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The Sustainable Development Goals


The Sustainable Development Goals were adopted by the United Nations back in 2015 to improve the betterment lives of people of all nations. There are 17 goals that address global issues, including poverty; environmental degradation; climate; inequality; prosperity, and peace, and justice (UN, 2015). This essay will focus on the implementation of SDGs in Zimbabwe. The Government of Zimbabwe (GoZ) is implementing all of SDGs, however, they are highly prioritizing on ten goals including Goal 13, Climate Action. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (2001, 2007, 2012), Africa will experience declining of water resources, decreased crop yield from rain-fed agriculture, increase in food insecurity and malnutrition, the rise of sea level, and an increase in arid and semi-arid land, due to the ever-increasing emissions of greenhouse gases (Brown, Chanakira, Chatiza et al.

, 2012, p 1). Climate change is a well-known phenomenon that serves as a crucial factor in achieving sustainable development.

Zimbabwe: Evidence Of Climate Change

Zimbabwe is a landlocked country in southern Africa bordered northwest by Zambia, Mozambique to the east, southwest by Botswana and South Africa to the south.

Zimbabwe lies in a semi-arid region with low annual rainfall and unpredictable differences in temperature. The average amount of rainfall is 650 mm however it ranges geographically from around 350 mm to 450 mm per year in the Southern Lowveld to above 1,000 mm in the Eastern Highlands.

By comparison to the past, Zimbabwe witnessed a warming trend towards the end of the twentieth century, with the mean annual temperature rising by about 0.40C since 1900. Moreover, the minimum and maximum temperatures over Zimbabwe have been raised, reflecting a decrease in the number of rain days with a minimum of 120C and a maximum of 300C.

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The last three decades have shown a trend towards the declining amount of precipitation and drought recurrences within the same season.

The length of aridity has increased while the length of rain days decreased. This will therefore ultimately affect the economy of Zimbabwe, which is based primarily on agricultural practices with over 70 percent of the population living in rural areas and relying on climate receptive livelihoods such as arable farming and livestock rearing among others. The average annual precipitation forecast is expected to be between 5 percent and 18 percent lower than the 2080 average of 1961 to 1900 (GoZ, 2012).

Agriculture: Reliance On Rainfall For Agricultural Practices

Due to their heavy dependence on rainfall for their agricultural practices, the economy and livelihoods of Zimbabweans are highly exposed to climate change as agriculture is a primary activity of contributing about 15 to 18 percent to Zimbabwe’s GDP (GoZ, 2010). The inconsistent precipitation pattern has a close relationship with the economic growth of Zimbabwe, reflecting the dominance of the agricultural sector and its vulnerability to water stress.

In addition to fluctuations in precipitation, droughts are also expected to intensify crop yield declines, further jeopardizing Zimbabwe’s economic growth and stability, levels of employment, food insecurity, and poverty reduction. In general, climate change is expected to lead to the expansion of marginal lands (IPCC, 2007), which is already beginning to occur in Zimbabwe.

Even various implementations of livestock systems are expected to become at risk. The combination of both traditional farming and livestock rearing is considered to be the main income source for Zimbabweans (Kahinda et al., 2007; Wani et al., 2009). This type of arrangement tends to adapt suitably when facing climatic conditions, for example, inconsistent rainfall patterns. Climate instability in semi-arid areas, however, poses a significant threat to natural processes that sustain fodder production from rain-fed crop production for cattle or other animals and moisture (Tadross et al., 2009). Thus, with predictions of decreasing rainfall activity or highlighted by concentrated extreme events separated by prolonged droughts, crop and pasture production may fail.

It is predicted by 2020 that crop yields are expected to decrease by up to 50 percent. For instance, Maize, the country’s staple crop, is particularly vulnerable due to its tolerance to drought. Consequently, Zimbabwe will experience food shortages, especially during long periods of drought which are occurring more frequently and intensively. According to the IPCC (2007), areas of sub-Saharan Africa are expected to suffer agricultural losses ranging from 2 and 7 percent of GDP. In addition, estimated agricultural output declines could amount to 50 percent by 2020, and crop net revenues might decline by up to 90 percent by 2100, with disproportionate impacts on small-scale farmers.

Water: Issues Faced By Zimbabwe’S Water Sector

Apart from food shortages, Zimbabwe will be facing water scarcity that threatens the water supply and management in a number of areas (for example domestic supplies, irrigation, industry resources). According to IPCC (2007), there will be an increase in temperature (by 3.10C) in the 21st century accompanied by a reduction in precipitation, primarily rainfall, in southern Africa (about 15 percent). Seasons are expected to change in general with warmer dry seasons and projected colder winters. The traditional onset and ceasing of rainfall seasons will shift with fears of shorter and more erratic rainfall.

Consequently, prolonged droughts have put a strain on Zimbabwe’s surface and groundwater systems further advancing to the country’s declining water supply. The country mainly obtains its water supply from rivers and dams. Due to the lack of capital expenditure and technical expertise and skills, there has been no further advancement in detecting the availability of groundwater storage, much less fully utilizing them. Nevertheless, the increase in temperature will inevitably strain the surface water supply as they are more prone to evaporation. A high rate of evaporation in 2007 resulted in a major water loss from Zimbabwe’s water reservoirs which resulted in the decommissioning of many of the dams. Zimbabwe’s river basins’ evaporation level is expected to increase from 4 to 25 percent, potentially worsening the situation due to climate change. In addition, the Zambezi Basin would be the most affected as surface runoff is also predicted to decrease by 40 percent of supply. Consequently, annual rainfall rates based on the average 1961 to 1990 were expected to decline between 5 and 20 percent by 2080 in all of the country’s major river basins.

