The government of Zimbabwe has recently been very aware of the need to protect the environment and minimise the severity of the carbon footprint indented by the country’s populous, and has taken various steps to enshrine environmental protections in law. Environmental reform is essential, not just in supporting national and international sustainable development plans, but also in leading to a wave of socioeconomic reforms which create an opportunity to considerably reduce poverty.
Zimbabwe underwent a constitutional reform process which allowed environmental issues to be included into the country’s supreme law. Before this reform, the constitution lacked any clear articulation on how the country was to conserve, use and share the benefits of natural resources. Now, the National Environmental Policy and Environmental Management Act have been introduced to facilitate the sustainable management of natural resources at both local and national levels.
The Environmental Management Act aims to: facilitate sustainable management of natural resources, protect the environment from pollution or degradation, and initiate future plans for the management and protection of the environment. These objectives align with the constitution, creating an environment in which future generations can enjoy their right to a clean, healthy, safe environment. This policy also creates a platform for sustainable national development, whilst reducing climate change.
The mainstreaming of biodiversity into regional, national and international development frameworks has proved complex, as it involves finding strategies to maximise the benefits of biodiversity and minimise its loss through all productive sectors – including agriculture, fisheries, forestry, tourism and mining.
The Wildlife Act is one of many legislations which have lobbied for and made moves towards outlawing the consumptive use of wildlife in Zimbabwe, and protecting biodiversity. There have been efforts to protect endangered elephants and rhinos for decades, indicating the massive divide in perceptions between the government and the people when it comes to the value of natural resources and wildlife in local communities. Governments need to support rural people to connect with natural resources in their area, and foster a sense of stewardship for these resources on the basis of genuine local ownership. In time, this stewardship must translate into institution-building, for a more comprehensive protection and management structure of the environment, wildlife and natural resources.
The need for a global water management review has gathered momentum since the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Water sector reforms in Zimbabwean law have been initiated to respond to the increasingly complex and unsustainable current water management structure. As global momentum on this issue increases, sub-Saharan Africa has placed much emphasis on reform to watershed management, and Zimbabwe is no exception. The government have now classified the environment as a legitimate ‘user’ of water supplies in Zimbabwe. This has led to protections on the environment’s water supply – tackling pollution and providing populations with clean and safe water, which has clear and immediate benefits for population health and also benefits agricultural activities.
It seems the government is beginning to take clear and tangible steps towards sustainable development, environmental protection and natural resource management – with immediate and long-term benefits to citizens and to the environment. Of course, more work is needed both from this government and from international actors.
Written by Kudakwashe Kutesera (Foundations for Farming)
Edited by Hannah O’Riordan (Operations Manager – Zimbabwe Educational Trust)
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