Climate Change and the Risk of Violent Conflicts in Southern Africa

Climate Change and the Risk of Violent Conflicts in Southern Africa
Climate Change and
the Risk of
Violent Conflicts
in Southern Africa
Ashok Swain
Ranjula Bali Swain
Anders Themnér
Florian Krampe
Climate Change
and the Risk of
Violent Conflicts
in Southern Africa
Ashok Swain
Ranjula Bali Swain
Anders Themnér
Florian Krampe
June 2011
Title: Climate Change and the Risk of Violent Conflicts
in Southern Africa
Ashok Swain
Ranjula Bali Swain
Anders Themnér
Florian Krampe
June 2011
This study is produced by the Center for Sustainable Development,
Uppsala University for the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) Funded Collaborative Project ‘Climate Change,
Natural Resource Governance and Conflict Prevention in Africa’.
Project Partners:
Global Crisis Solutions, Pretoria
Center for Sustainable Development, Uppsala University, Uppsala
The Swedish Defence Research Agency, Stockholm
Cover Photograph:
Satellite image showing the Zambezi river’s annual flood near the small
city of Kasane in the Zambezi’s upper reaches.
Source: NASA. Earth Observatory image created by Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon, using EO-1 ALI data provided courtesy of the NASA EO-1
team. (
Global Crisis Solutions
Postnetsuit 417, Private bag X15
Menlo Park 0102 Pretoria
South Africa.
ISBN: 978-0-620-50465-2
1 Introduction
1.1 Climate Change – The Scientific Foundations
1.2 Climate Change/Variability – The Security Issues
1.3 Climate Change/Variability – The Conflict Connection
2 Socio-Economic and Political Dimensions
2.1 The Impact of Climate Change/Variability on the
Socio-Economic System
2.2 Political System and Climate Change/Variability
2.2.1 Elites
2.2.2 Institutions
2.2.3 Social Identities
2.3 Interaction of Climatic, Socio-Economic and Political Factors
3 The Zambezi River Basin
3.1 The Zambezi Basin and its Geography and Climate
3.2 Climate Change/Variability in the Zambezi Basin
3.2.1 Water and Precipitation 41
3.2.2 Increasing Temperatures
3.2.3 Sea Level Rise and Coastal Erosion 44
3.2.4 Extreme Weather Events
3.3 Economic Impact of Climate Change/Variability in
the Zambezi Basin
3.3.1 Impact on Agricultural Productivity, Food Security
and Droughts
47 Precipitation Variability
49 Sea Level Rise Health Hazards
3.4 Southern Africa and its Weak Political Structure
3.4.1 Bad Leaders – Elites in Southern Africa
3.4.2 Weak Institutions
3.4.3 Polarized Social Identities - Longtime Struggles and Protracted Identities
4 Zimbabwe and Mozambique: Focus Areas 55
4.1 Vulnerability of Zimbabwe and Mozambique to
Climate Change/Variability
4.2 Zimbabwe
4.2.1 Climate Change/Variability in Zimbabwe
4.2.2 Economic Impact of Climate Change/Variability in Zimbabwe 60
4.2.3 Political Situation in Zimbabwe
65 Bad Leaders in Zimbabwe and Bulawayo
Matabeleland North
ZANU-PF Elites
Opposition Elites
69 Weak Institutions in Bulawayo/Matabeleland-North
Inability to Ensure the Socio-Economic Wellbeing of Citizens 73
Faulty Democratic Institutions and Lack of Rule of Law
75 Polarized Social Identities
Radicalization of the Ndebele Community
Overlapping Politicized Identities and the Risk of Climate
Change/Variability Induced Violence 80
4.3 Mozambique
4.3.1 Climate Change/Variability in Mozambique
4.3.2 Economic Impact of Climate Change/Variability
in Mozambique
4.3.3 Political Situation in Mozambique
88 Bad Leaders in Mozambique and Zambezia
RENAMO Affiliated Elites
91 Weak Institutions in Mozambique and Zambezia
Inability to Ensure the Socio-Economic Wellbeing of Citizens 95
Faulty Democratic Institutions and Lack of Rule of Law
97 Polarized Social Identities in Mozambique and Zambezia 99
Segmentation of Wartime Identities
Overlapping Politicized Identities and the Risk of
Climate Change/Variability Induced Violence102
5 Conclusion 104
Figure 1: Socio-Economic Impact of Climate Change/Variability
Figure 2: Quality of Governance and the socio-economic Impact
of Climate Change/Variability
Figure 3: Climate Change/Variability, the Socio-Economic System and
Political Governance
Figure 4: The Zambezi River Basin (Source: 37
Figure 5: People Affected by Natural Disasters in Africa from 1971 to 2001
( 46
Figure 6: Crop Production Index (1999-2001=100) for Mozambique,
Zimbabwe and Sub-Saharan Africa. Source: Food and Agriculture
Organization, electronic files and web site. 58
Table 1: The Zambezi basin: areas and rainfall by country (Source: FAO) 38
Table 2: Agricultural Drylands (Source: FAO/AGL 2003
Table 3: Agricultural land in the Zambezi Basin Countries
(Source: UNSTATS)
Table 4: Forest Area in the Zambezi Basin Countries (Source: UNSTATS)
Table 5: Hydrological Disasters database (Source: UN Statistics)
Table 6: Climatic challenges, vulnerable sectors and vulnerability context
in South Africa
Table 7: Basic Indicators for southern African countries
Table 8: Basic Indicators for southern African countries
Table 9: Zimbabwe’s Provincial level data for access to land for cultivation,
size of landholding, adequacy of land distribution and food poverty
Table 10: Percent Change in Area of Maize Production in
Zimbabwe’s Provinces
Table 10 (continued)
Table 11: Farm Class Percent Change in Area from 2000-2009 in Zimbabwe (Satellite Estimates)
Table 12: Mozambique: Area planted to the major food crops,
2002/03 (hectares)
Table 13: Mozambique: Production of major food crops 2002/03,
by province (‘000 tons)
Table 14: Mozambique: Crop production in 2002/03 and 2001/02,
by region (‘000 tons)
Through support and funding from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) – the “Partnership Development Cooperation mechanism”, a unique partnership of three institutions: Global Crisis Solutions, Uppsala University and FOI (Swedish Defence
Research Agency) has embarked on a regional project that integrates
climate change/variability, natural resource governance and conflict
prevention in Africa. Southern Africa is the first phase of an envisioned
three-phase project that will ultimately cover East and West Africa.
This publication is the first product of this collaboration and effectively examines the challenges faced in Southern Africa and specifically
the Zambezi river basin as a direct result of climate change/variability.
Other recent research has shown that climate change has the potential to
alter the prevalence and severity of extreme events such as heat waves,
cold waves, storms, floods and droughts.
The research team at Uppsala University has explored the potential
for climate change/variability to act as a threat multiplier to societies
along the Zambezi river basin, and have critically drawn a correlation
between socio-political problems, the governance of resources and the
weakened adaptive capacities of these communities. The authors also
carefully situate the complexity of the climate change/variability impacts by acknowledging other external factors that include economic
challenges at play in this region.
This analysis presents a better understanding of the vulnerabilities
to climate change/variability in Southern Africa and the potential for
conflict in the region. Other exacerbating factors such as poor political
governance, weak institutions, polarized social identities and the negative effect that these may have on weakening capacities in society have
been included in the analysis.
For a continent that aspires to attain regional integration, this publication will further reinforce the need for appropriate regional early
warning and conflict prevention mechanisms, and a policy environment
that recognises these climate change/variability induced challenges.
By examining the climate change/variability, resource governance,
socio-political context and the economic challenge nexus, the authors
have ensured that this publication remains relevant for policy makers in
Southern Africa, Africa, and also serve as a critical analytical tool for
conflict prevention, disaster risk reduction, and climate change adaptation program practitioners.
David Mwaniki
Chief Executive
Global Crisis Solutions
This study aims to identify regions in the Zambezi River Basin in
Southern Africa that are prone to risk of violent conflicts (collective
violence, popular unrest) induced by climatic changes/variability. The
Zambezi River is 2575 kilometres long and the basin covers eight countries: Zambia, Angola, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Tanzania, Botswana, Mozambique and Namibia.
Besides the ecological impact, the study argues that socio-economic and political problems are disproportionately multiplied by climate
change/variability. Climate change/variability amplifies stresses on the
socio-political fabric because it affects the governance of resources,
and hence, is linked to the weakened mitigation and adaptation capacity of societies, that are already facing economic challenges (rising food
prices, etc.). Society becomes highly vulnerable to climate induced conflicts when it suffers from poor central leadership, weak institutions and
polarized social identities. Taking all these factors into consideration,
this study identifies Bulawayo/Matableleland-North in Zimbabwe and
the Zambezia Province in Mozambique as the most likely regions to
experience climate induced conflicts in the near future. The reasons for
arriving at this conclusion are:
a) Climate change/variability will have a significant impact on these two
regions; due to increasing water scarcity in Bulawayo/MatabelelandNorth; and intensified flooding, sea-level rise, and costal erosion in
the Zambezia Province.
b)Due to climate change/variability, agricultural production in these
two regions will become highly volatile, leading to severe food
c) Both regions are suffering from low quality political governance,
having unscrupulous elites, weak institutions, and polarized social
The aim of this study is to identify areas in the Zambezi River Basin that
are prone to the risk of violent conflict (collective violence, popular unrest) induced by climatic changes/variability. The 3,500 kilometer long
Zambezi River plays an indispensible role for southern African socioeconomic life. 128 million people inhabit the eight states that neighbor
the Zambezi River Basin and depend on the river directly or indirectly
as a source for food and water. At the same time, climate change/variability is expected to hit sub-Saharan Africa stronger than many other
parts of the world.
Several studies attest that environmental stress and changes are
catalysts that create societal insecurity that may evolve into conflict
(Swain 1993; Wallensteen and Swain 1997; Gleditsch 1998; Nordas
and Gleditsch 2007; Machlis and Hanson 2008; Salehyan 2008; Lee
2009). Moreover, some scholars emphasize that the effects of climate
change/variability influence the occurrence of armed conflict ( German
Advisory Council on Global Change 2007; Barnett and Adger 2007;
Buhaug et al. 2008; Collier et al. 2008a; Raleigh et al. 2008; Lee 2009).
They assert that ‘increasing scarcity and variability of renewable resources, sea-level rise, and intensification of natural disasters’ are relevant in relation to armed conflict (Buhaug et al. 2008).
In this study, an attempt is been made to correlate climatic forecasts with socio-economic and political developments in the Southern
African region. Based on this approach, attempts are made to determine
which regions in the Zambezi Basin are more likely to experience conflicts (collective violence, popular unrest) because of the impact of climate change/variability. Vulnerability to climate change/variability of
the regions has been measured taking into account the impact of existing socio-economic and political factors. Besides the ecological impact,
the study argues that socio-economic and political problems are disproportionately multiplied by climate change/variability. Additionally,
climate change/variability correlates considerably with problematic
political structures and dynamics, because these affect the governance
of resources, and hence, are linked to a weakened mitigation and adaptation capacity of societies to the impacts of climate change, as well as
facing economic hurdles (rising food prices, etc.).
1.1 Climate Change – The Scientific Foundations
Climate change is defined as the significant variation of the mean state
of climate relevant variables such as temperature, precipitation and
wind in a certain period of time, commonly over 30 years (IPCC 2007).
These changes can be natural, resulting from the climatic system and
its internal dynamics. But, climate changes can also be induced through
external influences:
The climate system evolves in time under the influence of its own
internal dynamics and due to changes in external factors that affect
climate (called ‘forcings’). External forcings include natural phenomena such as volcanic eruptions and solar variations, as well as
human-induced changes in atmospheric composition. Solar radiation powers the climate system. There are three fundamental ways
to change the radiation balance of the Earth: 1) by changing the
incoming solar radiation (e.g., by changes in Earth’s orbit or in the
Sun itself); 2) by changing the fraction of solar radiation that is reflected (called ‘albedo’; e.g., by changes in cloud cover, atmospheric
particles or vegetation); and 3) by altering the longwave radiation
from Earth back towards space (e.g., by changing greenhouse gas
concentrations). Climate, in turn, responds directly to such changes, as well as indirectly, through a variety of feedback mechanisms
(IPCC 2007).
The distinction made by the IPCC about external forcings is important
as it disaggregates matters that are often confused or neglected in public
and political discourse. Global climate fluctuates naturally through numerous phenomena, but climate also changes through human interference. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
(UNFCCC) states in Article 2: ‘“Climate change” means a change of
climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that
alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition
to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods’
(UNFCCC 1994).
For the sake of clarity this study tries to distinguish between climate change and climate variability: ‘Climate change’ in reference to
changes that are induced by human activity, such as the emission of
greenhouse gases and aerosols, that are shifting the atmospheric composition, and thus change the ‘incoming solar radiation and out-going
infrared (thermal) radiation’ (IPCC 2007), causing what is commonly
referred to as the greenhouse effect. ‘Climate variability’ will be used
with regard to naturally occurring changes in global climate, meaning
caused without human activity. According to the IPCC, human impact
on global climate since the beginning of the industrialization, exceeds
the natural processes of climate variability (IPCC 2007).
It is necessary to state that despite the IPCC’s standing as a scientific authority in the study of climate change, its reports and assessments have recently caused controversy. The IPCC, which compiles the
results of many scholars into their synthesis reports, has come under
scrutiny over the prediction that the Himalaya glaciers could possibly
melt away as early as 2035. In a statement the IPCC confirmed that this
prediction was wrong and not based on rigorous scientific modeling.
Nonetheless, the IPCC in the same statement affirmed that its conclusions, that ‘Climate change is expected to exacerbate current stresses
on water resources from population growth and economic and landuse change, including urbanization’ is still scientifically verified and
remains unchallenged (IPCC 2010). Thus, it remains recognized that:
On a regional scale, mountain snow pack, glaciers and small ice
caps play a crucial role in freshwater availability. Widespread mass
losses from glaciers and reductions in snow cover over recent decades are projected to accelerate throughout the 21st century, reducing water availability, hydropower potential, and changing seasonality of flows in regions supplied by meltwater from major mountain
ranges (e.g. Hindu-Kush, Himalaya, Andes), where more than onesixth of the world population currently lives (IPCC 2010).
Climate change, due to greenhouse gas emissions, will particularly affect the variability of water resources globally. The increase of global
surface temperature, through the greenhouse effect, is expected to increase the ‘atmospheric water-holding capacity’ (Min et al. 2011), among
others because of increased evaporation. That means scientists expect
changing patterns of precipitation ‘in the intensity, frequency, and dura15
tion of events’ (Trenberth et al. 2003: 1205), because the amount of water in the air is increasing. As a consequence, floods will become more
frequent, due to more-intense, heavy precipitation. At the same time
droughts will become more frequent as well, with more and more water
vaporizing from the land into the air. It is difficult to attribute droughts
to climate change/variability by excluding natural climate variability,
because both factors interact (cf. Le Houérou 1996). The same is true
for precipitation changes (Allen and Ingram 2002: 231). But recent
studies seem to confirm that human induced climate change already
contributes to today’s ‘more-intense precipitation extremes’ (Min et al.
2011) and can be attributed to recent floods and, thus, to increasing the
risk of floods (Pall et al. 2011).
As mentioned throughout, considering the complexity of global climate it would be a show of poor judgment to isolate climate change as
a single cause of weather events. Pall et al. discuss this matter related to
recent floods in the UK:
Recent widespread UK floods—such as in spring 1998, autumn
2000, winter 2003 and summer 2007—have prompted debate as to
whether these particular events are attributable to anthropogenic
climate change. This is an ill-posed question, given uncertainty in
the antecedent conditions; many untraceable factors, anthropogenic
or natural, may have contributed to any individual event. Indeed,
observed UK fluvial-flood and high-flow trends for recent decades
suggest no clear evidence for any change above that of natural variability, mirroring the mixed picture in observed precipitation changes (Pall et al. 2011).
Nonetheless, climate change seems to considerably contribute to climate variability. Researchers working with Pall approach the problem
from a new angle and investigate not causality as such, but ask ‘what
fraction of the event probability is attributable to the anthropogenic
drivers’ (Pall et al. 2011). By modeling an attribution framework, which
is focusing on greenhouse gas emissions only, Pall et al. are able to
show ‘that it is very likely that global anthropogenic greenhouse gas
emissions substantially increased the risk of flood occurrence in England and Wales in autumn 2000’ (Pall et al. 2011).
Climate is a global phenomenon that affects all countries and regions
in the world to a different extent. The general trend suggests an increase
in global surface temperatures, but climate data of the twentieth century
shows that Africa is and will continuously be warming faster than the
global average. Scholars are certain that there will be no generalized,
single effect of climate change/variability on Africa, because of the long
geographical stretch of the continent. Collier, Conway and Venables
claim two regional patterns of changing climate for Africa. Northern
and Southern Africa will become much hotter (min. plus 4°C) and drier
(about 10-20 per cent less rain). Eastern and Central Africa will experience increased rainfall by about 15 per cent. In general more regions
will frequently suffer from droughts and floods (Collier et al. 2008b).