Most of Zimbabwe’s water is currently used mainly in the agricultural sector, supplemented by the urban and industrial sectors, local authorities, forestry and mining activities (GoZ, 2010). The estimates of The International Union for Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) suggest that the water demand of Zimbabwe’s significantly exceeds 631 million m3 of water supply. Throughout urban areas, including small towns, there is about 90 percent chance of access to clean water and sanitation (GoZ, 2010). However, there has been a decline of approximately 40 to 60 percent nationwide. In contrast, Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital city, receives just half of its daily demand of around 1,200 megalitres per day. Other parts of Zimbabwe such as Bulawayo, Norton, Chitungiwa, and Ruwa also experiences the same situation (Chagutah, 2010).

There was about 75 percent of water coverage back in 1999 in rural areas, however by 2007, a third of the rural population was predicted to having lack access to improved clean drinking water. According to the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate (2010), approximately 65 percent of the water facilities in the rural areas are non-operational. Seeming how ancient and rusty the water and sanitation infrastructure of Zimbabwe is will make sustainability challenging and more costly, compounding any challenges posed by reduced rainfall variability

As a result of climate change, water deficit and sanitation issues are also expected to arise. Reducing agricultural outputs in urban communities against rising water demands would result in pollution between drinking water supply and wastewater disposal. Zimbabweans may recourse to unsafe sources of water supply which might expose them to water-borne diseases. Correspondingly, in extreme events such as floods and droughts, the reliability of water and sanitation services can be severely compromised, resulting in populations in both rural and urban areas using contaminated water sources and inadequate disposal facilities.

Health: Increased Health Issues

Furthermore, due to climate change, human health and well-being may also be impacted by the rising recurrence of extreme events (such as floods and droughts); changes in the range of infectious disease vectors, including the geographic range of malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue; the increased burden of diarrhoeal and water-borne diseases such as cholera; increased cardiovascular morbidity and ground-level ozone-related mortality. Climate change is expected to intensify the impact of loss of human ozone depletion in the Southern hemisphere, further worsening this situation (Karoly, 2003).

As a result of the erratic situation of the water supply has led to a substantial increase of water-borne diseases in Zimbabwe. The result of this consequence can be seen from the widespread cholera epidemic in 2008, which infected more than 100,000 people and resulted in the deaths of more than 4,000 people, which is one of the largest outbreaks in history (GoZ, 2010). Moreover, the probability for contamination of water and sanitation networks has led to frequent cholera pandemic during the rainy season which is a major risk factor during flood events, as experienced in Malawi (UNICEF, 2008). In addition, Zimbabwe is also at risk of countless high malaria cases (Chigwada, 2009). According to IPCC (2007), temperature changes and precipitation amounts are likely to change the geographic spreading of malaria in Zimbabwe by the year 2100, with previous unbalanced areas of the dense human population becoming desirable for transmission. In addition to food insecurity, chronic malnutrition and HIV/AIDS, pandemics erodes household strength, making households sensitive and more vulnerable to hazardous shocks.

Zimbabwe’s government authorities and civil society are more interested in the country’s competency in responding to humanitarian emergencies in spite of the progressing health concerns. The Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development (MOA) announced in 2010 that six provinces in Zimbabwe will face food insecurity and that recurrent malaria outbreaks and cholera epidemics will widen and become more frequent. Such risks show the fragility of Zimbabwe, which poses concerns about the capacity of the government to deal with minor emergencies, which can easily turn into crises.

Therefore, the age group that will be most affected by climate change is children, because they continue to be the most vulnerable when exposed to health risks from environmental hazards because they are not fully developed yet to resist these effects. It is expected that preventable and curable diseases such as malaria and diarrhea will intensify with climate change. It was made clear through predictions that water scarcity will occur with climate change as having access to clean water is crucial for good health and well-being, as well as the development of children. Hence, exposure to unsafe drinking water will result in a higher chance of children being infected. Another unfortunate effect of water scarcity is that rivers and streams that have been dried up will force children to travel over long distances just to collect water from other sources.

Children will experience the most hardships with the growing repercussions of climate change as they lack support in financial and natural capital to reinforce their future. Furthermore, there has been an increase in a child-headed family where the children are left to fend for themselves as a result of the death of their parents due to the worsening conditions of HIV/AIDS, which are vulnerable to all trauma including climate change. This is an issue because children, including youth, are aware and concerned about the impact of climate change which will undoubtedly affect their future.


Adaptation to climate change is of great substance to other countries that are experiencing this phenomenon, including Zimbabwe. Although the contributions of Zimbabwe to greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions are low, the country has suffered the repercussions of climate change in recent years, particularly as the recurrence of droughts, floods and epidemics has increased. Nevertheless, while the country’s attention is mainly on climate change adaptation, mitigation does not become meaningless. In order to reduce the levels of GHGs generated and to foster a green economy, different measures are being introduced (GoZ, 2012). Moreover, by improving the environmental sustainably, this will create a multiplier effect as one factor, in this case, improved environment, will lead to an increase in well-being and health of the Zimbabweans. Hence, this will help in achieving all those ten prioritized goals.

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The Sustainable Development Goals. (2019, Dec 20). Retrieved from

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