Climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies in the Zimbabwe wildlife sector
Climate change is a major threat to wildlife and to rural livelihoods in terrestrial semi-arid savanna ecosystems. This study highlights the gaps in integration of the green economy in Zimbabwe’s wildlife sector and advocates for East and Southern African countries to align their wildlife policies and legislation with current National Biodiversity Strategy Plans to enhance adaptation and mitigation strategies for climate change in wildlife management.
The abundance and distribution of natural resources is directly impacted by climate change and variability, with consequences for livelihoods, particularly in communities on the margins of protected areas. The UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Programme recognises that climate change affects millions with alarming impacts on both nature and society. African biosphere reserves such as the Middle Zambezi Biosphere Reserve are threatened by multiple stressors, including biodiversity degradation, climate change, and anthropogenic disturbances including deforestation, human population, mining, illegal harvesting of resources, poaching, urbanisation and tourism development. Biodiversity in the Middle Zambezi Valley is experiencing climate-induced changes, which are expected to increase. The 2009 Convention on Biological Diversity notes that climate change affects the knowledge, innovations, and practices of local communities as well as the goods and services on which people depend. Moreover, these effects are still poorly understood, and the role of local ecological knowledge is rarely considered or integrated into the design of scientific strategies for climate change adaptation. The post-Rio+20 period calls for action to combat climate change in the wildlife sector. Wildlife resources are the foundation of the economy for many developing countries and a source of livelihood for millions. Mainstream adaptation and mitigation strategies within the sector can only be realized by the incorporation of a climate change agenda into wildlife policies. This study reviewed the extent to which current wildlife laws, regulations and policies address climate change adaptation and mitigation in East and southern Africa and explored local ecological knowledge on climate change adaptation and mitigation in the Middle Zambezi Biosphere Reserve.
This study explored the integration of green economy considerations into law and policy on climate change adaptation for wildlife conservation and rural livelihoods in the Middle Zambezi Biosphere Reserve. These considerations encompass global environmental change, socio-ecological systems, sustainability, political ecology, and local and professional ecological knowledge. Methods used to collect qualitative and quantitative data included desktop review, a mobile household questionnaire survey, key informant interviews, focus group discussions, and, in April and August 2015, field observations. Nyamakate Resettlement Area (Ward 7) covers the Northern part of Hurungwe District bordering on the Phundundu safari area and Mana Pools National Park in the Middle Zambezi Biosphere Reserve. Five villages located within five km of the buffer zone were identified for this study due to their proximity to the National Park and safari area. The study assumed that local communities living adjacent to the protected areas possess knowledge of the impacts of climate change on natural resources since they depend on natural resources for their livelihoods. Primary data on historical timelines, impacts of climate change on livelihoods, and response strategies were collected for the period 1980-2015. This was supplemented with data from secondary sources as described above.
Findings indicate that stakeholders in the Middle Zambezi Biosphere Reserve implement green economy and climate change-related programmes and projects. Prior to 2010, Zimbabwean wildlife policies and the Southern Africa Development Cooperation Protocols related to biodiversity- and/or wildlife-related laws and policies do not directly mention the green economy, nor do they address climate change adaptation and mitigation. However, “soft law” documents after 2010, such as the 2013–2020 Zimbabwe National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan and the strategic plans of local councils, prioritise climate change adaptation, mitigation and the green economy. Despite the existence of green economy-related initiatives in the formal and informal wildlife sectors, the concept is not mainstreamed in key biodiversity policies such as the Parks and Wildlife Act. Local communities in the Middle Zambezi Biosphere Reserve report decreasing rainfall, persistent droughts and increasing temperatures as key indicators of climate change and were found to use ethno-ecological knowledge to interpret and predict climatic events and to correspondingly cultivate alternative food sources (e.g., wild fruits and legumes) in response to the changing climate.
Findings and recommendations
About Olga Laiza Kupika
Olga Laiza Kupika is Zimbabwean Conservationist and a Senior Lecturer and Chairperson at the Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation of the School of Wildlife, Ecology and Conservation at Chinhoyi University of Technology in Zimbabwe. Her research interests are to address the sustainable development goals (SDGs) on climate change adaptation, mitigation and governance, green economy, natural resources conservation, ecosystem services and sustainable livelihoods. She completed her CIRCLE Visiting Fellowship at the University of South Africa.