Why we work in Zimbabwe
After gaining independence in 1980, Zimbabwe’s food production has declined sharply as a result of the reallocation of land. Food scarcity has been made worse by severe droughts, meaning that since 2000, Zimbabwe has struggled to feed its people. One in four people in Zimbabwe now relies on international aid for food.
ActionAid began working with local communities in Zimbabwe in 1997. We provide long-term supplies of safe water, like boreholes, help farmers improve crop yields, and support women with loans to help them build businesses.
We also train the poorest people in their rights to basic services such as healthcare, clean water and education. And our local staff provide emergency food and water programmes for people most affected by drought.
El Niño, a cyclical weather phenomenon, has increased the severity of droughts. Many families are living on one or less meals a day. Children are often too weak to go to school and struggle to concentrate because they are too hungry. With rivers drying up and wells overburdened, girls and women have to queue for hours to get limited water.
Women make up 70% of the agricultural workforce but rely on men to provide land according to customary law, which says that women should not own land. This makes it even harder for women to support themselves and feed their families.
What we do in Zimbabwe
Battling the effects of drought
In 2016, the devastating effects of the El Niño-induced drought left close to four million people in need of food aid in Zimbabwe. Many children stopped going to school because they were too hungry and weak to walk to school.
In response to people's needs, ActionAid runs feeding programmes in schools across Matabeleland North Province, giving the most vulnerable children a daily meal of corn and soya porridge.
We also help farmers to improve crop yields with better farming techniques. And families are given the chance to take out loans from ActionAid-supported credit groups, helping them to build a business and provide for their future.
Tackling unemployment with women farmers
With estimated unemployment rates of up to 95%, many people in Zimbabwe find it difficult to cover their families' basic needs, such as food and clothing. That’s why local ActionAid staff in the Nyanga region helped to set up the Rural Women’s Assembly, a collective of women who share advice and work together to improve their lives.
Tackling violence with our Safe Cities campaign
Nearly half of all women in Zimbabwe experience violence in their lifetime. ActionAid’s Safe Cities campaign educates communities on women’s rights, giving them the skills to make their communities a safer place for women and girls.
In Harare and Chitungwiza our local staff are training women to lobby the government for basic protection, such as street lighting, as well as training police to take violence against women seriously. The project will benefit over 30,000 women and girls affected by violence.
Supporting communities throughout the Covid-19 pandemic
People in Zimbabwe are still facing the devastating consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.
Our emergency response has supported more than 44,000 people across the country. Thanks to ActionAid donors we have distributed at least 35,000 food packages for people in need, including cooking oil, salt and beans, along with thousands of PPE items for health workers and hygiene kits for women, including menstrual products and soap.
Amidst a worrying rise in cases of violence against women and girls, we’ve been working to protect women’s rights through robust prevention and awareness-raising tactics, including radio and SMS campaigns.
Supporting women to earn an income
Melody Murwira, 32, is a farmer and mother of four children. Before joining the Rural Women’s Assembly, supported by ActionAid, she was financially reliant on her husband, but he didn’t have a stable income. “Life was hard,” Melody said. “My children were chased out of school all the time because I failed to pay their school fees.”
Together, the assembly raised money by doing jobs around the village, which Melody and the other members invested in livestock and poultry. Each member now has five goats, five sheep and 25 hens. Selling the lambs and kids is enough for Melody to support her family and keep her children in school. Her son, Brighton, 19, is learning how to care for the livestock.
The group also provides funds for school fees, uniforms and books for children in the community who could not otherwise afford an education.Learn more about our work with women and girls
Stopping school children going hungry
“Last harvest the crops did not grow,” says Watson, nine. “My siblings and I would go to school and spend the day on empty stomachs. Sometimes I would skip school because I was so hungry." To help stop children like Watson going hungry, our local staff set up a feeding programme in 19 schools across Matabeleland North Province, giving the most vulnerable children a daily meal of corn and soya porridge.
"Now we have porridge here at school, every day in the afternoon," said Watson. "I always come to school and because I’m not hungry I can pay attention to my lessons.” Watson’s teacher, Moses Nyangoro, said: “Before the feeding programme, almost half of a class of 34 pupils would be absent. Students were performing badly in class due to hunger. Now the classes are almost full again.”Read more on our work on food and hunger
Boreholes providing villages with clean water
Josephine Manyonga, 60, is from Samanyika village, in Nyanga district. Since the 2014 typhoid outbreak, ActionAid has dug new boreholes providing communities with clean, safe water.
Local staff also train women to educate their communities on how to prevent typhoid, cholera and other waterborne diseases.
“We were used to getting water at any source that we would come across,” Josephine explained. “We had no boreholes and many people from this village were affected by typhoid. However, things have changed and now we have safe water to drink and use for cooking.”Donate to support our work
Page updated 7 March 2023