This is inline with the predictions of the IPCC (Boko et al. 2007: 44446). In a study for the Nordic-African Foreign Ministers Meeting in
2009, Brown and Crawford further disaggregate the IPCC data. They
describe four regional patterns for climate change/variability impacts on
Africa. Decreasing rainfall at the Mediterranean coast (North Africa) by
20 per cent and a possible increasing of temperature by 9°C; increase in
rain by seven per cent in East Africa; less rain in Southern Africa’s extreme west, with a temperature rise between 3.7°C to 7°C. For western
Africa predictions are unclear. Higher rain through shifts and increases
in the West African Monsoon are possible (Brown and Crawford 2009:
9). In addition, all costal areas in Africa are currently affected by erosion, flooding and subsidence (caused by exploitation and overpopulation), which is likely to increase further due to climate change/variability (Simms 2005: 13). But again scholars are uncertain to associate
climate events to climate change or climate variability. An example are
discussions regarding droughts in the Sahel zone. Le Houérou points
out that the Sahel is frequently affected by droughts, but scholars are
undecided whether climate change had any influence on the severity of
these droughts (Le Houérou 1996).
Considering the expectation of more frequent droughts and floods,
the forecast of river flows and its interaction with extreme variation in
precipitation becomes crucial. In recent studies climate scientists are
debating if the current models are giving a sufficient estimate of future
precipitation, and argue even that current ‘models seem to underestimate the observed increase in heavy precipitation with warming’ (Min
et al. 2011: 378). Consequently, the prediction of river flows becomes
even harder. The real effect on flow of the river systems in Africa is apparently unpredictable. Nevertheless, specialists estimate that in drier
areas a decrease in rainfall by 10 per cent would have a severe effect
on the river system like the Zambezi and Limpopo in southern Africa.
The dynamics in fresh water systems are fundamental to the connection
that climate change/variability and society share, because it ‘is likely to
affect the volume and timing of river flows and groundwater recharge,
and, thus, affect the numbers and distribution of people affected by water scarcity’ (Arnell 2004: 31).
Already today the world is experiencing a global water crisis. Arnell
writes that 1400 million people inhabit river basins that suffer from
water stress (defined as 1000m3 /capita/year (Arnell 2004). The origins
of this crisis are well known (Biswas 1993; Falkenmark 1990; Swain
2004) and are not limited to climate factors alone. UN agencies estimate that approximately 900 million people live without access to clean
drinking water sources and over 2.6 billion people lack adequate sanitation (WHO 2010). The magnitude of people affected by the current water crisis emphasizes that it is growing into an issue of a common global
concern, and the situation is expected to get worse (Gleick 2009), in
particular though climate change/variability.
In many ways it is the variability of water resources that connects
climate change/variability to multiple ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ security issues.
Hence, it even raises the question if climate change/variability is a cause
of armed conflict.
1.2 Climate Change/Variability – The Security
Climate change/variability is becoming a matter of geopolitical concern and has changed the discourse in international politics, bringing
the conservative military security paradigm into the debate. One aspect of the discussion is about the anticipated ice-free Arctic and, thus,
the chance to exploit arctic oilfields. This involves actors like Russia,
Canada, Norway and the USA, who all neighbor the Arctic.
The interstate dimension clearly dominates the classic security debate. And thus, one of the most serious emerging challenge lies in the
future of existing water sharing agreements since the water in these
basins will vary more frequently and severely, because of changing climate dynamics. Challenges are expected with extreme glacier melting,
while in other regions droughts and meteorological disasters are the
major threat. The melting of glaciers will impact especially on some
The term ‘hard security issues’ refers to more traditional military security concerns, while
‘soft security issues’ includes also those security concerns as food security, health security,
environmental security etc. With the end of the cold war and the abolishment of the extreme
military block confrontation the political space allowed the salience of these soft security
of the major Asian river basins such as the Ganges Basin (Nepal, India
and Bangladesh), the Indus Basin (India and Pakistan), and the Mekong
River (China, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam). At
present water is one of the main issues between India and Pakistan,
with India securing water resources for its growing metropolis areas.
Also China requires huge amounts of water to supply its immense economic growth. This has severe affects for lower riparian states along the
Mekong, which experience extreme water supply variability, because
of the construction of major dams on the Chinese side. Mekong, Indus
and Ganges are additionally experiencing severe floods through heavy
rains, as seen in 2010.
Progressing desertification through increased vaporization and
changing rain patterns are a cause of concern for the riparian’s in the
Jordan Basin (Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Jordan and the ‘West Bank’),
Aral Sea Basin (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan,
Afghanistan), Chad Lake Basin (Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, and
Central African Republic), Zambezi Basin (Zambia, Angola, Zimbabwe,
Malawi, Tanzania, Botswana, Mozambique and Namibia), and not least
the Nile Basin (Rwanda, Burundi, Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda,
Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt) (cf. Swain forthcoming 2011b).
The Nile Basin was considered by many water researchers and policy
makers as having a high potential to induce water conflicts in the region, due to increasing water demand of its riparian’s and the unequal
distribution of water and power in the basin (Clarke 1991; Gleick 1993;
Swain 1996a). Refuting all these dire predictions and being actively
encouraged and supported by the World Bank, the Nile Basin countries
came together in 1999 to form the Nile Basin Initiative with an objective to establish a basin based water management institution. Though
conflict escalation has been managed in the Nile Basin for sometime,
the basin-based cooperation has yet to achieve tangible success.
The geopolitical dimensions and military security consequences of
climate change/variability pose a severe challenge to interstate relations
of many states. Nonetheless, it is the direct impact on people that is human security aspects that are most worrying. One of these human security factors is food security, which according to experts will be highly
affected through the multiple impacts of climate change/variability. One
third of the African population is affected by hunger and chronic malnutrition, as well as threats from food crisis and famine (Haile 2005).
Agriculture, is a major economic activity in Africa, with approximately
60 per cent of employment coming from the agricultural sector, and in
some countries accounting for 50 per cent of the countries GDP; there19
fore making it much more sensitive to climate change/variability than
industrial based economies (Collier et al. 2008b). The agriculture sector is very sensitive to changes in climate (especially rainfall). Climate
change/variability will consequently lead to more frequent extreme
weather events in Africa, such as droughts and floods, eventually affecting productivity and likely leading to food shortages (Haile 2005).
Some sources claim that by 2020 the yield for crop in some countries
will be halving and that ‘net crop revenues [will] fall by 90% by 2100’
(Boko et al. 2007: 448; Mohamed-Katerer unpublished: 3). The IPCC
also foresees that parts of the Sahara region will be particularly vulnerable, with agriculture losses that total 2-7 per cent of GDP. Western and
central Africa will lose about 2-4 per cent, while the impact on Northern
and Southern Africa is estimated to be about 0.4 to 1.3 per cent (Boko
et al. 2007: 447). Some models suggest a decrease of suitable rain-fed
land for crops, and an increase in arid or semi arid land by 5-8 per cent
by 2080. The report claims that wheat production would likely disappear from Africa and that maize production in southern Africa would
be notably reduced (Boko et al. 2007: 448). Despite the major negative impacts of climate change/variability on Africa there will be some
regions benefiting. Ethiopian highlands and Mozambique are likely to
gain longer growing seasons through the changed climate (Boko et al.
2007: 448).
Sea-level rise is particularly threatening to some of the smaller Island
states, such as the Maldives in Indian Ocean and many small Pacific
Islands. But it also threatens the sources of livelihood for millions
of people that live in low lying river deltas, for example the Mekong
Delta in Vietnam, the Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta in Bangladesh, the
Amazonas Delta in Brazil, the Nile Delta in Egypt, and the Zambezi
Delta in Mozambique. Rich and developed states will be able to mitigate the impact of rising sea levels, for instance London with the
Thames Barrier. Others have long-lasting experience with seawater intrusion e.g. Netherlands which shields parts of its inland through the
Oosterscheldekering (Eastern Scheldt Storm Surge Barrier). But, the
situation is quite precarious for poor developing regions.
Three major factors that are associated with the threats of sea-level rise
along costal areas:
1)Sea-level rise will reduce the living space for people and cause
forced displacement to other regions.
2)Saltwater intrusion will pose a severe threat to river ecosystems and
also make agriculture nearly impossible with the salinization of soils
and water systems.
3)Sea-level rise will cause erosion and thus destroy infrastructure
(streets, harbors, living space etc).
Of course, the rising sea level will affect African countries in varying
ways, as costal areas are differently developed and populated. Significant effects are however, expected in the Nile Delta, in Ghana and in
Gambia. Floods will affect the infrastructure all over Africa increasing
pressure on state budgets (Collier et al. 2008b). Health effects of climate change/variability pose another security threat (McMichael et al.
2006). In Africa an increase in high temperature mortalities is expected
as well as the increase of disease carrying insects (Pascual et al. 2006).
1.3 Climate Change/Variability – The Conflict
Many argue that conflicts will increase due to the impact of climate
change/variability, though not through a direct singular causal mechanism. In the specific context of armed conflict, Wallensteen and Swain
identified in the 1990s: (a) environmental destruction as the repercussion of conflict and (b) environmental destruction as the cause of conflict itself (Wallensteen & Swain, 1997). The debate, which evolved
prominently during the 1990s, frequently refers to population migration as one of the key linking points between climate change/variability
and armed conflict. The anticipated increase in the number of climate
change/variability migrants will cause stress on receiving communities, which might themselves suffer under resource stress, and, thus,
eventually lead to new security problems through increased competition (Swain, 1996; Salehyan, 2005; Buhaug & Urdal, 2009).
Some preliminary research finds quantifiable connections between
climate change/variability and organized communal conflicts/violence.
Theisen’s research on scarcity and organized violence in Kenya con But dissent remains on the question if the consequence of climate change/variability is
armed conflict. Some authors have argued that climate change/variability will affect mainly
the poorest and least powerful parts of society. Thus, it would affect people ‘less capable
of waging significant conflicts to redress grievances against neighbors and governments’
(Raleigh et al. 2008: 2).
firms climatic effects on conflict. His disaggregated quantitative study
combines climatic and societal indicators in a small geographic grid of
cells. The tentative findings show that following wetter years conflict
risk rises, however heating might increase conflict risk as well. Densely
populated areas increase risk of conflict (but just during election years),
as do multi-ethnic and less developed areas (Theisen 2010). Raleigh
and Kniveton confirm the trend of high rainfall leading to increased risk
of localized communal conflict in Kenya (Raleigh and Kniveton 2010).
However, the findings indicate that multicausality of climate change/
variability factors with many other factors leading to conflict. Thus, it
must be regarded with caution when Burke et al. claim that ‘historical
linkages between civil war and temperature in Africa’ exist when looking at climate variation and conflicts in the timeframe of 1981 to 2002.
They predict an increase of 54 per cent in armed conflict in Africa by
2030 (Burke et al. 2009).
As Salehyan unambiguously argued in 2008: the discussion regarding the causal relationship between climate change/variability and
conflicts has yet to produce consensus (Salehyan 2008). Nonetheless,
the German Advisory Council on Global Change identified in 2007
three key findings that conform with the findings of the majority of
• Multicausality: All approaches emphasize the multicausality of
the conflicts observed. There is a consensus that environmental
degradation is always only one of several complexly connected
causes of conflict and that environmental degradation rarely
seems to be the decisive factor.
• Locality: There is also a consensus regarding the locality of the
conflicts believed to involve an environmental element. They are
predominantly intrastate conflicts; even when they can be categorized as cross-border conflicts they are generally not classical interstate conflicts in the sense of large-scale wars between
countries but rather regionally limited clashes at the sub-national level, such as between states that border on the same rivers and lakes.
• Problem-solving capacity: Finally, all the approaches emphasize the central role of a state’s or society’s problem-solving capacity with regard to the emergence and management of
conflicts: in places where political and societal institutions are
weak, there is a proportionally higher probability of conflict occurring. Future crisis hotspots are therefore assumed to be lo22
cated in countries and regions considered problematic in terms
of their problem-solving capacity (German Advisory Council on
Global Change 2007: 30).
On the basis of the existing literature it can be safely argued that climate change/variability may not generate conflicts in itself, but that
climate change/variability can, and in some instances already does, act
as a ‘threat multiplier’, i.e. it interacts with other factors (complex societal dynamics, politics) towards causing conflicts. Having that view,
this study attempts to identify areas in the Zambezi River basin that are
prone to the risk of climate induced violent conflicts (collective violence, popular unrest).
Socio-Economic and
Political Dimensions
2.1 The Impact of Climate Change/Variability on
the Socio-Economic System
In the economic literature, the effect of climate change/variability on
aggregate economic activity has been broadly enumerated using two
methodologies. The first approach uses growth and development theories to examine the relationship between average temperature and aggregate economic variables in a cross-section of countries (e.g. Sachs and
Warner 1997; Gallup et al. 1999; Nordhaus 2006). Empirical research
on cross-sectional data of the world shows that countries in warmer climates tend to be poorer. The second is the Integrated Assessment Models (IAM), which on the other hand relies on micro-evidence to estimate
the various climatic effects and then aggregates them to impute the net
impact on national income. They are widely used in the climate change/
variability literature to model the interactions between the climate and
the economy. However, there are multiple mechanisms through which
climate change/variability may impact economic outcomes and interact
with other factors.
Given these complexities, aggregating the impacts and their interactions on the macroeconomic outcomes becomes very challenging. Micro
level climate literature, suggests a wide range of climate change/variability effects, including influences on agricultural productivity, mortality, crime, and social unrest etc., most of which are not accounted for
in implemented quantitative models. Recent research finds that in poor
Some researchers dispute this, arguing that this correlation is spurious and is due to the
correlation of climate change/variability with other factors such as country level characteristics for instance, institutional quality etc. (e.g., Acemoglu, Johnson, and Robinson 2002;
Rodrik, Subramanian, and Trebbi 2004).
countries, higher temperatures in a given year reduce the growth rate
of GDP per capita (Dell et al. 2008). Dell et al. show that an increase
of one degree Celsius is associated with a decline of 8.5 per cent in national income (Dell et al. 2009). Investigating further, Jones and Olken
find that higher temperatures in poor countries, lead to large negative
impacts on the growth of their exports (Jones and Olken 2010). Their
results suggest that with a rise of one degree Celsius in a given year
the growth of that country’s exports decrease by between 2.0 and 5.7
percentage points. The negative impact is substantial on agricultural
exports and light manufacturing exports, with little effects on heavy
industry or raw materials production.
There is substantial economic literature on the impact of climate
change/variability on the economy that empirically documents the effect of climate on agriculture, labor productivity, crime and social unrest, and health. Paradoxically, Africa remains a marginal contributor
to climate change/variability but the most vulnerable to it. This vulnerability may be viewed as a function of the sensitivity of agriculture to
changes in climate, the adaptive capacity of the system, and the degree
of exposure to climate hazards (IPCC 2001: 89).
The economic impact of climate change/variability may be broadly
captured as a combination of direct impact, indirect impacts and reduction in future economic activity. As explained in Figure 1, given the
agriculture dependent, traditional economies of Africa, higher temperature has a direct impact on the economy through changes in agricultural
production and crop yields. It affects the amount of arable land; impacts
the length of growing season; changes the yield potential; and impacts
the livestock systems (Bruinsma 2003). Climate change/variability induced disruptions in food and water systems, health (heat-related mortality, diseases) and rise in sea levels, adversely affect development and
livelihoods. This is further likely to have an impact on economic development of rural poor communities and agricultural productivity, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa (Mendelsohn et al. 2000a; Mendelsohn et
al. 2000b; Mortimer and Manvel 2006; Howden et al. 2007; Twomlow
et al. 2008).
For impact on agriculture: Adams et al. 1990, Mendelsohn et al. 2001, Schlenker and
Roberts 2006, Deschenes and Greenstone 2007, and Guiteras 2007. For health: Curriero et al.
2002, Deschenes and Moretti 2007, Deschenes and Greenstone 2007, Gallup and Sachs 2001,
and Sachs and Malaney 2002. On labor productivity: Meese et al. 1982, and Huntington 1915.
On crime and social unrest: Field 1992, Jacob et al. 2007, and Miguel et al. 2004. Many other
possible climate-economy channels are discussed in the intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change 4th Assessment Report (IPCC 2007).
Figure 1: Socio-Economic Impact of Climate Change/Variability
Climate change/variability and its economic impact are not isolated
events. Interactions between these economic changes, and existing political, economic, social and security environments might result in further indirect economic impacts. For instance, climate change/variability
will reduce the water flow by 10 per cent in the Zambezi and Limpopo
basin. This will have a direct impact on crop yields. However, coupled
with the presence of HIV/AIDS and conflict, the situation will lead
to further economic distress. Researchers also suggest that an adverse
environmental impact on the economy might also discourage future
2.2 Political System and Climate Change/Variability
The connection between the political system and its governance of socio-economic impacts of climate change/variability is threefold: 1) with
a negative impact on the economy, politics can act as a stressor /catalyst
to create conflict; (2) with weak political, economic and social institutions, the resilience of the vulnerable worsens; (3) existence of polarized social identities further deteriorates the situation.
Figure 2: Quality of Governance and the socio-economic Impact of Climate
2.2.1 Elites
Most types of collective violence – be it insurgencies or less organized
forms, such as riots and communal conflicts – generally necessitates the
active involvement of elites. In fact, most scholars argue that without
the presence of resourceful and willing politicians, businessmen, communal or military leaders, a desire amongst individuals to engage in
violence is unlikely to transform itself into collective action. Brown,
for example, argues that ‘bad leaders’ constitute the single greatest
threat to peace and security (Brown 1996: 575). Inspired by economic
greed, hunger for power, or ideological or religious fervor, elites function as ‘catalysts that turn potentially volatile situations into open warfare’ (Brown 1996: 571). Similar thoughts can be found in the literature
on ethnic mobilization. Gurr is of the opinion that a strong and united
leadership is a prerequisite for any ethnic group seeking to politically
or militarily challenge a central government (Gurr 2000). Meanwhile,
a central tenet of Collier and Hoeffler’s greed theory is that insurgencies are largely the result of deliberate actions taking by rebel leaders
to enrich themselves (Collier 2004). By taking to arms, they aspire to
capture or seek rent from valuable natural resources. Elites can have
an especially detrimental effect in post-civil war societies. With weak
state institutions and a hostile security climate, spoilers – ‘leaders and
parties who believe that peace emerging from negotiations threatens
their power, worldview, and interests, and use violence to undermine attempts to achieve it’ – often have the opportunity and means to sponsor
or engage in different sorts of violence (Stedman 1997: 5).
