Mutare — Zimbabwe has secured a US$10 million grant to implement a forest and land management project in three provinces in efforts to address land degradation, reduced agricultural productivity and biodiversity loss.
The integrated intervention project targeting 70 000 households will be implemented by Food and Agriculture Organisation under the Global Environment Fund (GEF-7), in partnership with the Ministry of Environment, Tourism and Hospitality.
Chief Environment Officer in the Ministry, Joseph Shoko said key targets of the project are to investigate causes of land degradation in forests, croplands and grasslands, propose interventions for restoration of woodlands as well enhancing climate change resilience.
Shoko said the impact project will also assess reduction of agricultural productivity, biodiversity loss and increasing vulnerability to climate change within and outside protected areas in the targeted landscapes.
He said interventions will leverage the gender and youth demographic dividend among the targeted beneficiaries as well as strengthening capacity of environmental watchdog institutions.
"The project is targeting dry lands or dry land forest ecosystems of Miombo and Mopane woodlands, to assess biodiversity loss, invasion of alien species, and productivity loss in the selected provinces, Midlands, Masvingo and Manicaland.
"It's targeting mainstreaming of sustainable forest and land management to firstly achieve land degradation neutrality targets as well as enhance ecosystem resilience for improved livelihoods.
"This project is covering 70 000 people and in particular women and youth. They should also be involved in the project and most interventions will be coming from stakeholders," said Shoko.
He added, "There is an outcry particularly from EMA and Forestry Commission; they are always crying out because of limited capacity to implement policy interventions, the programme will also come up with strategies on how to strengthen the capacity of such organisations."
FAO country office representative, David Mfote said it was imperative to not only halt and reverse negative trends of land and forest degradation but to enhance climate resilience of degraded areas.
Mfote said the project will also focus on raising the capacity of local communities to advance a diversified agro-ecological food production.
"In the targeted areas of Save and Runde catchments, our aim is not only to halt and reverse negative patterns of land and forest use which cause degradation, but we also want to ensure that we promote diversified ecological food production.
"The project will also seek to involve the local people who are affected by land degradation and decreased productivity. We are particularly concerned about these people and we are going to ensure that they are involved in the project," said Shoko.
Value Chain expert, Beauty Jiji said the impact assessment project provides livelihood opportunities for local grassroots communities through value chains leveraging on activities in catchment areas.
Jiji said there would be broad based consultation of rural communities on the potential full range of enterprise and coordinated activities with economic value for livelihood sustenance.
"We are going to be on the ground to consult over the possibilities of strengthening available value chains as well as establishing new opportunities that can be leveraged in the targeted areas and there are vast opportunities.
"We will also be focusing on small grains (sorghum, millet), oil seeds as well as sustainable land management including using the technique of inter-cropping, with particular focus on crops that can thrive in these dry land areas," said Jiji.
She added, "We are intensifying sustainable land management to ensure that households have a diversified food production, other value chains also include agro-forestry, beekeeping as well as integrated livestock production."
Manicaland Provincial Administrator, Edgars Seenza said there was need for proper management of the project fund in a transparent and accountable manner to ensure that its broad-based objectives could be achieved on the ground.
He urged project implementers to come up with sustainable interventions that are inclusive of local communities to ensure a buy-in on interventions.
"In light of climate change, this is very important because the issue of land and environmental management are a cause of concern for everyone, in particular traditional leaders who are the custodians of the people who are affected by such events like Cyclones.