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Sida's work in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe faces major economic, social and humanitarian challenges. Many people are struggling to make a living, democratic space is shrinking and human rights are being violated. Sida works with democracy, human rights, environment and climate, as well as improving the opportunity of the population to support itself.

Progress has been made

87 %

can read and write, which is considerably higher compared to other countries in the region.1 There are large gaps between urban and rural areas, and the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in fewer children being able to attend school.2

The economy is recovering

Improved industrial capacity and higher agricultural production have benefited the economy, which nevertheless remains strained with high inflation and unstable exchange rates.3

More people can eat their fill

The situation of people in Zimbabwe has improved in part because agricultural production has increased. Just under 3 million people are expected to suffer from acute food shortages in 2022 compared to 5.5 million the previous year.4

Challenges remain

6 million

people are estimated to be living below the poverty line in 2022.5 Unemployment is high, especially among women and young people.

Democracy is in retreat

People who defend democracy and human rights are vulnerable and find it increasingly difficult to advance their cause. Opposition politicians are subjected to violence and abuse. Electoral fraud is common and corruption is widespread.

Women are particularly vulnerable

Human rights are less and less respected. Women and children are particularly vulnerable. Child marriage, gender-based violence, sexual abuse, early pregnancy and unsafe abortion are common. The pandemic has reinforced inequalities.

Sida’s development cooperation in Zimbabwe

Located in southern Africa, Zimbabwe has no coastline and is slightly smaller than Sweden.

Zimbabwe has no coastline and is slightly smaller than Sweden. Nearly four out of ten people live in poverty, half of them have food insecurity.6 Two thirds of the population live in rural areas.7

For 20 years, the country has been marked by political repression, a lack of democracy and a deep economic crisis. Droughts and floods hit the country repeatedly. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the already long-standing severe water and sanitation crisis.

The AIDS epidemic of the 1980s hit Zimbabwe hard and 13% of the population is still living with HIV.8

Human rights, democracy, the rule of law and gender equality

Zimbabwe’s democratic development is in retreat, as is respect for human rights. People defending human rights and civil society are under increasing scrutiny. The judiciary is politically dependent and corrupt. Many criminals escape punishment. People generally have low trust in the state.

Sida works to improve the conditions the promote democracy, reduce corruption and help hold those responsible to account. The work has a particular focus on gender equality.

Human rights education

Many people in Zimbabwe cannot afford to pursue legal action. Sida works with the Legal Resources Foundation (LRF), which provides legal support to those who are unable to pursue their cases themselves. In addition, volunteers and residents are provided with training on how to exercise their rights, and it has been shown that participants have gained confidence in asserting their rights.

Legal Resources Foundation’s website

Promotes democratic and fair elections

Democracy continues to decline in Zimbabwe and people testify that the state is increasing its control over citizens. Sida supports the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) which works for free and fair elections.

The network consists of 36 organizations from civil society (women’s rights organizations, trade unions, human rights organizations, media, religious organizations). Since its inception in 2000, the network has been important for increasing election observation and improving election monitoring. The work leads to increased openness and transparency in how the election processes are carried out.

Media are important for the population to know their political rights. ZESN trains freelance journalists in election reporting and how the election process works to contribute to accurate media reporting in connection with elections. During 2022, 41 freelance journalists were trained.

ZESN forms opinions and pushes for the government to implement electoral reforms for increased democracy before the next election. During 2021, 100 local organizations were also trained.

About the work on the ZESN website

Working against corruption

Corruption is prevalent in Zimbabwe.9 Sida supports several projects to combat corruption. One example is the Raoul Wallenberg Institute (RWI), which strengthens state institutions in the field of human rights and increases cooperation between institutions.

The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) has developed a national action plan to implement the country’s anti-corruption strategy, which was adopted in 2020. Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ) is the driving force behind these efforts. TIZ is also supporting the country’s government in strengthening the transparency and accountability of state institutions and countering corruption.

Registering new-borns and combatting child marriage

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) provides protection and support to children who are victims of violence, and works to influence public opinion to combat child marriage and strengthen children’s rights. Its work also focuses on children with disabilities. A mobile service has made it possible for people living in remote areas to contact authorities to register new-born babies. By 2021, 8,000 children could receive birth certificates thanks to the mobile service.