There are two main reasons for why elite involvement tends to be
a prerequisite for collective violence to take place. First, individuals
at the lower echelons of society seldom have the resources and skills
needed to finance and co-ordinate violent acts of a collective nature.
Not only do people need to be fed, armed, and at times paid, they must
also be organized in an efficient manner. Second, people are usually
very susceptible to who seeks to mobilize them. According to Bhatia
and Muggah ‘combatants can distinguish between illegitimate and legitimate mobilization’ and ‘choose ‘who’ can demand mobilization’
(Bhatia and Muggah 2009: 142). It can be argued that elites are more
likely to be accepted as legitimate mobilizers, since there is a higher
chance that they are known to a larger segment of the population. This
is particularly true if they are also believed to be representing the interest of the wider community. By utilizing ethnic, political, economic or
military networks, they can generate the necessary feelings of affinity, trust and even fear to convince men and women to fight for them
(Themnér forthcoming 2011).
It is foremost national elites that possess the greatest capacity to initiate collective violence. Not only do they usually control larger patronage networks within the country – whereby they can generate greater
resources and have more followers at their disposal; they are also often
entrenched in the central institutions of the state. As such, they may
have state revenues, not to mention the police, army, secret services and
civilian branches of the administration, at their disposal. Other national
elites may have access to other types of formal organizations – ranging
from political parties and interest groups, to businesses and religious
associations – that can also be used as venues for violent enterprises.
Moving on to local elites, they can also have a negative effect on
security dynamics. Research has found that less organized forms of violence, such as riots, are usually sponsored by local dignitaries (Varshney
2002: 10-11). In addition, it is not uncommon that actors such as paramount chiefs, village elders or local representatives of political parties incite violence. In Ethiopia, for example, Afar village elders were
involved in the planning of armed attacks against their Issa neighbors
in 2002 (Markakis 2003). Such acts of violence can at times be an extension of national disputes, whereby chiefs and communal leaders
align themselves with national patrons, or, be purely localized affairs
concerning the control of local resources. Even if sub-national leaders
can, at times, utilize formal organizations to sponsor violent actions
– such as local branches of political parties, youth clubs or municipality institutions – they are often dependent on more informal networks.
For instance, by utilizing ethnic ties, the Afar elders mentioned above,
were able to convince village youths to engage in communal conflict
(Markakis 2003).
The question is, however, why we should expect an increased risk of
conflict in communities who both have ‘bad leaders’ in their midst and
are affected by climate change/variability? There are three plausible
explanations for this.
First, if climate change/variability results in a substantial decrease
in resources such as water and thus, the loss of land for grazing and
agriculture, there may be heightened competition between elites, and
local communities, over their exploitation. This is especially true if local and national dignitaries are dependent on such resources to uphold
their patronage networks. During such rivalries it may be tempting for
elites, like in Ethiopia in the 1980s, to mobilize their clients against the
interest of other elites, at worst escalating into open violence.
Second, politicians, businessmen or communal leaders can have incentives to organize violent acts even though they are not personally affected by climate change/variability. For political or economic reasons
of their own, they may, like in Pakistan, manipulate people’s fears of
economic and social marginalization – due to food insecurity, droughts
or floods – in order to mobilize support against other elites.
Thirdly, elites can even have incentives to use access to food and water as a political tool. They can do so by channeling scarce resources to
their own followers and withholding them to those of their adversaries’,
they may hope to gain concessions from the latter. This was observed in
Cambodia, Bangladesh, Sudan, and many other cases.
2.2.2 Institutions
The role that institutions play in terms of risk coping, adaptation capacity, and resilience of states and societies to climate change/variability
is crucial. As the examples of water sharing agreements and river governing commission’s show, the institutions can be the tipping point between cooperation or confrontation.
Just as economic grievances and the actions of malign elites can
have a detrimental effect on security, so can the presence of weak state
institutions that are unable to provide social goods and services to its
citizens. The strength of state institutions often erodes due to two interlinked processes. First, external pressures – such as withdrawal of
foreign aid or patronage, price shocks or falling commodity prices
– can undermine the ability of the central and local governments to finance the security forces, health sector, court and educational systems,
as well as to uphold vital infrastructure (Brown 1996: 576). Second,
internal dynamics can also affect the quality and reach of state institutions. Periods of political transitions and economic mismanagement can
lead to institutional disorder and further damage the government’s ability to carry out the most basic functions (Brown 1996: 576). At worst,
government leaders and officials purposely seek to dismantle state institutions, creating ‘shadow states’ that leave citizens ‘less secure and
more materially impoverished’. By doing so leaders aim to ‘encourage
individuals to seek the ruler’s personal favor to secure exemption from
these conditions’ (Reno 2000: 46-47).
There are two foremost causal paths by which weak institutions can
lead to an increased risk of violence. If local communities do not have
access to water, food, security, healthcare or educational facilities, there
is an acute danger that they will become aggrieved. This is especially
true if they have previously been accustomed to receiving such goods
and services from the state, or if they have had expectations of improvements in these areas in the near future (Gurr 1970). Such feelings of injustice are often correlated with the outbreak of armed action. Research
has, for instance, shown that people’s feelings of economic and social marginalization is usually at the heart of most violent enterprises
(Zartman 1995; Bøås and Dunn 2007; Ohlson 2008). Considering the
central role that institutions have in providing social services to communities, we should expect dysfunctional state structures to at least indirectly affect the prevalence of collective violence.
Another problem with weak institutions is that it creates uncertainties about where the country is heading and the rules of acceptable political behavior. Such uncertainties can, at worst, push or tempt
different actors to resort to violence. This is especially true in societies that undergo transitions from authoritarian to democratic modes
of governance or that are recovering from protracted armed conflicts.
Hegre et al., for example, hold that semi-democracies are positively
correlated to the outbreak of civil wars (Hegre et al. 2001). The reason for this is that while semi-democratic institutions on the one hand
are open enough to invite to protest, enough authoritarian tendencies
remain to generate violent repressions against open dissent, which in
return can lead to rebellion. In semi-democracies ambiguities concerning laws and norms are, however, seldom confined to the state’s right
to employ violence. Reformed media laws may, for example, tolerate
private newspapers and TV-channels, while at the same time allowing
the state to retain clauses of censorship. Similarly, judges appointed by
the previous authoritarian regime, may impede efforts to reform the
judicial system. Such quasi-reformed institutions also have the potential to reinforce political and constitutional vagueness. Meanwhile, the
capacity and neutrality of state structures is often of major concern in
post-war countries. Since most rebel forces contest the legitimacy of
government institutions during war – and actively seek to destroy them
– state structures tend to be weak in societies emerging from civil wars.
This, together with the fact that such institutions may have been used
to commit atrocities during the previous hostilities, means that formal
institutions are often ill placed to ensure the security and wellbeing of
citizens. This can, at worst, create incentives for different actors to arm
themselves and resort to violence.
Depending on their position in society, elites and ordinary citizens
may react differently to periods of democratization and weakening of
institutions. Elites that control the state apparatus may feel vulnerable
and fear a loss of power. The same is true for social groups that have
traditionally been close to the center of power, whereby they have had
disproportional access to public resources. Rather than risk marginalization, both of these groups may have incentives to pre-emptively employ violence to scare off potential challengers; especially during times
of elections (Brown 1996: 576, 86; Gurr 2000). For others, fragile state
institutions and the opening of the political space may offer an opportunity to confront structures that are perceived as oppressive or unfair.
This is especially true for oppositional elites and marginalized groups
who previously lacked access to the central decision-making process.
At worst such mobilization can turn violent (Gurr 2000; Hegre et al.
2001). In some situations weak institutions and political liberalization
can, however, lead to violence even though elites and social groups do
not actively seek it. For instance, in cases of state disintegration – the
former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia being two extreme cases – where
central governments are believed to lack the capacity to ensure security, ethnic groups may be motivated to apply unilateral measures to
protect themselves. Even if these actions may have defensive intentions
– setting up local watch-groups or militias to guard specific neighborhoods – it may generate reciprocal actions from other groups; at worst
degenerating into a security dilemma that can easily trigger collective
violence (Brown 1996: 576).
Based on the reasoning above, there are arguably two manners in
which climate change/variability and weak institutions can interact to
reinforce the risk of violence. First, alterations in temperature and precipitation are likely to affect the socio-economic systems particularly
hard when there are weak institutions. Low administrative capacity and
insufficient infrastructure means that it will be difficult for national and
local institutions to distribute food, water and health supplies to exposed areas. This may not only undermine the legitimacy of the state,
but also exasperate communal conflicts between groups competing for
scarce resources, as recently seen in Pakistan after the 2010 floods.
Second, frail institutions are also less likely to have the capacity to
regulate and control climate-induced tensions in a peaceful manner. If
state structures are deemed as weak and partial, elites have incentives to
use unconstitutional measures – such as acts of violence, human rights
abuses and electoral tampering – to solve disputes between themselves.
Similarly, local communities – engaged in resource disputes with other
communities – may take matters into their own hands. Rather than entrusting the authorities to guard grazing areas, farmland or freshwater supplies, they may feel pressed to ensure access to these resources
by arming themselves. At worst, there can even be interaction-effects
between climate change/variability and weak institutions: fragile state
structures have problems coping with the effect of climate change/variability, increasing levels of poverty, undermining state legitimacy and
increasing societal tensions, which in turn further weakens the capacity
and reach of institutions.
2.2.3 Social Identities
Even if economic problems, bad leaders and weak institutions constitute
vital ingredients for armed action to take place, most forms of collective violence are also dependent on a common social identity that bind
people together. Klandermans, for instance, argues that ‘aggrieved people might have the resources and opportunities to protest, but they still
need to construct a politicized collective identity to engage in collective
political action’ (Klandermans 2003: 675). It is through the lens of a
common identity – be it ethnicity, religion, class, ideology, regionalism
or something else – that aggrieved individuals come to the conclusion
that they are facing a common problem, which they can collectively
work to overcome (Tilly 1978; Zartman 1995: 5; Ellingsen 2000; Gurr
2000). It is usually by tapping into the shared perceptions of injustice
and marginalization within such social groups that elites are able to
For an extended discussion on the theoretical dynamics of environmental and societal security issues see cf. Roland Kostić, Florian Krampe, and Ashok Swain, ’Liberal Statebuilding
and Environmental Security - the International Community between Trade-Off and
Carelessness’, in Ramses Amer, Ashok Swain and Joakim Öjendal (eds.), The Development
and Security Nexus (London: Anthem Press, forthcoming, 2011).
mobilize men and women both politically and militarily. Such calls for
action – either based on a genuine conviction about a just cause or used
to hide more cynical motives – often have a strong appeal to wider
constituencies (Ohlson 2008: 142). This is especially true in times of
insecurity or a growing sense of impending crisis. Describing the societal processes leading up to the outbreak of civil war, Lyons holds that
‘insecurity and the breakdown of larger networks lead people to seek
protection in narrower family, clan, ethnic, and religious networks’ (Lyons 2005: 47). The reason for this is that collective identities, such as
ethnicity, reduce complexity by providing clearer guidelines for whom
to trust and interact with, (especially in the absence of functioning state
institutions that can uphold law and order). Hence, at times of societal
upheaval identity formation processes can take a life of their own, as
different groups begin awarding positive traits to their own members
and negative stereotypes to non-members, resulting in increased communal polarization (Tajfel 1974).
Once individuals have internalized a group identity they are often
reluctant to dispose of it. This is particularly the case in the aftermath of
civil wars and large-scale killings. Not trusting the new institutions being built or the intentions of opposing groups, citizens may continue to
award loyalty to chauvinistic leaders and symbols. As a result wartime
identities often continue to flourish long after the cessation of hostilities. Post-war politics and elections may, for example, continue to be
dominated by the former belligerent parties who seek to win office by
mobilizing the electorate along wartime fault lines, while ex-combatants
continue to adhere to their factional belongings (Kostić 2007; Themnér
forthcoming 2011). This lack of inter-communal communication, often
results in groups having different perceptions of what happened during
the war and subsequently also different historical narratives of what
constitutes the truth (Lerche 2000). Such divergences can further entrench already polarized communities.
Hardened social identities constitute an especially acute problem
when they (a) exist within authoritarian states and (b) are based on
not one, but several overlapping identities. Concerning the former,
Sambanis, for example, finds that armed conflicts along ethnic lines
are especially likely to erupt in societies with undemocratic systems
of governance (Sambanis 2001). Due to their authoritarian tendencies
such institutions often discriminate against ethnic minorities politically, providing ethnic entrepreneurs with an opportunity for mobilization. Meanwhile, the theory on crosscutting memberships holds that if
a collective of individuals share several overlapping identity markers
– whereby they are simultaneously part of several social groups – they
are less likely to have moderate attitudes and take restrained actions
(Lijphart 1977: 75-76). There is, hence, a greater risk of political mobilization when, for example, an ethnic group not only possesses a salient
cultural and historical identity, but also predominantly belongs to an
underprivileged class.
How then can polarized social identities and climate change/variability interact to create a more conflict prone situation? One causal
path that this can take is that food and water scarcity – induced by
climate change/variability – is likely to create feelings of uncertainty about the social and economic sustainability, if not survival, of local communities. In such instances, it could be presumed that already
polarized communities will – in line with Lyons’ argument – be even
more likely to adhere to and seek sanctuary in narrower “family, clan,
ethnic, and religious networks,” rendering inter-group cooperation null
and void (Lyons 2005: 47). Resource scarcity and competition may, in
other words, be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. This is particularly true in situations where climate change/variability affects groups
with overlapping, reinforcing identities. With few crosscutting cleavages, communal groups may come to the conclusion that members of
other groups constitute the main obstacle for their economic and social
wellbeing, creating incentives for armed action.
2.3 Interaction of Climatic, Socio-Economic and
Political Factors
Climate change and climate variability will inevitably have tremendous
impact on the livelihood of societies and pose challenges to national
and regional security. As argued above climate change/variability can
have a catalyzing affect on the cause of social unrest and armed conflict. However, climate change/variability will not do so on its own, but
in interaction with the socio-economic and political system. Socio-economic impacts emerge from climate change/variability effects on food
and water resources that are critical for livelihoods and survival across
developing countries (particularly Africa).
As figure 3 suggests, the quality of governance, particular elites,
institutions and social identities, is crucial for societies, as it has the
ability to control the impact of climate change/variability on the socioeconomic system.
Figure 3: Climate Change/Variability, the Socio-Economic System and Political Governance
In a situation where the political system and institutions fail and social identities are protracted, the presence of climate and environmental
stressors is likely to intensify an existing distressful condition and lead
to a further negative impact on the livelihood of a household, individual
or social group, making them more vulnerable.
The weakening institutions cause two interrelated problems: a) failure to distribute certain goods and services (food, water, medicine) to
affected communities, increase feelings of neglect, b) weak institutions
create feelings of uncertainty amongst local communities, as well as
amongst national and local elites about their position in societies.
In these situations elites can have incentives to play on the fears/
feelings of marginalization amongst polarized groups. A society with
strong institutions may be able to handle these pressures/spoilers, but
it may not be possible in societies with weak institutions: a) such weak
institutions have a difficult time channeling political mobilization in a
peaceful way, b) such institutions (especially if semi-democratic) may
even engage in oppressive measures of their own (security forces), increasing the risk of conflict.
The Zambezi River Basin
The 3.500 kilometer long Zambezi River dominates Southern Africa.
Its basin stretches over eight states, and is an important geopolitical
factor for southern African politics. Moreover, it is a source of life for
the millions of people that depend on the river as a source for food. The
Zambezi source, which is located northwest of Mwinilunga, Zambia,
became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2009 because: ‘The Zambezi basin constitutes one of Africa’s most important natural resources.
It is an important habitat as far as biodiversity is concerned’ (UNESCO
World Heritage Centre 2009).
The Zambezi basin is the fourth largest basin in Africa and stretches
from the eastern parts of Angola and north western Zambia towards the
Indian Ocean crossing or receiving water from riparian rivers of six
more countries (Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Tanzania and
Mozambique). The Environmental Information Portal (EarthTrends)
describes the basin area as 1.3 million square kilometers, by 2002, covered with 4 per cent forest (43 per cent original forest has already been
lost) and 20 per cent cropland. Of the total area, the deforestation rate
accounts for 9 per cent and eroded areas for 2 per cent (World Resources
Institute 2002).
In addition to the geographical facts of the basin, the countries that
heavily depend on the Zambezi river system share a complex historical and political development during the twentieth century. The eight
countries are hosting a population of approximately 128 million. With
regards to human development all of these countries are categorized
as being of low or medium development. In the following sections of
this study the geographic and climate profile of the Zambezi Basin will
be sketched and the socio-economic structure of the region elaborated
Excluding Botswana, Namibia and Tanzania, which just share a very small amount of the
basin the population number is still over 80 million.
Figure 4: The Zambezi River Basin (Source:
upon in detail. At the end, the historical and political context will also
be explained.
3.1 The Zambezi Basin and its Geography and
The Zambezi basin is the dominating river basin in southern Africa.
