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Zimbabwe: A shift towards market-oriented agricultural livelihoods

Published on 11 May 2023


The revitalization of irrigation schemes, coupled with targeted peer-to-peer support, can boost water security for smallholder farmers and empower them with higher knowledge and stronger market linkages.

    The role of infrastructure and information on managing climate risk

    In rural Zimbabwe, 80% of the population depends on rain-fed agriculture. Beyond the development and improvement of irrigation infrastructure, the empirical literature shows that many economic and knowledge-related barriers still prevent an efficient management of water resources by farmers, especially women¹. Leveraging local knowledge through a hands-on approach , together with the provision of timely weather forecast and better agricultural inputs and practices seem to have worked in several countries, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa². However, the effectiveness of a combined set of interventions focusing on improving farm incomes, livelihoods, food security, and ultimately, in reducing the risk of vulnerable groups to climate-related hazards, is highly context specific, and considerable knowledge gaps still exist when considering the scale and scope of households and communities in rural Zimbabwe.

    Shifting from subsistence to climate-resilient agriculture

    Funded by the GCF, implemented by Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development (MoLAFWRD), with UNDP’s support, the project “Building the climate resilience for vulnerable agricultural livelihoods in Southern Zimbabwe” targets vulnerable farmers (especially women) located in 15 districts across Manicaland, Masvingo and Matabeleland South provinces. The project will also support the installation of rainfall and hydrological gauging stations in selected irrigation sites. , and eExtension agents are also expected to improve their capacities to collect, analyse and timely disseminate weather forecasts to farmers. The long-term outcomes and impacts of the project can contribute to achieving country’s targets under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 1 - ‘No Poverty’, 2- ‘Zero Hunger’, and 13 - ‘Climate Action’.

    From Theory to Reality: How project’s inputs and activities are expected to generate impact
    1 inputs

    GCF provides funds 

    UNDP provides technical support 

    Government provides resources


    Revitalization of irrigation systems  

    Training farmers on efficient water management and climate resilient agriculture (CRA)  

    Installation of weather stations  

    Dissemination of climate informations  

    Technical assistance to farmers in the form of legal support, marketing strategies and business planning 

    3 OUTPUT

    Community-level irrigation schemes built  

    Farmers receive training on the use of sustainable irrigation practices 

    Provision of inputs and training on CRA 

    Delivery of weather forecasts to smallholder farmers


    Increased knowledge and willingness to apply efficient water management techniques 

    Improved market access and knowledge of CRA practices 


    Farmers understand the training and use climate information 


    Increased agricultural output produced and sold, yields and crop diversification 

    Increased resilience of irrigation systems and efficient water management

    6 IMPACT

    Higher food security and income 

    Lower vulnerability of farmers to the effects of climate change

    What the data tells us  

    A comprehensive data collection of 4,180 households from 485 villages in the 9 project’s districts was conducted in 2022, focusing on gathering information on household socioeconomic status, financial inclusion, access to and use of climate information, farmer risk attitude and behaviour, agricultural production and practices, food insecurity and coping mechanisms towards shocks and stresses.

    Data shows that beneficiary households were already more likely to use climate information (e.g. seasonal weather forecasts) to make farming decisions compared to non-beneficiary households. Differences were also observed on awareness and knowledge of financial management, marketing and business development. These findings suggest that the initial rollout of the programme seems to have started to an effect, at least in the short run. As expected, given that farmers need time to adjust their attitudes and behavior, no differences were initially found in the area under climate-resilient agriculture measures between groups.

    Evidence from the on-the-ground data also indicates that both groups have similarly experienced shocks, but beneficiary households seem to use a higher number of coping strategies at their disposal. Despite having better dietary diversity, beneficiary households are more likely to experience hunger. The data collected also helped in identifying critical constraints to the translation of knowledge into practice - such as lack of financial resources for purchasing appropriate seeds or breeds, for example. Where these resources are a constraint, farmers might be more likely to fail to respond to the climate information provided, making impossible for them to fully tap the benefits of agricultural technologies.


    Households surveyed





    map with distribution beneficiaries among districts
      Assess the results table
       Difference between non-beneficiary and beneficiary HHs 
      Financial, business and marketing training-0.59***   
      Access to information-0.06**    
      Value chains0.34    
      Shock experience index-0.01    
      Livelihood coping strategy index0.04*   
      Climate smart agriculture-0.54    
      Area under climate resilient agriculture measures0.01    
      Area under climate proof agriculture-0.02    
      Human resource score-0.05   
      Livelihood diversity score-0.07   
      Asset and livestock score-0.12***   
      Climate information use on farming decisions-0.87***   
      Access to reliable clean water0.20   
      Household income0.00   
      Household dietary diversity0.23***    
      Household hunger-0.21***    


      Note: *p<0.05, **p<0.01, ***p<0.001 

      What's next

      Awareness of new technologies and agricultural practices does not immediately translate into benefits such as higher agricultural yields, income and food security. New rounds of data collection (expected for 2024) can shed more light on the extent of which farmers are actually modifying their attitudes and behavior towards the use of more climate-resilient practices. Also, evidence from fieldwork suggest that access to finance (not directly addressed by the project) might still prevent farmers from building resilient agricultural systems as they cannot fully afford the costs of it. Likewise, the on-the-ground data collection envisaged for the upcoming years can also help understanding how much financial constraints are affecting households in the short-term.

      “I believe that all farmers get climate information, but whether they believe or use it is a different story. They get it, but it is their choice to use it or not”

      —Meteorological services department in Masvingo Province

      [1] Nyahunda and Trivangasi, 2021; Kjeldsen et all., 2009

      [2] Djido et al., 2021; Amegnaglo et al., 2017; Makate et all., 2016

      Related projects


      The objective of the project (2020-2027) is to strengthen resilience of agricultural livelihoods of vulnerable communities, particularly women, in southern Zimbabwe in the face of increasing climate risks and impacts. The project intervention builds the climate resilience of vulnerable agriculture livelihoods in 15 districts across three provinces of Manicaland, Masvingo and Matabeleland South through the following strategic components: 

      • increasing access to water for climate-resilient agriculture through climate resilient irrigation systems and efficient water resource management, 
      • increasing access to climate-resilient inputs and practices, as well as stronger market linkages and 
      • improving access to weather, climate, and hydrological information for climate-resilient agriculture. 

      Project Overview 

      Steps to assess impact
      • Inception (plan, design and team set up)
      • Develop & pilot a survey instrument
      • Conduct a baseline survey & analysis
      • Programme/Project implementation
      • Conduct follow-up survey & analysis
      • Estimation of impact / final report writing
      • Dissemination of findings/evidence


      Start Date


      End Date


      survey firm

      Dalberg Research

      Technical partners


      Green Climate Fund (GCF)

      Approaches to assess the impact

      Following an experimental approach (RCT), baseline data collection was completed for a total of 4,180 farmer households. 1,352 were treated farmers, 1,385 were control farmers within treatment villages (C1) and 1,443 pure control farmers from outside the villages of intervention (C2). Differentiating between two distinct control groups allows to correctly identify spillover effects within each village and pure impact effects of the interventions. Spillover impacts are computed as a difference between estimates of treated farmers and control farmers, while pure impacts as difference between treated and pure control farmers. The information gathered covered indicators related to access and use of climate information services for decision making, use of climate smart agriculture (CSA) practices, crop production, water security, management capacity and food security status. Endline is expected to be collected in 2027.

      Randomized control trial (RCT)
      Randomized control trial (RCT) scheme

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