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Agriculture in Zimbabwe

Although only 17 % of the country’s GDP is derived from agriculture, 60 % of the raw materials needed in the manufacturing industry and 40 % of total export earnings are reliant upon the agricultural sector (Aquastat Zimbabwe 2010).

Approximately 60 % of the economically active population depends on agriculture for subsistence and employment. It is estimated 70 % of small scale farmers are women. Within the Limpopo River basin, although subsistence agriculture contributes only a small portion to the national agricultural output, it is a very important source of income and food to the majority of people living within the basin (FAO 2004). 

According to the 2009 World Development Indicators, 79 % of annual freshwater withdrawals in Zimbabwe are for agriculture (World Bank 2010). Comparatively, demand within the Limpopo River basin is less with approximately 47 % of the basin demand in Zimbabwe from irrigation, as noted in Water Use and Allocation (LBPTC 2010). 

A major constraint to agriculture production is drought with the majority of the Limpopo River basin falling within Natural Region V, the driest region in Zimbabwe, as discussed in the Climate Chapter under the theme The River Basin (FAO 2004). This area is primarily suitable for livestock production, although crop production is practiced in the region with irrigation required throughout the year. Cattle are seen as the most important livestock, followed by goats, donkeys, and chickens. Crop production in the Limpopo River River basin is characteristically unreliable and variable due to low and inconsistent rainfall (FAO 2004). Crop yields are generally lower than the rest of Zimbabwe and have seasonal variability. Typical crops include maize, sorghum, cotton, groundnuts, and sunflower.

Agriculture production in Zimbabwe has decreased overall since the 1980s possibly due to deteriorating soil fertility and frequent droughts (FAO 2004).

Agriculture near Silalabuhwa Dam, Zimbabwe.
Source: Schaefer 2010
( click to enlarge )