Following FAO data, the Zambezi basin accounts for 91.5 per cent of
Malawi’s, 76.4 per cent of Zambia’s, 54.5 per cent of Zimbabwe’s, and
20.2 per cent of Mozambique’s total land area (see table 1). Although
Angola and particularly Tanzania share just a slight margin of the Zambezi basin they contribute significantly to the basin area through their
annual rainfall (see table 1).
The Zambezi basin draws the majority of its water resources from
the tropical wet mountainous regions of Zambia. This is also the region
in Zambia that receives the highest amount of rain during the year (FAO
2005). From Kaleni Hill Road Bridge in the north-western region of
Zambian near its source the Zambezi has an average flow of 11.072
m³/s. About 700 km farther south, at the border to Namibia (Katima
Mulilo station), it increases to an enormous 1.168.513 m³/s. The area
Table 1: The Zambezi basin: areas and rainfall by country (Source: FAO)
Total area
of the
Area of
the country within
the basis
As % of
total area
of the
As %
of total
of the
Average annual rainfall
in the basin area
235 423
581 730
12 401
118 480
108 360
801 590
824 900
945 090
27 840
752 610
574 875
390 760
213 036
1 351 365
For Zambezi
1 246 700
1 475
1 050
2 220
162 004
1 790
17 426
1 015
1 785
1 240
1 435
1 590
2 220
from Katima Mulilo along the Namibian border of the Caprivi Strip
(about 100km) is dominated by major swamp areas with a rich biodiversity. At the estuary of the Chobe River, the Zambezi receives an
average inflow of 32.336 m³/s. This area marks a major border point for
Namibia, Zambia, Botswana and Zimbabwe (all runoff data provided
by Global Runoff Data Centre (GRDC)). Beyond this fourfold border
point the Zambezi demarcates the border between southern Zambia and
northern Zimbabwe, running through the Zambezi Escarpment, which
also forms the Batoka Gorge. Along this border it passes two significant tourist locations, Victoria Falls and Kariba Lake. Zimbabwe and
Zambia contribute big shares of the watershed to the Zambezi basin
(15.9 per cent and 41.9 per cent). Both states are former British colonies
constituting former North and South Rhodesia. Both share the Kariba
Dam and reservoir which is managed jointly through the Zambezi River
Authority (ZRA) (Beck and Bernauer 2010: 4-5). The Kariba Dam is the
biggest water resource for both states totaling 94 km3 and particularly
important as the southern regions in Zambia and the northern regions of
Zimbabwe receive less rain and suffer from a great variation in rainfall
totals and intra-seasonal distribution of rain. In particular, Zimbabwe’s
north-western regions (northern Matabeleland) receive extremely low
amounts of annual rainfall (FAO 2005).
Behind the Kariba dam, the Zambezi crosses the border to
Mozambique from which point it fills Lake Cahora Bassa. The Cahora
Bassa Dam is the largest hydroelectric plant in southern Africa, able to
produce 2.060 MW, accounting for 80 per cent of Mozambique’s hydropower potential (FAO 2005). The lowlands below the dam are rich in
water resources, receiving an additional 16 km³/year of inflow from the
northern tributary, the Shire, from Lake Malawi (FAO Land and Water
Development Division 1997). At the end of the Zambezi Delta, which
has tremendous biodiversity, the Zambezi ends in the Indian Ocean,
discharging about 106 km³ of annual discharge (FAO Land and Water
Development Division 1997).
The variability of water is of significance particularly in regards to
dryland agriculture that dominates the region. FAO defines drylands as
those regions classified climatically as arid, semi-arid, or dry sub-humid, based on the length of the growing period (lgp) for annual crops.
Thereby dryland agriculture requires irrigation systems and schemes in
contrast to areas of rain-fed farming, because it occurs under conditions
of moderate to severe water stress.
When looking at the countries of the Zambezi Basin, Botswana and
Namibia stand out for having significant dessert areas (Botswana 68 per
cent and Namibia 65 per cent). However, the main tributary countries
to the Zambezi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, have dominant dry sub-humid
dryland areas (87 per cent and 66 per cent), and Zimbabwe has an additional 25 per cent semi-arid drylands. In total, 95 per cent of the basin state areas are classified as dessert or drylands by FAO (see table).
Moreover, the FAO has set the risk of desertification to 100 per cent in
Table 2: Agricultural Drylands (Source: FAO/AGL 2003
Total area
lgp 0 days
lgp 1-59 days
lgp 60-119
lgp 120-179
’000 km²
1 248
’000 km² %
’000 km² %
’000 km² %
Table 3: Agricultural land in the Zambezi Basin Countries (Source: UNSTATS)
area in 2007
575 900
258 520
49 700
488 000
388 050
255 890
154 500
% of
land area
in 2007
land in
33 000
2 170 560
in 2007
Land under permanent meadows and
pastures in
2007 (km2)
2 900
540 000
2 500
256 000
30 000
1 200
18 500
44 500
3 500
440 000
8 000
380 000
52 600
203 000
32 300
1 200
121 000
202 900
9 160
1 958 500
Zimbabwe and Botswana, 99 per cent in Namibia and 87 per cent in
Zambia (FAO Agricultural Drylands Dataset).
In total the countries of the Zambezi Basin (excluding Tanzania)
have 2.17 million square kilometers of agricultural land, of which just
202.900 square kilometers are arable, meaning land that can be cultivated to grow crops etc. Notably, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia have
increased the amount of agricultural land between 1990 and 2007. With
62.1 per cent Mozambique holds the largest amount of agricultural land
in relation to total land area, and with 3500 square kilometers the country has the largest area under permanent crops (see table).
The growth in agricultural land in Zimbabwe seems connected to
the decrease in forest areas in the country. Between 1990 and 2007
Zimbabwe lost 23.9 per cent of its forest area. In total, forest area in the
region has declined by 11 per cent since 1990, whereas Mozambique
and Angola are the only states that lost less than five per cent of forest
areas (see table 4).
As a consequence of increased agricultural land there is an increase
in need for irrigation to sustain agricultural production and mitigate the
variability of rainfall. In the entire basin, agriculture is the dominating
consumer of water. Botswana uses just 41 per cent of its water resources
for agriculture, while 18 per cent go into mining and energy production.
In comparison Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe use over
70 per cent of their fresh water resources for agriculture. Mozambique,
in particular, uses 87 per cent of its water for agriculture, while just 2
per cent goes to the industrial sector (FAO 2005).
Table 4: Forest Area in the Zambezi Basin Countries (Source: UNSTATS)
Forest area
in 1990
Forest area
in 2007 km2
% change
since 1990
% of land
area covered
by forest in
1990 %
% of land
area covered
by forest in
2007 %
609 760
588 544
137 180
117 062
38 960
33 360
200 120
191 620
87 620
75 122
491 240
415 624
222 340
169 140
1 787 220
1 590 472
- 11
The dependency on water for food production in the basin area affirms concerns that the Zambezi basin will be strongly affected by climate change/variability. Water allocation issues, population and economic growth, expansion of irrigated agriculture water transfer and climate
change/variability are expected to cause consumption of water runoff to
rise to 40 per cent by 2025 (Beck and Bernauer 2010). The Mendelsohn
study (Mendelsohn 2009) confirms that the impact of climate change/
variability will be especially hard on developing countries agriculture
sector. At the same time health problems will increase. Magadza outlines
the risk of the spread of fly-borne disease with higher temperatures and
low standards of sanitation in urban areas (Magadza 1994).
Several studies describe the expected changes in water and precipitation, temperature, sea level rise and extreme weather events. The following section comprises the findings of these studies.
3.2 Climate Change/Variability in the Zambezi
3.2.1 Water and Precipitation
The impact of climate change/variability on the Zambezi basin states is
expected to deeply influence the life of its inhabitants, because of expected changes in precipitation influencing water variability. Harrison
and Whittington analyze the impact of climate change by 2080 on the
Zambezi River basin at Victoria Falls. They are running three different
climate models that predict a decrease from 1.6 per cent to 17.6 per cent
of annual rainfall in comparison to the 1960-1991 mean. This will affect the Zambezi annual flow levels between minus 10 per cent and up
to minus 35.5 per cent (Harrison and Whittington 2002: 237). Kirchhoff
and Bulkley claim that the Zambezi overflows were cyclical in the past,
but now are unpredictable and result in highly damaging floods (Kirchhoff and Bulkley 2008) (see also extreme weather section).
West Namibia will experience changes to its arid climate. Magadza’s
study uses older predictions from before 1994, but they include analysis
of the 1991/1992 drought in southern Africa. These predictions suggest
that the Namibian coast will likely experience more rainfall (1.5 times
of current average), however increased evaporation through increased
temperature is equally expected (Magadza 1994: 168).
UNEP reports, in reference to the Zimbabwe Department of
Meteorological Service, that the national rainfall deviation is deviating
from the mean more frequently. According to the same statistic between
the middle of the 1980s until 2000 the rainfall was constantly below
the mean (this is the longest deviation below the mean since 1910)
(UNEP/GRIDA 2002). In Zimbabwe several perennial streams dried
out during the 1991/1992 drought. The structure of irrigation systems
in Zimbabwe is according to Madadza very vulnerable to evaporation,
thus, a reduction of efficiency of the systems is expected (Magadza
1994: 170). In general the Zimbabwean wetlands will be strongly affected by evaporation. Analysis of reservoirs in northeast Zimbabwe indicates a 49 per cent reduction of surface area between the wet and dry
season, while many smaller reservoirs fully dried out. Through climate
change/variability a further reduction is likely and will affect agriculture production.
Moreover, the dams supplying cities (Gaborone, Botswana and
Bulawayo, Zimbabwe) failed to supply the sites with water during the
1991/1992 drought (Magadza 1994: 171). Southern SADC members
suffer from water shortage (RSA, Namibia and Botswana). Zimbabwe,
Swaziland and Lesotho are also very dry states, while Angola, Zambia,
Malawi and Mozambique are very humid (Bonn International Center for
Conversion). Zimbabwe and Malawi suffer under water stress (Kirchhoff
and Bulkley 2008). Malawi was hit in 2002 by a major drought. With
five million people dependent on food aid, 2/3 of Malawians live below the poverty line (Mohamed-Katerer unpublished: 6). As a result
of the decreased precipitation and increased evaporation, hydroelectric
schemes will suffer under the reduction of water flow. Studies find that
the planned Batoka Gorge hydro scheme, jointly built by Zimbabwe
and Zambia, would be very sensitive to climate change/variability
(Harrison and Whittington 2002).
According to Bambaige the expected impact of climate change/variability on Mozambique will result in an increase of mean temperature
between 1.8 and 3.2 °C. In addition rainfall will decrease overall by
2 to 9 per cent (Bambaige 2007: 4). On the other hand, in southern
Mozambique, current rainfall is more frequent and heavy than compared to the 1979-2002 mean. But the southern region is still prone to
droughts: ‘although the rains improved in 2003–2004 after a series of
drought years, they were erratic with heavy rains, keeping crop prices
inflated until harvest in June’ (Osbahr et al. 2008: 1935). Osbahr et al
claim that the annual average precipitation in southern Mozambique
will decrease by 10–15 per cent (Osbahr et al. 2008: 1935).
3.2.2 Increasing Temperatures
While precipitation patterns change irregularly between extreme rains
that cause floods, or result in a general reduction of annual rain, the
temperature in the basin is likely to increase. Harrison and Whittington’s predictions project a temperature rise of about 5.2°C for the Zambezi basin with minimal differences among the seasons (Harrison and
Whittington 2002: 237).
According to the Zimbabwe Department of Meteorological Services,
Zimbabwe has increasingly seen more hot days between 1950 and 1990
(UNEP/GRIDA 2002). A 1994 study on the social vulnerability to climate change/variability in Zimbabwe finds that particular rural populations are at high risk. By 1994 almost 10 per cent of the population in
Zimbabwe faced food-insecurity, even though agricultural production
maintained average levels. An increase of temperature by 2°C would
cause a decrease of Zimbabwean wetlands from 9 per cent to 2.5 per
cent, a 4°C increase would reduce ‘the summer water-surplus zones
to less than 2%’ (Bohle et al. 1994: 47). This change of temperature
is claimed to affect the agricultural production, particularly for crop
yields. Magadza projects that an increase of 4 °C in Zimbabwe will result in a maize yield decline by 20 per cent in the north-east, and 27 per
cent in the south-east region, bordering Mozambique (Magadza 1994:
175 and 77). An equal amount of harm is likely to affect the agriculture
sector in South Africa and Zambia (Mendelsohn 2009).
Mendelsohn finds that a rise in temperature typically causes smaller
farmers to switch from crops to livestock. However, larger farms reduce
their livestock as they usually farm beef cattle, which is more sensitive
to temperature increase. Large livestock farms are most vulnerable to
warming (Mendelsohn 2009: 11-12). Mendelsohn’s finding suggests
that the mitigation capacity of smaller household farms is greater than
the ones of the larger mono cultural farms. A study by Nhemachena
assesses the economic impacts of climate change/variability on agriculture in South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Their survey of 2000
farming households was related to changes in climate, and finds that
warmer and drier climates affect crop production negatively, causing
food insecurity. The study finds that mixed-crop farming is less affected by changing climates than mono-cropping (Nhemachena 2010).
Southern Mozambique will likely experience temperature increases by
2025 between 1.75–2.25 °C in the summer and 1.25–2 °C in the winter
(Osbahr et al. 2008: 1953).
3.2.3 Sea Level Rise and Coastal Erosion
Just one country in the Zambezi basin area has a coast, and that is Mozambique. In Mozambique approximately 13 million people live and
work in coastal districts (Chemane et al. 1997: 69). Researchers conclude that rising sea levels, resulting from climate change, will have severe impact on Mozambique’s coast. While the entire coastline suffers
from sea level rise, the Zambezi basin area is particularly vulnerable,
with the coastline retreating or advancing as much as 1.1 meters per
year between 1999 to 2004. The harbour town Beira, which lays 200
kilometres south of the Zambezi delta, might be inundated up to 40 per
cent by 2100 (Chemane et al. 1997: 77).
3.2.4 Extreme Weather Events
According to UN data on hydrological disasters the number of such
events has increased in the last 30 years (see table 5). The UN Statistics office recorded a total of eight hydrological disasters between 1980
and 1989 in countries situated within the Zambezi basin. The number
increased to twelve in the next decade and rose further to 77 between
2000 and 2009. Among the most affected countries were Malawi and
Mozambique, while the number of people affected by floods was five
times higher in Mozambique. In comparison Zimbabwe has almost never experienced large disruptions because of floods (only six in the last 30
years), but as mentioned, has experienced severe and regular droughts.
Heavy rains and cyclones in February and March 2000 in Mozambique
led to the worst flooding in 50 years and brought widespread devasta44
Table 5: Hydrological Disasters database (Source: UN Statistics)
No. of events
Persons affected
100 000
783 328
12 000
3 500
112 603
6 000
417 000
1 159 276
1 000 000
470 000
6 212 111
474 300
800 000
1 300 000
2 398 816
265 000
1 918 000
2 190 500
11 405 434
tion to Maputo. The flood directly affected more than one million people. Water and sanitation services were disrupted, causing outbreaks of
dysentery and cholera in the country (Douglas et al. 2008: 190). Osbahr
et al outline that the rural population is familiar with the variability of
weather and agricultural production. However, the severity with which
the population was hit by the floods of 1977 and 2001, and the droughts
of 1983/84, 1994 and 2003, had a major impact on the rural population.
In the Gaza province, through which the Limpopo and Changane rivers
flow, more than 380,000 people were displaced and 50 per cent of cereals
lost (Osbahr et al. 2008: 1953). Mozambique is unusual amongst many
of its neighbors in southern Africa in having a relatively well-developed
disaster preparedness plan, operational at the district level, alongside a
long-term poverty-alleviation policy (Osbahr et al. 2008: 1953).
Interactions of Zambezi floods and sea level rise in the delta area
having a severe impact. Chinde is affected by sea level rise and Zambezi
floods (Chemane et al. 1997: 70). In February 2007 about 50,000
to 30,000 people were displaced in the Zambezi basin areas within
Mozambique. The roads to Mutarara were cut off. Flooding along the
Zambezi valley displaced 50,000 people, and about 150,000-200,000
people were affected overall. Floods in 2010 were followed by severe
drought. In the Mafala neighborhood of Maputo, residents noted both
natural and local causes of flooding: although there was less rain overall, rare storms seemed more intense and led to more destructive flooding. The situation became worse due to: a lack of adequate drainage
infrastructure; no internal organization in the neighborhood to maintain
Figure 5: People Affected by Natural Disasters in Africa from 1971 to 2001 (http://www.fao.
drainage channels, manage sewage, allocate land, or assist in evacuation
at flood times; an absence of land planning; and no assistance for flood
victims. Clearly, the lack of national or local government involvement
in developing integrated drainage or in planning the settlement to minimize flood damage is readily apparent. However, there seemed to be no
cohesion within the community to organize mutual self-help’ (Douglas
et al. 2008: 196). Mozambique’s coast is prone to tropical cyclone impacts, which are believed to increase due to climate change/variability
(Osbahr et al. 2008: 1953). The costal populated area accounts for 40
per cent of the country’s total population (Chemane et al. 1997: 69).
The 1991/1992 drought in Zimbabwe gives some indication about
the problems that will await the country if it fails to mitigate the affects of climate change/variability. As a consequence of the 1991/1992
drought, Zimbabwe experienced a severe cut back in maize production.