About the project on UNICEF’s website

Promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights

Sida cooperates with PSI Zimbabwe on issues related to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). Sida supports programmes such as the “Love Shouldn’t hurt” campaign, which focuses on domestic violence. The campaign targets mainly male perpetrators and by the end of 2021 had reached more than 500,000 on Facebook. PSI also maintains a telephone helpline that women who are victims of violence can call for help and support.

Demanding accountability from those in power

Through the Diakonia organisation, Sida contributes to increasing transparency in communities and making local leaders accountable. In 2021, these efforts led to 20,000 people participating in local meetings, often in direct dialogue with those in power.

In the municipality of Bulawayo, residents highlighted allegations of corruption in municipal council procurements involving the mayor renting out land for very low rents. Residents demanded that the council not lease the land and the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) launched a corruption investigation.

Residents also took the city council to court over contaminated tap water that led to more than 1,500 residents getting diarrhoea and 13 losing their lives. The case is being handled by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR).

About this cooperation and these court cases on Openaid

Countering disinformation

Sida supports various programmes to combat misinformation and so-called fake news. One example is ZimFact, which produces fact sheets and articles on the use of public funds and gives people access to public information. ZimFact is now an important source of information and is widely used by various stakeholders.

About the work on the ZimFact website

Supporting freedom of the press

Freedom of the press in Zimbabwe has deteriorated.10   Sida’s media support focuses on investigative journalism and the training of journalists. Sida’s media partners are active in advocating for legal reforms and greater respect for freedom of the press in the country. In 2021, important progress was made in terms of new entrants to broadcasting, as a result of sustained advocacy efforts.

Environment, climate and sustainable use of natural resources

The climate in Zimbabwe is extremely variable, with intermittent rainfall, droughts and floods exacerbated by climate change. Land degradation, deforestation and water shortage affect agriculture and food availability. Women and girls are hardest hit by food shortages.11

Sida is working to increase the availability of renewable energy and to use energy more efficiently. Strengthening resilience to climate change and using natural resources more sustainably are other important parts of the work.

Solar-powered charging stations

Mobility for Africa provides climate-resilient mobile solutions for rural communities through electrically powered motorcycles. The solar-powered electric motorcycle, the Hamba, is specially adapted for off-road driving and has a large carrying capacity. The motorcycle is used by women farmers, among others, who transport their produce to sell it at markets. They are also used by taxi drivers, health workers and the police.

About Mobility for Africa

Management of natural resources

Zimbabwe’s natural resources need to be managed more effectively. Sida supports the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA), which works on natural resource management in cooperation with both local communities and government agencies. ZELA also plays a key role in updating policies and regulations relating to the environment and climate change.

About the work on natural resource management on the ZELA website

Electricity for rural households

20% of households in rural areas do not have access to electricity, compared to 40% in urban areas. 12 Renewable Energy and Climate Change Technology is being implemented in partnership with the Power Africa organisation to develop renewable energy solutions. Results in other countries in the region have shown good results, whilst the project in Zimbabwe has just started.

Inclusive economic development

Zimbabwe’s economy has improved, but unemployment remains high, especially among women and young people. Poverty is affecting people in urban areas more than in the past due to reduced work opportunities and increased prices for essential goods. Agricultural productivity has benefited from the rainy season but is vulnerable to climate change, land degradation and poor soil quality. The majority of the population does not have access to electricity.13

Sida’s work contributes to improving people’s opportunity to support themselves, especially women and young people.

More productive agriculture

Agriculture needs to adapt to climate change and become more productive. Sida is supporting the Zimbabwe Resilience Building Fund (ZRBF), which is a collaborative project between the UN development agency (UNDP) and other organisations.  The fund is helping to make agriculture more climate-smart and productive, and to increase women’s participation. The project creates jobs, gives more people the opportunity to eat an adequate diet and helps increase resilience to drought and floods.

About the project on the UNDP website

Climate-adapted agriculture and increased employment

Sida is supporting several projects to secure access to food, increase employment and contribute to climate adaptation. Through SMHI’s collaboration with Oxfam’s Climate Change Adaptation for Rural Livelihoods Programme (CARL), rural households are converting to climate-adapted agriculture. They are becoming better at managing natural resources such as water, land, forests and energy through solar-powered pumps and irrigation, for example. Households have also received assistance in growing more crops, ensuring food security and increasing income. Girls and women are the primary focus.

About the programme on SMHI’s website

Updated: October 5, 2022