and 2003 the political and economic climate began to decline, causing the rates of poverty in Zimbabwe to more than double from 25 percent to 63 percent.

While urban areas of Zimbabwe face the threat of unemployment, it is rural Zimbabweans that feel the presence of poverty and food scarcity the most acutely. More specifically it is Zimbabwe’s rural farmers that need reinforcement to start back on the path towards development.

In some areas rates of poverty in Zimbabwe have grown to exceed 90 percent. These include Lupane, Gokwe South and Mudzi. The cause of this can be traced back to the many problems plaguing the agricultural industry.

Food shortages are an on-going threat for both rural and urban populations. Even those with access to food are not always able to afford it; around 96 percent of those living in rural farming areas are forced to get by on less than one dollar per day.

Agriculture in Zimbabwe is most easily explained by dividing it into the two main subsets of large-scale production and smaller local farms. Large-scale farms produce many cash crops such as tobacco and grain, which at one point were being harvested in enough excess to export around the world. The more scattered, rural farms grow mostly maize, as it is an important crop to feed people in towns and villages across the country.

Government sanctioned land reform jeopardized the employment of more than 400,000 people in these rural farming areas, affecting the economy by preventing new investment and in turn discouraging budding enterprises from flourishing.

Scorching temperatures in an area already prone to drought has made a difficult situation even more of a challenge for the farmers of Zimbabwe.

With such an amalgam of obstacles for rural farmers, it is estimated that almost 20 percent of the population has fled the country since the 1990s. Many others are afflicted with HIV/AIDs and unable to work, further contributing to the slowed production of food.

UNICEF estimates that one-third of Zimbabwe’s children suffer from malnutrition as a direct result of these issues. Many organizations and relief groups have come together to impact the lives of Zimbabweans. Most notably, the United Nations and World Food Program were at one point feeding over half of the country.

While the risk of recessing further is always a possibility, aid such as this provides Zimbabweans the opportunity to put effort into other aspects of life besides basic survival.

A group called TechnoServe put together Agro Initiative Zimbabwe in 2011 with funding from the Department of International Development. This initiative provides innovative solutions for the agricultural industry impacting 40 businesses and 54,000 smallholder farms.

This program and efforts like it have the potential to get Zimbabwe on a brighter path so long as it receives the necessary support. Donations and volunteers matter at all levels, from home and overseas in order to keep lawmakers and leaders focused on what is important.

The cycle of poverty in Zimbabwe can be reversed and Zimbabwe has many great organizations on its side as well as hardworking and passionate citizens striving to do what they can for the good of their nation. Sustainable Development Goals (or SDGs) and many other strategic programs are hard at work to make Zimbabwe and the rest of the world a better place.

Aaron Walsh

Photo: Flickr