As maize is the main food source for Zimbabweans, sporadic violence
occurred among others in a township in Bulawayo. The food shortage was predicted by the UNFAO and was also caused by inefficient
management through the state. In addition, low levels of water in the
Zambezi caused blackouts in Zimbabwe as the Kariba power station
was unable to produce energy (Raath 1992). See also (Boston 1992).
3.3 Economic Impact of Climate Change/
Variability in the Zambezi Basin
The economic impact of climate change/variability on Africa is compounded by its agriculture-based economies (agricultural sector accounts for 60 per cent of employment and more than 50 per cent of
GDP), use of traditional technology and its dependence on only a few
agricultural exports. Climate change/variability is expected to lead to
a 50 per cent decline in agricultural output by 2020. This would not
only endanger the food security situation but also increase the vulnerability of small-scale farmers. The chronic hunger situation is expected
to worsen due to declining water resources, resulting in a 5-8 per cent
increase in arid and semi-arid lands by the 2080s (IPCC 2007).
3.3.1 Impact on Agricultural Productivity, Food Security
and Droughts
The precarious food situation of the southern African region is the result
of various factors including: unfavorable climatic conditions (erratic
rainfall, drought and floods); poor and depleted soils; environmental
degradation; failed sectorial and macro-economic policies; inadequate
support systems; and political upheavals (Van Rooyen and Sigwele
1998). The subsistence farmers in Africa are especially vulnerable
when annual crops fail. This is because, first, locally produced food
becomes unavailable or scarce. Second, they cannot purchase food
available in the market due to the loss of agricultural income (which is
their only source). In recent years, food imports by both governments
and the private sector have significantly increased. However, a growing
fraction of the southern African population cannot afford food even at
subsidized prices. Extreme poverty is further aggravating the situation,
resulting in millions relying on relief food.
Analyzing the food situation in southern African from 2001 to 2002,
the World Food Program identified factors that are contributing to the
food crisis in the region. Two of these seven factors were directly related to climate change/variability. Severe dry spells and drought were
During normal years South Africa and Zimbabwe are the net food exporters while all
the other Southern African countries are net importers. A drought may occur over large areas
of southern Africa and still have no major impact for regional food security as long as South
Africa and Zimbabwe are not affected. However, when these two countries are affected as was
the case in 1992, food has to be obtained from outside the region which takes longer and is
causing problems for Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Lesotho, South and Central Mozambique were suffering from heavy
rains and floods. Other factors included: disruption to commercial farming in Zimbabwe; depletion of strategic grain reserves in Malawi and
Zambia; Poor economic performance in Lesotho and Zimbabwe; and
delays with the importation of maize, particularly from South Africa;
and sharp rises in prices of staple foods in Malawi, Mozambique,
Zambia and Zimbabwe (WFP 2003).
Droughts and floods also have a major impact on the economic health
of southern Africa. These natural hazards can frustrate several years of
development efforts. For instance, Zimbabwe’s GDP fell by 3 per cent
and 11 per cent after the 1983 and 1992 droughts, respectively (Glantz
et al. 1997). The 1991/1992 drought over southern Africa resulted in
crop losses and death of cattle herds, led to widespread food shortages
and devastated the fragile economies of various countries. Regional
maize production in 1992 was approximately 5 million tons (the lowest since 1961), putting an estimated 30 million people at the brink of
famine (Harsch 1992). This was 60 per cent below the 1991 level (an
already below average production year) and the 1991-2000 average.
In Zimbabwe the drought also resulted in the death of an estimated
423,000 cattle (roughly 10 per cent of total cattle) (Thompson 1993).
In 1995, following a regional drought, the cereal production was only
15.7 million tons while the direct consumption needs were 23.3 million tons. Only half of the previous year’s production (9 million tons of
maize) was produced in the entire region. This was comparable to that of
the early 1960s. Of the 7.6 million ton deficit of all cereals, maize deficits
accounted for 4.9 million tons (SADC/FSTAU, 1993). Since 2001, consecutive dry spells in some areas of southern Africa have led to serious
food shortages in many countries. In 2001/2002 six countries, namely
Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe, had
a food deficit of 1.2 million tons of cereals, and non-food requirements
at an estimated cost of US$611 million (SADC 2002). The 2002/2003
drought resulted in a food deficit of 3.3 million tons, with an estimated
14.4 million people in need of assistance (WFP 2003). Precipitation Variability
Water-related problems that already exist in the region are likely to
worsen as a result of climate change/variability. Increased rainfall will
result in an increased incidence of flooding in many areas. Reduced
runoff aggravates existing water stress, reduces land quality, lowers
quantity of water available for domestic and industrial use, and limits
hydropower production. Agricultural drought (inadequate availability
of water for crops) causes 10 to 50 per cent of annual yield losses on
80 per cent of the area planted with maize in southern Africa (Short and
Edmeades 1991). Below-normal rainfall years are also occurring more
and more frequently, resulting in poor harvests especially due to the
lack of early-maturing and drought-tolerant varieties. The shortage of
dry-season fodder has also become a major constraint for livestock production, further impacting the food and income security in the region.
Even though the climate change/variability on water scarcity may be
relatively minor, it has the potential to have international consequences
and become a source of conflict.
Environmental degradation caused by soil erosion, desertification,
deforestation and inappropriate agricultural practices remains a major
threat to agricultural sustainability. Abalu and Hassan estimate that 80
per cent of rangelands and rain fed croplands in southern Africa are
degraded (Abalu and Hassan 1998). The forest cover is also rapidly
declining. In the 1980s about 664,000 hectares of forest were cut down
in southern Africa compared to a reforestation rate of about 92,000 hectares (Pinstrup-Andersen et al. 1997). Sea Level Rise
Saltwater intrusion and coastal erosion, through sea level rise constitutes another threat. However, its effects will only be felt toward the
end of the 21st century. Rising global temperatures will lead to an
increase in sea levels, which implies greater exposure to flooding that
damages infrastructure, roads and erosion from flooding. The costs of
such events are not trivial. Collier and Goderis estimate that a typical
shock such as flooding, reduces GDP by 0.4 per cent in a developing
country (Collier and Goderis 2009). Health Hazards
Some researchers argue that climate change/variability can lead to an
expansion of those areas suitable for malaria transmission, and thus increase the risk of the disease. Others explain, that the malaria risk must
be interpreted on the basis of local environmental and socioeconomic
development, where land use decisions and the ineffectiveness (or absence) of malaria control programs may in fact be driving risk. Tanser et
al. project scenarios that there will be an increase of 5-7 per cent in malaria distribution by 2100 (Tanser et al. 2003). The social and economic
costs of malaria are huge and include considerable costs to individuals
and households as well as high costs at community and national levels
(Holding and Snow 2001). Increasing temperatures will lead to a modest rise in the heat related mortality in Africa, but the impact through
disease carrying insects will be substantial with the spread of Malaria
and Dengue. Malaria has a substantial economic impact on Africa. It reduces the income by two-third’s, and a 10 per cent reduction in malaria
would lead to an increase in GDP of 0.3 per cent per annum (Gallup and
Sachs 2001). HIV/AIDS is now bringing a new dimension to the food
crisis, making populations even more vulnerable to climatic shocks (de
Waal and Whiteside 2003).
3.4 Southern Africa and its Weak Political
All states in the Zambezi Basin had been colonies of the European powers through much of the 19th and 20th century. By the beginning of
the twentieth century, Britain, Germany and Portugal were the three
colonial powers dividing the region among each other. Germany held
the region of today’s Namibia, Portugal controlled Mozambique and
Angola, while Britain colonialized South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana,
Zambia and Malawi. Germany lost its rule over Namibia during the
First World War when it became occupied by South Africa, whom lost
it 1990; Angola gained independence in November 1975; Mozambique
1975; South Africa 1961 (end of white minority rule 1994); Malawi
1964; Zambia 1964; Zimbabwe 1965 (end of white minority rule 1980);
Botswana 1966. Certainly there are marked differences in the trajectories of all the countries in southern Africa. Nonetheless, the parallels of
their historical paths are overwhelming.
The examples of Angola and Mozambique stand out because of the
sustained impact of their colonial struggle and post-colonial politics.
The decades of liberation wars in both countries against the Portuguese
rulers saw extreme violence that decisively shaped the political elites
and societal beliefs. Once they obtained independence in 1975, Angola
and Mozambique both suffered subsequent internal disruptions that led
to lasting civil wars. Melber and Krampe argue:
The long anti-colonial struggle, fought also by non-violent, but
mostly military means, had a lasting effect on the mindset of those ultimately seizing legitimate political power. The internal structures and
social beliefs, especially among the elites, remained and, thus, paved
the way for continued fighting for control (Krampe and Melber 2010)
3.4.1 Bad Leaders – Elites in Southern Africa
The liberation struggle in southern Africa made it difficult to overcome
societal beliefs of the past and to overcome security dilemmas that are
connected strongly to identity questions. This development has had severe consequences on the elites and political rule in the southern African countries. Since liberation from minority rule, the region of southern Africa has become dominated by two political forms of governance:
Autocracy and Partocracy. This makes socio-political development of
the region more complicated, and has negative effects on the democratic consolidation, as well as economic and social equality.
In particular the internal structures and procedures of parties that
decide on leadership and political directions are crucial for the degree
of popular legitimacy in dominant party systems, as they are the only
elements that seem to allow debate and competition, and thus democratic space. Randell and Svasand argue that if the nomination process
within the party is in the hands of the elites, as the case of the ANC in
South Africa shows, it has a negative impact on opposition within the
party (Randell and Svasand 2002). Additionally Lanegran concludes:
‘Clearly, the lack of a competitive party system continues to make South
Africa vulnerable to the pathologies of dominant party systems such as
the stifling of policy alternatives and intolerance towards opposition
opinions (Lanegran 2001: 99). While the electoral dominance of a party
gives a high degree of efficiency to lawmaking, and approval by parliament is easy to attain, the repression of internal and external opposition
must be seen as a decrease in their popular legitimacy, even though parties gained their dominance through the use of elections (Salih 2007).
Such partocratic structures can be found all over southern Africa, in
Angola, Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. The elite
role on politics in southern Africa is significant and often decisions have
a direct environmental and socio-economic impact on some groups in
society. For instance along Lake Malawi, in Malawi, the authoritarian
rule dispossessed fishers in the 1990s:
In the cases described, these communities, or community members
within them, find themselves powerless to prevent the expropriation of
the resources over which they previously had either legal or customary
control. Thus, it is not the economic processes of dispossession alone
which lead to human rights violations but rather dispossession combined
with an authoritarian political context (Derman and Ferguson 1995).
In Zimbabwe Mugabe and the ruling party utilize natural resources
for political purposes. The Zimbabwe-Bulawayo water transfer scheme
aims to divert water from the Zambezi and help to supply Bulawayo (one
of the strongest economic cities of Zimbabwe) with water. Bulawayo
was strongly affected by the drought in 1991/92. However, the matter of the pipeline appears to be a political tool to pacify the citizens
in that region, because it is always brought up during election times,
but still not implemented. The political dimension becomes more evident when considering that the former rival party, Zimbabwe’s African
People’s Union (ZAPU), of Mugabe’s ZANU, had its stronghold in
Matabeleland of which Bulawayo is the capital. Following extensive
use of force, ZAPU signed a peace accord with Mugabe’s regime in
1988 which resulted in ZAPU merging with ZANU, forming the one
dominant party in Zimbabwe ZANU-PF (Krampe 2010). Considering
the resurrection of ZAPU in 2008, following the recent power sharing
agreement between MDC and ZANU-PF, the political potential of the
Matabeleland water situation (mostly dry) becomes evident. In addition, Matabeleland is ethnically Ndebele, while Mugabe and the water
rich highlands are dominated by Shona.
3.4.2 Weak Institutions
Southern Africa seriously suffers from having weak institutions (Boege
2009). This makes for example water management more difficult. Kirchoff and Bulkley ascribe the interstate dimensions in the Zambezi basin as follows:
‘Water management in the basin is especially difficult because there
are multiple countries with multiple and competing interest; competing issues other than water that demand time, attention, and money;
inadequate basin-level institutional structures; institutional, legal,
economic, and human resource constraints within each country; and
poor data collection, poor communication, and inadequate training’
(Kirchhoff and Bulkley 2008: 1)
Mozambique has weak state institutions, corruption in the state system,
and a lack of control and/or marginalization of the rural population. To
overcome this problem the government’s strategy of decentralization
attempted to reach the rural population better. However, the situation
with the two former civil war factions (FRELIMO and RENAMO) is
dominating the government and opposition, tensions are often played
out in politics (Söderberg Kovacs 2007). ‘The relative lack of engagement with rural development following structural adjustment, and the
struggles of the past that are still important in people’s memories, have
undermined many attempts at building community cohesion in rural
areas’ (Osbahr et al. 2008: 1953).
Zimbabwe underwent an economic structural adjustment program
(decontrolling of economy, reducing deficits and creating incentives
for manufactures) under the assistance of the World Bank and IMF. As
a consequence of the reduction of subsidies, food costs increased as
transport costs and agricultural production costs increased. The unemployment rate increased as well (Mukamuri et al. 2003: 29). Mukamuri,
Campbell and Kowero argue that the reforms ‘eroded the efficiency of
public organizations by constraining the availability of financial and
other resources to them. These organizations have scaled down their
operations and/or devised coping measures which compromise natural
resource management’ (Mukamuri et al. 2003: 41). Conflict with the
IMF and the dispossession of farmland from White farmers in 1999
increased food insecurity and economic instability, contributing to the
further weakening of already weak state institutions.
3.4.3 Polarized Social Identities – Longtime Struggles and
Protracted Identities
Daniel Bar-Tal argues that at the end of protracted violent conflicts it
is the ‘societal beliefs’ – the shared beliefs of the group, and of ‘the
other’, the enemy – that need to change in a process of reconciliation
(Bar-Tal 1998, 2000). In Angola and Mozambique, as in many post-colonial states, the long anti-colonial struggle has had a lasting effect on
the mindsets of the elites. These elites have persisted and strengthened
their conflictive beliefs during violent civil wars and still retain their
viewpoints, even years after fighting has ended. This development is
similar also in Zimbabwe and to a limited degree in Namibia and South
In Zimbabwe the role of conflictive beliefs dominates politics until
today. Mugabe’s policy to equalize Zimbabwe with his ZANU movement was not well received by the former liberation struggle ally ZAPU
and interpreted as an impelled subordination under ZANU. This is indicated through different dynamics affecting ZAPU during the period
of independence. In the early 1980s power sharing between ZANU and
ZAPU combined with their remaining distrust for one another created an
assortment of problems. A prevailing feeling among ZAPU supporters
was that the government (controlled mainly by ZANU) was not working in the interest of the people in the eastern provinces (ZAPU 1981a,
1981b). When ZAPU icon Nkomo lost his cabinet post in January 1981,
and became minister without a portfolio, he realized that he could not
win against Mugabe and accepted to play a subordinate role (Lewis 9
March 1981). However, the whole ZAPU movement did not share this
attitude. As a result people in Matabeleland felt even more misrepresented by the government (Krieger 1995). The situation eventually accelerated into a massive conflict in 1983 that would last until the end
of the decade. The Unity Accord of 1988 between ZAPU and ZANU,
united the majority of people ‘on paper’ under a Zimbabwean national
identity. But in reality ZAPU, after suffering a continuous war of attrition with ZANU, had to surrender. Conflictive attitudes and resentments remain as a result of this war. The continuous dispute about the
historical narrative of the country shows that all groups in Zimbabwe
maintain their particular identity (Krieger 1995: 142; Ranger 2004).
To date, in Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Namibia and South
Africa the former liberation movements remain in firm control of domestic politics and the economy. The ruling movements continue to carry on their beliefs from their previous periods of conflict. Maintaining
these beliefs allows them to justify their own use of violence and atrocities, maintain their identity and constituency, and marginalize the opposition (Lundwall 2001).
As political parties these movements consolidated their rule by
means of clientelist regimes. Examples of this have been particularly
visible in Zimbabwean politics over the last decade. This is not a strong
foundation for lasting peace and stability, but rather represents the impact of decades of intractable conflict on the political elites.
The opposition groups (RENAMO, UNITA, ZAPU) have lost their
influence and seem to have gradually become irrelevant to their respective countries political future. Nevertheless, the culture of impunity in
southern Africa enables conflictive attitudes to persist among the elite.
With all the former belligerents maintaining a mindset of confrontation,
the situation in both states bears a latent potential for renewed conflict.
Zimbabwe and
Mozambique: Focus Areas
4.1 Vulnerability of Zimbabwe and Mozambique to
Climate Change/Variability
The region as a whole is susceptible to various types of changes induced
by climate. Table 6 provides a summary of the climatic challenges faced
by the countries in southern Africa. While lack of precipitation and the
drought situation is critical for Zimbabwe, Mozambique is particularly
threatened by seawater rise and salt-water intrusion. Both countries face
vulnerability to the loss of biodiversity, tourism, health, infrastructure,
fisheries, agricultural, and food security and livestock. Together, both
Zimbabwe and Mozambique provide the opportunity to study a wide
range of climate change/variability effects and its impact on an array of
vulnerable sectors. Both countries are emerging from a conflict situation with the majority of the population dependent of climate-sensitive
resources. Poor access to water and infrastructure, and a health status
defined by the prominent presence of HIV/AIDS, will enable us to analytically assess the various interactive effects and dynamic processes of
climate induced impacts and how they may perpetuate a conflict situation in their respective societies.
