Zimbabwe is vulnerable to climate change principally through shifting rainfall patterns and extreme events. Increased incidence of drought is expected to be a particular problem. Other potential changes include increased temperatures, localised floods and decreased/varying river flow.
Climate change is expected to pose a particular challenge for food production. Reduced water runoff is expected to affect the quality and quantity of water available for domestic and industrial use, and limit hydropower production. Malaria transmission is likely to increase in the central plateau of Zimbabwe although this is also dependent on non-climatic factors. Other vulnerable sectors include biodiversity, tourism and infrastructure.
Little work has been carried out specifically on the vulnerability of different social groups to climate change in Zimbabwe. According to one case study in the southern Zimbabwe, the most vulnerable include female headed households, households with no access to irrigation, and poor households. Furthermore, the urban poor in Zimbabwe have become increasingly vulnerable over the past few years as urban planning and sanitation systems have become weaker.
Research from elsewhere in the region tells us that it is not always the poorest who are most vulnerable to climate change, but those who are unable to specialise in a non-risky activity, or unable to diversify their livelihoods. They often live in areas that are marginal in terms of services and are also often exposed to a breakdown of security during periods of climate-related stress.
Communities have considerable experience in adapting to climate variability, and the literature offers a number of recommendations for supporting existing adaptation strategies. However, it is recognised that indigenous strategies alone are likely to be inadequate because they often have to operate without any formal government support. Schooling, basic professional training and medical care are seen as essential elements for adaptation to climate change.