Table 7 presents some of the basic indicators of the economy and
the agricultural sector. In Mozambique (Zimbabwe) about 62 per cent
(40 per cent) of the land is engaged in agriculture. Agriculture remains
an important contributor to GDP. About 31 per cent of Mozambique’s
GDP is contributed from the agricultural sector, whereas the figure for
Zimbabwe is slightly lower at 19 per cent. A substantial percentage of
the population in both countries works in the agricultural sector. Figure
6 shows the fluctuations in the cereal production index, with a sharp
decline in production during drought years.
Vulnerable Context
Vulnerable Sectors
Climatic Challenges
South Africa
Table 6: Climatic challenges, vulnerable sectors and vulnerability context in South Africa
Increase of temperature
Increased incidence of droughts
Decrease in rainfall
Seasonal shifts in rainfall
Heavy snowfalls and winds
Localized floods
Overflowing of large rivers
Decreased /varying river flow
Sea level rise
Salt water intrusion
Coral reef bleaching
Land slides in mountainous areas
Water scarcity
Biodiversity loss/tourism
Health/disease outbreaks
Coastal eco sys, islands & cities
Agriculture and food security
Spread of cash crops
Inequitable land distribution
Low education
Poor infrastructure
Gender inequality
Dependence on climate-sensitive resources
Poor water access by population
Poor health status
Source: Extracted from Eriksen et al. (2008). Note: Based in an assessment of available
information which varies in quality between countries; there may also be large geographical
variations in the variables within countries.
Table 7: Basic Indicators for southern African countries
Annual real GDP
GDP (in PPP)
Agri value added
(as % of GDP)†
(av. 2001-09)
(US $ Million)
(in 2009)
18 498
100 459
1 950
25 764
2 067
2 482
15 263
8 395
22 894
21 746
2 171
13 737
South Africa**
50 110
487 107
12 935
19 606
12 523
2 193
1008 354
2 825 691
Note: * Fiscal year July (n-1)/June (n) ** Fiscal year April (n)/ March (n+1). Sources:
United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, World
Population Prospects, The 2008 Revision. ADB Statistics Department, Various domestic
authorities and IMF World Economic Outlook (March 2010). †World Bank national accounts
data, and OECD National Accounts data files. Figure for Zimbabwe is from 2005.
Crop production index shows agricultural production for each year
relative to the base period 1999-2001. It includes all crops except fodder
crops. Regional and income group aggregates for the FAO’s production
indexes are calculated from the underlying values in international dollars, normalized to the base period 1999-2001.
So who are vulnerable to climate change/variability? Marginalized
sections of the population that are constrained or unable to cope with
the risk, adapt to it and diversify their livelihoods, are the most susceptible. These may also include those who lack access to forests or
productive land, and those who have been displaced from their homes
due to floods, conflicts, or livelihood shocks without receiving adequate humanitarian assistance. The vulnerable often live in areas that
are characterized by lack of basic services, leading to health problems,
difficulty to accessing water, and crop and livestock disease. They are
also often exposed to a lack of security. Households that are affected by
HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other infectious diseases are also more vulnerable to climatic events, as they are exposed to labor shortages during
critical periods or a breakup of the family.
Vulnerability however may vary within regions and between individuals. Comparing climate vulnerability in two villages in Zimbabwe,
Eriksen et al. argue that village level vulnerability varies depending
Figure 6: Crop Production Index (1999-2001=100) for Mozambique, Zimbabwe and SubSaharan Africa. Source: Food and Agriculture Organization, electronic files and web site. Crop
production index shows agricultural production for each year relative to the base period
1999-2001. It includes all crops except fodder crops. Regional and income group aggregates
for the FAO’s production indexes are calculated from the underlying values in international
dollars, normalized to the base period 1999-2001.
on their access to markets, power structures and the breakdown of
social networks. Factors such as poor infrastructure, lack of markets,
limited institutional support, and a poor and deteriorating biophysical
environment increased its vulnerability further. Similarly, in southern
Mozambique, during the 2001-2003 drought, some commercial farmers were able to pump ground water to irrigate their crops and thereby
profited from higher prices. Smallholder farmers, on the other hand,
lacked the resources to do this and coped with the situation through
casual employment at low wages, collecting forest food or cultivating
crops, such as pumpkins and sweet potato leaves in riverbeds (Eriksen
et al. 2008).
4.2 Zimbabwe
4.2.1 Climate Change/Variability in Zimbabwe
UNEP reports in reference to the Zimbabwe Department of Meteorological Service that the national rainfall deviation is deviating from
the mean more frequently. According to the same statistics, between
the middle of the 1980s until 2000, rainfall was constantly below the
mean (this is the longest deviation below the mean since 1910) (UNEP/
GRIDA 2002). In Zimbabwe several perennial streams dried out dur58
Table 8: Basic Indicators for southern African countries
Agri land
(as % of land (av. 2001-09) (US $
area) in 2007
Annual real
GDP growth
GDP (in
Agri value
added (as %
of GDP)†
(in 2009)
18 498
100 459
1 950
25 764
2 067
2 482
15 263
8 395
22 894
21 746
2 171
13 737
50 110
487 107
12 935
19 606
12 523
2 193
2 825 691
1008 354
Note: * Fiscal year July (n-1)/June (n) ** Fiscal year April (n)/ March (n+1). Sources:
United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, World
Population Prospects, The 2008 Revision. ADB Statistics Department, Various domestic
authorities and IMF World Economic Outlook (March 2010). †World Bank national accounts
data, and OECD National Accounts data files. Figure for Zimbabwe is from 2005.
ing the 1991/1992 drought. According to Madadza, the configuration of
the irrigation systems in Zimbabwe is very vulnerable to evaporation,
thus a reduction of their efficiency is expected with a rise in temperature (Magadza 1994: 170). In general the Zimbabwean wetlands will
be strongly affected by evaporation. Analysis of reservoirs in northeast
Zimbabwe indicates a 49 per cent reduction of surface area between the
wet and dry season, while many smaller reservoirs will completely dry
out. Through climate change/variability a further reduction is likely that
will affect agriculture production. Moreover, the dams supplying cities (Gaborone, Botswana, and Bulawayo, Zimbabwe) failed to supply
them with water during the 1991/1992 drought (Magadza 1994: 171).
According to the Zimbabwe Department of Meteorological Services,
Zimbabwe has experienced an increasing number of hot days between
1950 and 1990 (UNEP/GRIDA 2002). A 1994 study on the social vulnerability to climate change/variability in Zimbabwe finds that particular rural populations in Zimbabwe are vulnerable to changing climate.
By 1994 almost 10 per cent of the population in Zimbabwe faced foodinsecurity, even though agricultural production remained at average
levels. An increase of temperature by 2°C would cause a decrease of
Zimbabwean wetlands from 9 per cent to 2.5 per cent, and a 4°C increase
would reduce ‘the summer water-surplus zones to less than 2%’ (Bohle
et al. 1994: 47). This change in temperature is claimed to sharply affect
agricultural production and particular crop yields. Magadza projects
that a 4 °C temperature rise in Zimbabwe will decrease the maize yield
by 20 per cent in the north-east, and 27 per cent in the south-east region
that borders Mozambique (Magadza 1994: 175 and 77).
4.2.2 Economic Impact of Climate Change/Variability in
Zimbabwe’s economy is dominated by agriculture and the smallholder
farming sector. Agriculture provides employment and livelihoods for
about 70 per cent of the population, and accounts for 40 to 50 per cent
of the country’s total export revenues. Zimbabwe is amongst the worst
affected by droughts and is also a signatory to the United Nations Convention on Climate and Desertification. It is facing the adverse effects
of climate, which negatively impacts growth in the agricultural sector,
and perpetuates subsequent degradation of the environment, as rural
households try to meet their livelihood needs (Twomlow et al. 2008).
According to Zimbabwe’s Initial National Communications under the
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, likely impacts in Zimbabwe caused by present trends in climate change include
increased water demand for irrigation due to increased evapotranspiration, a decrease by approximately 30–40 per cent in water yield per
dam, worsening water supply/demand for both industrial and agricultural purposes and the reduced generation of electricity at the Kariba
hydropower station. Changes in net revenue are very high for dryland
farming compared to farms with irrigation, indicating that irrigation is
an important adaptation strategy that will help to reduce the impact of
further changes in climate.
Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector contributes about 17 per cent to the
country’s GDP (CEEPA 2006). Investigating the disaggregated data at
the provincial level (table 9), we find that in Midlands, Matabeleland
North and South, the population has much greater access to land, as compared to the rest of the country. The size of the land holdings however,
is much smaller than those in Mashonaland Central and Mashonaland
East. We do not want to infer too much from these figures as ‘adequacy
of land distribution’ has not been explained clearly and a look at the
average landholdings size at the provincial level across poor and nonpoor categories looks very unreliable. There is no note that clearly ex60
Table 9: Zimbabwe’s Provincial level data for access to land for cultivation, size of landholding,
adequacy of land distribution and food poverty
Population Access to Average Percentage
In 2004
land for
of people
cultivation holding below food
(in sq
Adequacy of land
Adequate not
1 468 196
898 271
980 591
1 211 863
1 192 550
649 431
591 989
1 320 706
568 157
1 933 864
Source: MPSL & SW_PASS_2003, CSO_IM-LFS_2004 as accessed from ZIMDATA, 2009.
plains what ‘adequacy of land distribution’ means. However, it is clear
from the reported data that a substantially higher percentage of people
in Matabeleland (North and South) seem to state that the land distribution is adequate, as compared to the population in the rest of the country. Matabeleland North, however remains one of the poorest provinces
with 64 per cent of the people below the food poverty line.
Zimbabwe is amongst the worst affected by droughts. It is facing
the adverse effects of climate, which negatively impacts the growth
in the agricultural sector, and perpetuates subsequent degradation of
the environment, as rural households try to meet their livelihood needs
(Twomlow et al. 2008). Crops in Africa are grown close to their thermal tolerance limit. Crop yields for wheat, fruit trees, groundnut, and
soybean can be reduced by a few days of high temperatures near flowering (Challinor et al. 2006). Longer periods with high temperatures
will force marginal agriculture out of production, a situation that is already experienced in southern Africa. In Zimbabwe and South Africa
maize production is already effected (Collier et al. 2008a). This has
important implications for food security since maize is the staple food
of the population and has an impact on the agriculture-based manufacturing industries.
Table 10 compares the situation of farmland under maize cultivation and
total maize production between 2001 and 2009. The maize production in
Zimbabwe is concentrated in Central, East and West Mashonaland. North
and South Matebeleland account for about 10 per cent of the total maize
production in Zimbabwe. If Zimbabwe’s Department of Agricultural
Technical and Extension services (AGRITEX) figures are treated as reliable, the percentage change in the area under maize production has reduced by 10 per cent in North Matebeleland and almost doubled (174
per cent) in South Matebeleland, between 2001 and 2009. These figures
are however disputed by the USDA (USDA 2009). Based on satellite imagery data, they assert that the area under maize cultivation has seen a decline in most provinces of Zimbabwe during the period of 2000 to 2009,
except for Mashonaland East province. The sharpest decline in the maize
area under production is in the North and South Matabeleland provinces
(see table 10). North (South) Matabeleland has seen a decline of about
-87 per cent (-93 per cent) between 2000 and 2009.
Given the lack of reliable data, satellite data has also been used to investigate the change in the land area for maize cultivation across different farm categories between 2000 and 2009 (USDA 2009). The maize
area under cultivation did not increase for any farm class (see table
11). The sharpest decline in terms of area under maize production has
shown a sharp decline for communal land (-34 per cent), large scale
commercial farms (-37 per cent) and small scale commercial farms (-36
per cent). It is the same story for other land categories as well. Overall,
Zimbabwe’s maize farming area has experienced a decline of about 30
per cent. USDA suggests that this is due to the poor seed quality and
very low seed production (USDA 2009). And unless the problem with
shortage of all inputs such as seeds, fertilizers, lime, pesticides, diesel
etc. is addressed, Zimbabwe will continue to face a chronic food insecurity problem.
Mano and Nhemachena examine some simple climate scenarios to
see how agricultural production in the country would respond to climate change. These showed that a 2.5°C increase in temperature would
These adverse effects need to be combined with the positive impact of ’carbon fertilization effect’ on plant growth caused by elevated levels of carbon dioxide. However, recent
research shows that these benefits are significantly less than initially thought and have limited
effect on non responsive species like maize and sorghum.
Table 10: Percent Change in Area of Maize Production in Zimbabwe’s Provinces
Data Source
National Total
Area (ha)
158 629
140 175
Area (ha)
176 919
247 981
216 585
180 094
168 936
174 691
220 136
293 628
241 768
186 161
198 919
475 210
195 679
246 556
209 348
170 270
90 076
83 680
114 244
65 052
301 765
207 459
80 971
202 183
141 072
51 821
35 513
10 034
97 459
71 145
No data
1 223 066
No data
1 466 748
No data
1 521 780
No data
1 242 565
Table 10 (continued)
Landsat-7 /AWiFS Per cent area
Data Source
Per cent area
Change 09/01
Mashonaland Central
Mashonaland East
Mashonaland West
Matabeleland North
Matabeleland South
Source: FAO Crop and Food Supply Assessment Missions (CFSAM), Zimbabwe’s
Department of Agricultural Technical and Extension services (AGRITEX) and the Landsat7 and AWiFS data and images as processed and extracted by GDA crop (as accessed from
USDA 2009).
Table 11: Farm Class Percent Change in Area from 2000-2009 in Zimbabwe (Satellite
Farm class
2000 – 2009 Per cent Area Change (%)
Communal Lands
Large Scale Commercial
Old Resettlement Areas
Small Scale Commercial
Source: Landsat-7 and AWiFS data and images as processed and extracted by GDA corp (as
accessed from USDA 2009).
result in a decrease in net farm revenues by US$0.4 billion for all farms
and increase net revenue for farms with irrigation by US$0.3 billion. If
there is a 5°C rise in temperature, it would result in a decrease in net
revenues across all farms, dryland farms and farms with irrigation by
US$0.4 billion, US$0.5 billion and US$0.003 billion, respectively. The
impact of a decrease in rainfall is no better. A 7 per cent and a 14 per
cent decrease in precipitation would result in a decrease in net farm revenue by US$0.3 billion for all farms (Mano and Nhemachena 2007).
Drought continues to be one of the toughest problems facing
Zimbabwe. Recent projections of precipitation and runoff in Africa
suggest a drop of up to 10 per cent in precipitation in most of southern Africa (including Zimbabwe) by 2050. This will have serious implications. About 80 per cent of Zimbabwe’s 12.5 million inhabitants
are farmers, with 30 per cent of the urban population engaged in the
agro-industry. The economic damage and human suffering associated with droughts would therefore be enormous. Also, 80 per cent of
Zimbabwe’s electricity supply comes from the Lake Kariba dam, thus
making the electricity supply vulnerable to changes in the water/rain
supply (Levina 2006: 66-69).
Climate change/variability is also impacting the health situation, especially malaria and nutrition, and Zimbabwe is facing reduced biodiversity and inflow of tourists. Using a range of future climate scenarios, Ebi
et al. find that climate suitability for malaria transmission in Zimbabwe
is also likely to increase in the high population density areas of the central plateau. Zimbabwe could have near-complete climate suitability for
stable malaria transmission by 2050. The highlands are also expected
to become more suitable for transmission of malaria. Non-climatic fac64
tors like parasite drug resistance, demographic change, changes in landuse patterns, the success of disease intervention programs (Roll Back
Malaria and the Multilateral Initiative on Malaria), civil unrest, deterioration of public health systems, and HIV proliferation will also dictate
how serious the malaria problem becomes (Ebi et al. 2005).
4.2.3 Political Situation in Zimbabwe Bad Leaders in Zimbabwe and Bulawayo – Matabeleland
One of the reasons why climate change/variability-induced violence is
especially likely to break out in Zimbabwe in general, and Bulawayo/
Matabeleland-North in particular, is the presence of bad leaders. This
argument is based on two observations. First, many elites and actors
have historically had a detrimental effect on the area, not hesitating to
manipulate politics and incite violence for their own purposes. Having
been bad leaders in the past – and faced with the prospect of resource
scarcity caused by climate change/variability– there is a high likelihood that they will incite new violence. Second, the political situation
in Zimbabwe and Bulawayo/Matabeleland-North is tense. If there is
climate change/variability– leading to increasing food and water insecurity – there is a danger that elites, even those that have previously
not been bad leaders, may sponsor violence. Based on historical and
present dynamics, there are two categories of elites that may become
bad leaders in the future: those affiliated with ZANU-PF and those allied with the opposition.
ZANU-PF Elites
In Zimbabwe elites close to, or part of, the ZANU-PF ruling regime,
have had a detrimental effect on security and development since the
country’s independence in 1980. Not only have they sponsored organized violence and extrajudicial killings, they have also engaged in systematic abuses against the opposition and other civilians. Much of the
state sponsored violence in Zimbabwe has been concentrated to the Bulawayo/Matabeleland-North area. The primary reason for this is that
support for political parties opposed to the ZANU-PF regime has historically been strong in Bulawayo and Matabeleland. Seeking to contain the threat posed by opposition groups, it has therefore been natural
for the Mugabe regime to concentrate its campaigns of violence towards Bulawayo/Matabeleland-North. There are particularly four types
of ‘bad leaders’ that have been responsible for these actions, and may
thus instigate climate change/variability-induced conflicts in the future:
leaders of the Zimbabwe Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA), elites within ZANU’s Youth Brigades, generals and officers in
the armed forces and police corps, as well as ZANU-PF dignitaries.
Since the late 1990s the war veterans of ZNLWVA have been a political force to reckon with. Under the charismatic leadership of Chenjerai
Hunzvi, ZNLWVA – after having negotiated economic benefits for its
members – agreed to become a de-facto government militia that could
be used against the opposition. Seeking to punish white farmers and
black farm workers – both suspected to have voted against a ZANUPF sponsored referendum on constitutional reforms in February 2000
and sympathize with the newly formed opposition party Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) – the regime supported large-scale farm invasions by armed groups of war veterans during the spring of 2000. The
invasions, whose purpose was ostensibly to give blacks and war veterans access to farmable land largely owned by white owners, resulted in
dozens of deaths, systematic torture, beatings, destruction of property,
displacement of large numbers of people and the loss of at least 300,000
jobs (ICG 2001b: 3-10; Kriger 2003).10 Although the war veterans were
primarily active during the farm invasions, they have also engaged in
different types of violence against the opposition. During 2001-02, for
instance, war veterans wrecked havoc in Bulawayo on several occasions: rioting, and attacking newspaper and MDC offices.11
Based on historical events, elites controlling different youth militias
also have the potential to become bad leaders in the near future. During
the 2000’s such militias came to play an increasingly central role in the
violence committed against the Zimbabwean opposition, functioning as
auxiliaries to the war veterans and the security forces. It was with the
holding of the 2002 presidential elections that ZANU’s Youth Brigades
gained prominence, a position they continue to hold. Recruited and
placed in National Youth Training Centers, young men and women were
10 During the farm invasions it was, however, not only ex-combatants from the lib-
eration struggle that participated. To bolster their numbers, ZNLWVA had previously
accepted large numbers of unemployed youths and ZANU-PF supporters into their
ranks. It is reported that much of the violence was, in fact, carried out by the two
latter categories of individuals (ICG, ’Zimbabwe in Crisis: Finding a Way Forward’,
(International Crisis Group, 2001b): 3-10..
11 BBC News: War Vets Wreak Havoc in Bulawayo, 14 February 2002. Available
at (Last visited 30 March
2011) and ICG, ‘Zimbabwe: Time for International Action’, (International Crisis
Group, 2001a) at: 9, Alex Duval Smith, ‘Zimbabwe Police on Alert after Rioting in
Bulawayo’, The Independent, 18 November 2001.
taught to hate MDC and how to suppress and torture its sympathizers
(ICG 2002e: 3; 2010: 6). Youth Brigade units have committed extrajudicial violence in large parts of the country, ranging from political murder and rape, to attacks on and the illegal detention of suspected MDC
supporters (Africa Confidential 2008; ICG 2008c: 6). This violence has
often been centered in Bulawayo/Matabeleland-North. For example,
during the 2002 presidential elections, youth militias were deployed in
the rural areas of Matabeleland to intimidate voters from casting their
votes (Africa Confidential 2002: 4; ICG 2002c: 8).
Although much of the political violence in Zimbabwe can be traced
back to non-state security actors, such as ZNLWVA and ZANU’s Youth
Brigades, there are – based on atrocities committed in the past – reasons
to suspect that senior army generals and police officers may also sponsor violence in the future. There is, for example, abundant evidence indicating that it was approximately 200 senior military officers that were
in charge of leading youth militia retaliation against MDC members
and supporters after the 2008 elections (Africa Confidential 2008). By
indirectly utilizing aggrieved war veterans and marginalized youths, the
political and military leadership was able to divert some of the negative
attention away from themselves. Despite this, security forces have at
times engaged themselves directly in different forms of political violence. In the aftermath of the 2008 elections, the security forces were
for example, mobilized to harass rural areas with strong MDC backing
(ICG 2008c: 1, 6).
Even if generals, officers and militia leaders have at times had autonomy when it comes to the planning and execution of campaigns of
violence, it would be an exaggeration to claim that they constitute the
most perilous bad leaders for the future. Consider that since 1980, no
major political or military decisions have been taken without the direct initiation or clearance by President Mugabe and ZANU-PF’s top
brass. Mugabe, for example, has systematically sought to centralize
power for himself ever since becoming president; in particular, control
over the security forces (Africa Confidential 2008; ICG 2007: March
2007: 7). Control of the later has continued despite the power-sharing
arrangement that ZANU-PF entered with MDC-Tsvangirai (MDC-T)
and MDC-Mutambara (MDC-M) in 2009 (Africa Confidential 2009).
This concentration of power, means that Mugabe is ultimately responsible for much of the violence that Zimbabwe has suffered during the
last three decades. Nowhere is this clearer than in the Gukurahundi
or “Matabeleland Massacres”. In the mid-1980s, Mugabe ordered the
armed forces to quell unrest in Matabeleland North and South, after
members of the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) – a rival
guerilla group during the liberation struggle – began protesting over
Mugabe’s arrest of the ZAPU leader Joshua Nkomo, and his plans to
create a one-party state. Upon entering the area the army unleashed a
series of massacres, beatings and tortures, resulting in the death of an
estimated 15-20,000 civilians (ICG 2001b). To organize different acts
of violence, Mugabe has also had the help of several of ZANU-PF’s
central figures, the most infamous being Emmerson Mnangagwa. Not
only was Mnangagwa, as Minister of State Security, heavily implicated
in the Matabeleland Massacres, he was also the main architect behind
the armed offensive against MDC activists and supporters after the
2008 national elections, which resulted in the killing of 100 opposition
supporters (Africa Confidential 2003, 2008).
The historical record track record of ZANU-PF politicians and affiliated elites thus gives an indication of their potential to act as bad leaders
in the future. The question is, however, why we should expect climate
change/variability to increase the risk of them doing so? There are two
potential answers to this question: climate change/variability may, first,
generate violent elite competition over increasingly scarce resources,
and national and local leaders may, second, manipulate their constituencies’ fear of resource scarcity for their own political purposes – which
in itself may not have anything to do with climate change/variability).
When speaking about the first scenario, it is necessary to understand the
crucial role that networks of patronage play for ZANU-PF. By confiscating farmlands (intended for war veterans or landless laborers), manipulating exchange rates, controlling mining assets, and creating artificial shortages on basic commodities, many ZANU-PF leaders and generals have amassed vast riches. Besides satisfying the economic needs
of the party’s dignitaries and allies, such assets have allowed ZANUPF to sustain popular support amongst its traditional followers (Africa
Confidential 2003; ICG 2006b: 4-5; 2009: 4, 13). This is especially true
concerning access to food; through government monopolies ZANU-PF
has been able to distort deliveries of grain and maize from opposition to
ZANU-PF areas (ICG 2002a: 7). Hence, if climate change/variability
results in a sharp drop in agricultural output and water scarcity, different ZANU-PF elites will have incentives to protect their economic
interests by sponsoring political violence. Such acts will either target
MDC-M and T – if the two use their position within the power-sharing
government to root out the corrupt policies and practices within state
administration; or degenerate into inter-ZANU-PF violence as different
factions scramble to control the few resources still available. The lat68
ter scenario may be particularly plausible, when considering that there
were reports already in 2003 of growing tensions between war veterans,
youth militias and members of the security forces due to competition
over ‘control of local food distribution networks, newly expropriated
farms, and other elements of the overextended patronage system’ (ICG
2003a: 1).
Even if climate change/variability would not directly affect ZANUPF elites, they could, for political reasons of their own, play on their
constituency’s fears of food and water insecurity. This could, for example, be the case if there is an escalation in demands from the opposition to make Mugabe, and other central ZANU-PF figures, accountable
for the atrocities they have committed. Such calls have been especially
strong from Bulawayo/Matabeleland-North, where many victims of the
1980’s massacres want to see top military and political figures, such
as Mnangagwa, placed on trial (Africa Confidential 2008; ICG 2003a:
14). Considering that ZANU-PF elites have systematically employed
violence when threatened in the past, it is possible that they could galvanize their followers to attack members of the opposition by promising them access to productive lands and water resources. This is a
probable scenario when considering ZANU-PF’s past manipulation of
the land issue.
Irrespective of the immediate reasons for ZANU-PF elites to sponsor climate change/variability-related violence, such acts are likely to
be predominantly localized in Bulawayo/Matabeleland-North. Not
only is the region already suffering from periodic shortages of food
and water, it also constitutes one of the main opposition strongholds. It
would therefore be rational for the Mugabe regime to concentrate spoiling behavior to these predominantly Ndebele areas.
Opposition Elites
Even if most collective violence in Zimbabwe has been instigated and
planned by ZANU-PF affiliated leaders, there are reasons to suspect that
other elites – based on past records and future scenarios – could become
bad leaders. Since its creation in 1999, MDC has been the main opposition force in the country. Although it has successfully gathered support from large segments of Zimbabwean society, and has a substantial
following in most provinces, it has not succeeded in creating a unified
political organization with a strong ideological base. In fact, it has more
resembled a conglomerate of different actors (trade unions, civil society
groups, intellectuals, youth leaders, white farmers and even some war
veterans) foremost united by their opposition to Mugabe (Africa Con69
fidential 1999, 2003; ICG 2001b: 3, 13). The difficulties of uniting this
motley collection of social forces and interests, have at times, created
serious rifts within the party. These divisions have largely emerged out
of disagreement over the most appropriate strategy for dealing with the
ZANU-PF’s oppressive tactics. While the President of the party – Morgan Tsvangirai – has often advocated a more confrontational approach,
including mass protests and electoral boycotts – party leaders such as
Welshman Ncube and Arthur Mutambara have called for less militant
tactics and more electoral participation. The rifts over political strategy
have been reinforced by ethnic and class differences, with the Tsvangirai faction mainly drawing support from trade unionists and members
of the Shona community, where as his opponents draw from the intellectuals and Ndebeles (Africa Confidential 2003: 4; ICG 2005b: 10). By
2006 the MDC-split became formal, as Ncube and Mutambara refused
to adhere to Tsvangirai’s calls to boycott the 2005 senatorial elections.
As a consequence the two former founded a new party, MDC-M, to
contest the elections. Even if MDC-M has sought to become a national
party, it has been rather unsuccessful in mobilizing support outside Bulawayo and Matabeleland-North and South, in essence making it an
Ndebele party (ICG 2006a: 6; 2007: 8-9).
Due to its internal problems and the systematic abuses committed by the ZANU-PF regime, MDC militants have, on occasion, employed violence. This has oftentimes been centered in Bulawayo/
Matabeleland-North. For example, after ZANU-PF militants burned
down MDC’s regional office in Bulawayo in November 2001, supporters of the opposition party retaliated by attacking the ZANU-PF
headquarters (Africa Confidential 2001; Smith 2001). Meanwhile, between 2005 and 2006 MDC-M and –T supporters regularly clashed in
Bulawayo/Matabeleland-North during street fights and political rallies
(ICG 2006b: 8-9; 2006a: 6).
There is, furthermore, the future risk that former cadres of the ZAPU
sponsor different forms of violence; either to strengthen their position
during power struggles with other Ndebele elites, or in retaliation for
ZANU-PF abuses. After the Matabeleland Massacres, and the crushing
of ZAPU resistance in Matabeleland, Nkomo and his ZAPU agreed to
enter a political alliance with ZANU in 1987, forming the ZANU-PF.12
Even though it was agreed that one of the two Vice Presidencies would
always be allocated to a ZAPU dignitary, the deal de facto ensured
ZANU dominance over ZANU-PF, the state apparatus and security
12 Before 1987 Mugabe’s rebel group was known only as ZANU.
forces. Even if Nkomo endorsed the 1987 agreement, and became Vice
President, there have since then been some opposition within ZAPU
ranks over the political merger. This has, from time to time, resulted in
ZAPU veterans forming new political parties, such as Liberal Party of
Zimbabwe and ZAPU 2000. These parties have sought to capitalize on
Ndebeles feelings of political and social marginalization, and harm over
the Matabeleland massacres (Africa Confidential 1999). The most serious challenge to the ZANU-ZAPU alliance is when Dumiso Dabengwa
– one of the most senior ex-ZAPU and ZANU-PF leaders – announced
its dissolution and officially relaunched ZAPU as an independent party
in October 2008 (ICG 2010: 11).
Even if some ZAPU leaders have distanced themselves from the ruling party, other senior members have chosen to remain in ZANU-PF.
This includes figures such as Joseph Msika and John Nkomo (no relation to Joshua Nkomo). Despite the small size of the Ndebele constituency, 14 per cent of the population, it has historically been important for
members of the regime to seek support from ex-ZAPU leaders within
ZANU-PF; both to check the advance of MDC (with its strong Ndebele
following) and to gain valuable allies during intra-ZANU-PF disputes.
This dependence has allowed some former ZAPU leaders to build a
strong political platform for themselves within ZANU-PF.
Former ZAPU leaders have also shown that they are not averse to
inciting and using violence. During the Matabeleland Massacres, for
instance, many ZAPU combatants and supporters did take to arms
against the army in Matabeleland. Ex-ZAPU members have, furthermore, been associated with armed acts committed after the 1987 peace
accord. Evidence suggests that at a ZANU-PF rally in Bulawayo in
November 2001, Dabengwa incited party militants to use violence, ultimately leading to attacks against MDC property and firefighters (Africa
Confidential 2001). Meanwhile, in May 2006 there were reports of fighting between different groupings of war veterans in Bulawayo, apparently caused by a power-struggle between John Nkomo and Dabengwa
over who should become the new Vice President of ZANU-PF (Africa
Confidential 2006).13
Hence, even if it is difficult to categorize MDC and ZAPU-elites as
‘bad leaders’ based on past experiences, there is a real possibility that
they may play less constructive roles in the future. This is not only because their militants have at times, employed violence, but also due to
13 The Vice President position refers to the post designated for a ZAPU representa-
tive within ZANU-PF.
the fact that the environmental degradation, caused by climate change/
variability, can tempt or push them to sponsor collective violence. As
previously mentioned, Mugabe has on other occasions used food as a
political weapon by channeling greater shares of agricultural products
to predominantly ZANU-PF areas. During the early 2000s such policies, in conjuncture with a severe drought, caused severe food shortages in opposition strongholds such as Bulawayo/Matabeleland-North.14
Not only did this cause spontaneous anti-government protests, but food
queues became virtual recruiting grounds for the opposition (Africa
Confidential 2002). If future droughts, caused by climate change/variability, result in similar food crises, one cannot rule out the possibility
that opposition elites could instigate their followers to engage in riots
by playing on their fears of starvation. But what incentives could opposition elites have for engaging in such spoiling behaviors? One reason
could be that ZANU-PF politicians, such as Mnangagwa, have sought
to sabotage the new power-sharing government by organizing the arrest of senior MDC dignitaries (ICG 2009: 5). If such actions continue,
MDC leaders could come to the conclusion that a show of force is the
best strategy to break a political impasse. Weak Institutions in Bulawayo/Matabeleland-North
It was previously argued that strong state institutions constitute a crucial
mechanism to overcome the negative, societal effects of climate change/
variability. This is bad news for Zimbabwe and Bulawayo/Matabeleland-North, as there is a conspicuous lack of this public good in both
the former and the latter. With weak state structures, there is an overt
risk that climate change/variability may, in the future, generate different
forms of collective violence in this part of Southern Africa. This claim
is foremost based on two observations. First, state institutions have, in
the past, proven themselves incapable of ensuring the socio-economic
well-being of their citizens. In fact, after 2000, Zimbabwe and Bulawayo/Matabeleland-North have suffered from a humanitarian crisis,
which has, among other things, resulted in the death of thousands from
starvation and cholera. Even if there have recently been some improvements in the state’s capacity to deliver socio-economic assistance, it is
questionable whether it is enough to fend off future challenges coming
from climate change/variability. Second, due to severe deficits in the
areas of democratic governance and rule of law, the state appears to be
14 For more information on this, see the section on Weak Institutions in
ill prepared to mitigate future conflicts that may arise due to climate
change/variability. The following two sections will take a closer look at
these two forms of institutional shortcomings and investigate how they
can increase the risk of climate change/variability-induced violence in
Zimbabwe and Bulawayo/Matabeleland-North.
Inability to Ensure the Socio-Economic Wellbeing of Citizens
Since 1999-2000, with the intensification of political contestation in the
country, Zimbabwe has suffered from a massive humanitarian crisis.
Nowhere has this been more pronounced than in the area of food security. Once the breadbasket of southern Africa, Zimbabwean cereal production has plummeted sharply since the 2000s. For instance, between
2001 and 2002 the output of maize fell by 2/3, while wheat production
decreased by more than half (ICG 2002b: 3). With much less food being
produced, large segments of the population were unable to feed themselves. In January 2003 it was estimated that as many as 7.2 million
people were at risk of starvation; a figure that had only decreased to 6
million in 2009 (ICG 2003a: 5; 2008b: 8). Food insecurity has especially been a problem in Bulawayo/Matabeleland-North. Being one of the
more arid regions of the country means that local communities already
have a limited capacity to absorb and mitigate temporary food shocks.
This ecological fragility was apparent on several occasions during the
2000s. There were, for example, reports of children dying of starvation
in Matabeleland North, as early as 2002 (ICG 2002d: 5). Three years
later the situation had deteriorated further, with death tolls reaching 161
in Bulawayo alone (ICG 2004: 6).
Although the immediate origins of the food crisis can be traced back
to a serious drought that hit Zimbabwe during the early 2000s, its negative effects were severely amplified by actions taken by the ZANU-PF
government (Africa Confidential 2002: 1). In fact, according to one
commentator at the time, ‘government policies have turned a drought
of the kind that has been handled well in the past into a food emergency, creating conditions to use food as a political weapon and deeply
undercutting long-term production capabilities’ (ICG 2002b: 1). The
question then is exactly which type of regime actions were responsible
for escalating the food crisis? One of the main reasons for the lack of
basic cereals was the manner in which the land reforms were carried
out. Initially, the violence committed by war veterans and youth militias on white farms resulted in large tracks of land not being cultivated,
decreasing the amount of domestic produce available for consumption
(ICG 2001a: 10-11). Officially, this dip in production was to be over73
come once landless, black farmers began cultivating the land. However,
due to the nepotistic nature of the ZANU-PF regime, the land reform
was severely distorted. Not only was most land given to ZANU-PF loyalists – many of which did not have an interest in developing the land;
there was also little assistance – in the form of seed, fertilizers and loans
– available to communal farmers (ICG 2002e: 8). As a result, the few
black farmers that were actually able to cultivate the newly acquired
lands were unable to supply the amounts of cereals needed to alleviate
the food crisis.
Another factor that undermined the state institutions’ capacity to
address the effects of the drought was the direct spoiling behavior of
ZANU-PF elites. In fact, many of them benefitted both economically
and politically from the food crisis. For example, government monopolies of grain imports and price controls meant that there were few incentives for domestic producers and retailers to sell agricultural products on the open market. Instead, cereals and other agricultural goods
were smuggled outside the country, or sold on the black market. Since
state officials largely controlled these transactions, many ZANU-PF
dignitaries acquired great wealth by exploiting the drought and they
subsequently had few incentives to find a solution to the food crisis
(Africa Confidential 2004; ICG 2002b: 4; 2002e: 6). In addition, by
controlling access to basic food items – through the Grain Marketing
Board – ZANU-PF had some political leverage over the opposition. By
cutting off food deliveries to MDC strongholds, the government sought
to coerce people to support the regime. For example, after losing the
district elections in Binga in Matabeleland North in 2002, government
officials sealed of food warehouses and prevented local NGOs from
providing assistance to needy children (ICG 2002b: 4).
In addition to the significant problems with food security, state institutions have also failed to ensure the well being of citizens in other
important areas. One of the most threatening developments in recent
years is the breakdown of water supplies and sanitation conditions in
urban areas. In 2008 these shortcomings resulted in the outbreak of a
cholera epidemic, which by the end of the year had claimed 1,000 lives
(ICG 2008b: 1, 8; 2008a:10-11). Lack of water supplies has constituted
an especially acute problem in Bulawayo. Due to persistent droughts,
population growth, and conflicts between local and national authorities
over control of the water supplies, Bulawayo faced its worst water crisis
ever in 2008, prompting the local authorities to introduce strict water
rationing (Nyoni 2008).
Even with recent improvement of the humanitarian crisis in
Zimbabwe and Bulawayo/Matabeleland-North – with more food being available in shops, and the cholera epidemic coming under control
– the inability of the state institutions to handle the droughts of the early
2000s provides an indication of their capacity to mitigate environmental
shock, induced by climate change/variability, in the future (ICG 2009:
1, 8-9; 2010: 1-3). This pessimistic analysis seems all the more reasonable when taking two additional factors into account. First, despite the
inclusion of the two MDC factions into the government, ZANU–PF
has been largely successful in its efforts to retain control over state
structures and nepotistic channels. There is, hence, a risk that if climate
change/variability results in new humanitarian crises, ZANU–PF elites
may – as during the 2000s – seek to manipulate food or water shortages for their own personal enrichment or for political purposes. It is
not inconceivable that such actions could generate violent reactions.
This is especially true when considering that Zimbabweans have not
been averse to employing such methods during similar instances in the
past. In 1998, for instances, the country was shaken by food riots (ICG
2001a: 11). Meanwhile, in 2005, even the Minister of State Security,
Didymus Mutasa, warned that there was a high risk of urban rebellions,
in cities such as Bulawayo, due to food shortages (ICG 2005b: 4).
Second, there is a real possibility that the water crisis in Bulawayo
will, in the future, escalate into an open political conflict between the
national and local authorities – the latter being dominated by the opposition. In 2008 there were reports of the Zimbabwe National Water
Agency (ZINWA) seeking to pressure the Bulawayo city council to
relinquish control over the town’s water supply. Fearing that ZINWA
control would result in severe mismanagement, Bulawayo politicians
have refused. Such fears have probably been influenced by the inability of the central government to build a long-promised water pipeline
connecting the Zambezi River with Bulawayo (Nyoni 2008). If climate
change/variability further decreases precipitation in the Bulawayo/
Matabeleland-North area, it is very conceivable that water issues will
become increasingly politicized in the coming years. This may not only
lead to a radicalization of local political activists, but at worst, escalate
into violent clashes between ZAPU, MDC-M and -T supporters on the
one hand, and ZANU-PF followers on the other.
Faulty Democratic Institutions and Lack of Rule of Law
Another causal path in which weak institutions and climate change/variability can interact to trigger violence in Zimbabwe in general, and Bu75
lawayo/Matabeleland-North in particular, is through faulty democratic
institutions and the lack of rule-of-law. The semi-democratic nature of
Zimbabwean institutions has for instance, created uncertainties among
the political actors about the rules of the game, and whether they will
survive politically in the future. The ZANU-PF regime has, on the one
hand, increasingly opened up the political space in Zimbabwe since the
late 1980s, through different liberalization measures (Saunders 2010).
Opposition parties have, for instance, been free to register themselves
and compete in local and national elections. The regime has, on the
other hand, continued to employ many authoritarian measures to undermine the opposition’s ability to challenge the government; something that has been particularly clear during times of elections. Since
2000, national elections have been fraught with ZANU-PF instigated
irregularities such as poll rigging, vote buying, tampering with voter
rolls, manipulation of the borders of voting districts, restrictions in the
freedom of speech and assembly, as well more physical acts, such as
raiding MDC offices, arresting opposition activists and leaders, and
torturing and killing MDC supporters.15 As a key stronghold for MDC,
such irregularities have often been especially blatant in Bulawayo. For
example, during the 2002 presidential elections, there were twice as
many voting stations per voter in the rural areas compared to Bulawayo
and other cities, impeding efforts by local voters to cast their votes (ICG
2008a: 12). Meanwhile, in both 2003 and 2008, senior MDC politicians
were arrested in the city (Africa Confidential 2003, 2010). Actions such
as these have generated fears amongst MDC’s members that ZANU-PF
would, in the future, seek to dismantle the party completely.
The outcome of the democratization project has, however, not been
unproblematic for ZANU-PF either. There have, as previously mentioned, been sustained calls from parts of the opposition to put leading
ZANU-PF dignitaries on trial and to dismantle the party’s control over
state structures that allow them to uphold their nepotistic channels (ICG
2009: 8). If such actions would be implemented, there is a real possibility that ZANU-PF would become an irrelevant political force in the
near future; not only because they would lose their most public figures,
15 Africa Confidential, Africa Confidential, /multiple issues (2005), ICG, ‘Zimbabwe: Three
Months after the Elections’, (International Crisis Group, 2000) at: 2, ICG, ‘Zimbabwe: Time
for International Action’, at: 9, Icg, ‘Zimbabwe at the Crossroads: Transition or Conflict?’,
(International Crisis Group, 2002c) at: 3-4, ICG, ‘Zimbabwe: What Next?’, (International
Crisis Group, 2002a) at: 2, Icg, ‘Decision Time in Zimbabwe’, (International Crisis Group,
2003b) at: 4-5, ICG, ‘Zimbabwe’s Continuing Self-Destruction’, (International Crisis Group,
2006a) at: 2, ICG, ‘Ending Zimbabwe’s Nightmare: A Possible Way Forward’, (International
Crisis Group, 2008b) at: 6.
but also because they would have trouble sustaining support from their
constituencies without access to state spoils. Without any substantial
political or constitutional reforms, the political uncertainty for ZANUPF and the two MDC factions is likely to continue in the coming years.
This is especially true when considering the instability of the powersharing agreement between the parties, and the ambiguity about when
and how the next national elections will be carried out.
The weakness of the democratic institutions also means that they
are ill prepared to regulate future conflicts that may arise as a result of
climate change/variability. For example, if rising temperatures result in
food and water becoming scarcer, the stakes for the political parties and
their followers will increase drastically. Losing elections may thereby
not only entail lack of admission to central decision-making bodies,
but also starvation and exposure to malnutrition and epidemics. Such
daunting scenarios can increase incentives for political actors – such
as ZANU-PF – to engage in even more flagrant and violent actions;
especially during times of elections. Under similar circumstances opposition parties may become more vigilant with activists demanding
the right to use violent means – both to protect themselves and prevent
electoral fraud and poll rigging from ZANU-PF officials.
The inability of law enforcement institutions to uphold the rule of
law is another dimension that may trigger climate change/variabilityinduced violence in Bulawayo/Matabeleland-North. Historically, both
the police and judiciary have a bad track-record when it comes to taking action against abuses committed by individuals associated with
the regime. This was particularly obvious during the farm invasions in
the early 2000s. Not only was it common for police units to refuse to
intervene as war veterans harassed and killed white farmers and their
workers, few of the offenders were prosecuted by the authorities (ICG
2001b: 3-4, 6-9). Such inaction has, however, not been confined to violent campaigns against white farmers; it has also allowed war veterans
and youth militias to act with impunity against MDC activists (ICG
2002d: 4; 2002c: 2-3). For example, during the run-up to the 2002 presidential elections war veterans went on a violent rampage in Bulawayo
in February, intimidating suspected MDC supporters in the presence of
local police.16 This non-intervention stance has at times, even received,
official and public backing; in April 2002 senior ZANU-PF officials
16 BBC News: War Vets Wreak Havoc in Bulawayo, 14 February 2002. Available
at (Last visited 30 March
warned ‘police officers at provincial stations not to intervene in politically motivated events’ (ICG 2002a: 2). If Zimbabwean law enforcement institutions continue to condone similar forms of impunity, there
is a real possibility that climate change/variability may in fact lead to
violence. For instance, decreased precipitation will, in all likelihood,
result in less farmable land in Bulawayo/Matabeleland-North; a development that may generate land disputes between local communities. If
such conflicts arise, and the police are seen favoring some communities
over others, disadvantaged groups will have incentives to protect their
claims by employing arms. Polarized Social Identities
The presence of polarized social identities is a final factor that may
hamper efforts to prevent climate change/variability-induced violence.
This is particularly true in Zimbabwe and Bulawayo/MatabelelandNorth, where past and current abuses have resulted in a radicalization of
the Ndebele community. This collective identity is, however, not only
based on ethnicity, but also political belonging, wartime identities and
perceptions of socio-economic and political marginalization. If climate
change/variability results in dwindling access to food and water, there
is a real risk that Ndebeles will be further radicalized; especially if they
perceive themselves as being unfairly wronged, political parties engage
in ethnic outbidding, and Mnangagwa replaces Mugabe as ZANU-PF
president. The remaining parts of this section will be devoted to examining the intensity of communal cleavages in Bulawayo/MatabelelandNorth and why such polarized social identities – in conjunction with
climate change/variability – may trigger armed action.
Radicalization of the Ndebele Community
The polarization of social identities in Bulawayo/Matabeleland-North is
largely a product of events leading up to and immediately following independence, current political dynamics, as well as the inability of elites
to initiate and support national and local reconciliation efforts. Despite
facing a common enemy, in the form of the white minority government
of Rhodesia, the liberation movement was unable to uphold a united
front, and was subsequently divided along ethnic lines; with ZAPU
representing the Ndebeles and the Shonas dominating ZANU. With independence, tensions between the two communities were exasperated,
as ZANU and ZAPU engaged in an intense power-struggle. As previously touched upon, this resulted in the Matabeleland massacres of the
mid-1980s in which ZANU allied forces killed an estimated 15-20,000
civilians in Bulawayo/Matabeleland-North. The subsequent peace deal
between the two factions did little to foster a climate of political and social reconciliation. Not only did the ZANU-PF power-sharing arrangement resemble a capitulation on the part of ZAPU rather than a forum
for equal political partnership, but Mugabe’s regime refused to conduct
reports investigating the public massacres (ICG 2001b: 1).
Although Ndebele dissent was less overt during the late 1980s and
early 1990s – a period characterized by growing autocracy, a relatively high standard of living and a strong economy – narratives of the
Matabeleland massacres were kept alive in Bulawayo/MatabelelandNorth, as were feelings of resentment towards the Mugabe regime
(Barclay 2010: 39; ICG 2002c: 8). It was therefore first with the weakening of the ZANU-PF regime and growing socioeconomic crises of
the late 1990s that Ndebele grievances came into the open. In 1997 for
instance, the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe
produced a report to assist the victims of the Matabeleland massacres.
The report, which was officially published in 2001, was widely spread
in Bulawayo/Matabeleland-North and contributed to keeping the memory of the massacres alive (ICG 2001b: 1; 2005a: 11-12). Due the actions of NGOs, such as the Catholic Commission, and the opening of
the political space in the late 1990s, there were increasing demands
from the victims of the 1980s killings, to bring those responsible to
justice (Africa Confidential 2008; ICG 2003a: 14). Seeking to capitalize on such public cries of outrage, opposition parties – including
MDC – began echoing calls for justice and political empowerment of
Bulawayo/Matabeleland-North by, for example, proposing the creation
of a federal state (Africa Confidential 1999; ICG 2003a: 14). The political mobilization of the Ndebele community was further facilitated by
the feelings of fear and anger caused by the political violence instigated
by the ZANU-PF regime in the area during the early 2000s (ICG 2005a:
The regime has responded in ambiguous ways to the Ndebeles mobilization for judicial action. On the one hand, Mugabe has promised
economic damages for the 1980s killings and has conveyed ‘regret’ for
his soldiers’ behavior in Bulawayo/Matabeleland-North. Mugabe has,
on the other hand, never made good on his promises of compensation
and he has not offered a formal apology for the abuses committed by
soldiers loyal to ZANU (Africa Confidential 1999). Mnangagwa, who
was one of the main architects of the massacres, has had the most belligerent stance, arguing that ZAPU bears responsibility for the events:
‘if the ZAPU leadership had accepted that they had lost the elections
and that the number of seats that they had were equal to their popularity
and conveyed that message to their forces, then it (Gukurahundi) could
not have happened’ (Africa Confidential 2004). Due to the intensification of political contestation during the last 12 years, the ZANU-PF
regime has also increasingly embraced a radical, identity-based rhetoric. In order to mobilize support in rural Shona areas, the party has revitalized the anti-white, nationalistic discourse of the liberation struggle
(ICG 2001b: 4). Within this rhetoric the MDC has been portrayed as
western-puppets, controlled and financed by white farmers and British
imperialists bent on undermining the revolutionary project of the people
(ICG 2002c: 10; 2004: 10; 2010: 12). Such oratory remarks have been
used to mobilize support for and train members of the youth militias,
thereby directly feeding into the mobilization of violent entrepreneurs
(ICG 2002e: 3; 2010: 6).
Overlapping Politicized Identities and the Risk of Climate Change/
Variability Induced Violence
The polarization of social identities in Bulawayo/Matabeleland-North
is especially worrisome due to its overlapping nature. This can, as was
argued, constitute a problem since social groups that share several common identity markers have a higher likelihood of becoming radicalized
and subsequently mobilized for violence. For example, the Ndebele
community is not only characterized by ethnic traits, but also broader
socio-political markers. Since the opening of the political space in the
1990s, the Ndebele electorate has shifted much of their loyalty to the
opposition. As a result Ndebele has increasingly become equivalent
with opposition supporter (ICG 2005a: 11-12). Such ethnic-political
connotations have been augmented with the appearance of MDC-M
and ZAPU, two parties that have focused their electoral strategy on
articulating Ndebele grievances. Ethnic and political identities are,
furthermore, coupled with feelings of marginalization and neglect, as
many Ndebeles believe that Shona-speakers receive preferential treatment when it comes to jobs and education. Finally, wartime identities,
based on the sufferings of the 1980s and an idealization of ZAPU feats
of the past, are still strong in Bulawayo/Matabeleland-North (Africa
Confidential 1999).
A telling example of the sensitive nature that questions of identity and belonging have in Bulawayo/Matabeleland-North – and their
potential for violent mobilization – comes from recent rifts over the
heritage of Nkomo, the deceased and long time leader of ZAPU. In
Matabeleland, Nkomo has increasingly become a cult figure amongst
large segments of the population (Africa Confidential 2010). This has
led to a virtual power struggle between MDC and ZANU-PF over the
control of his heritage. Case in point, the MDC-dominated city council
in Bulawayo renamed Main Street as Joshua Nkomo Street, and taken
steps to erect a statue of the ZAPU-leader. The latter idea was, however, plagiarized by Kembo Mohadi – ZANU-PF co-Minister of Home
Affairs. Trying to gain political legitimacy for ZANU-PF in Bulawayo/
Matabeleland-North, he took personal charge of the construction of the
Nkomo statue in Bulawayo (Africa Confidential 2010). However, on
completion, there was public outrage when it became clear that the statue was made in North Korea – which had trained the Zimbabwean Fifth
Brigade which was responsible for the Matabeleland massacres – and
was widely believed to depict Nkomo in an ‘unheroic’ manner (Africa
Confidential 2010). One NGO spokesperson expressed local feelings
of resentment in the following way: “We cannot have that (the statue)
because we will remember our loved ones who were killed through
North Korean help every time we see it. There should be no surprises
if people uproot or even dynamite it” (Nkala 2010). In fact, veterans in
Bulawayo did threaten to pull the statue down. With popular pressure
mounting, Mohadi eventually backed down and placed the figure in a
local museum (Africa Confidential 2010; Nkala 2010).
There are reasons to believe that polarized social identities may generate violence in Zimbabwe and Bulawayo/Matabeleland-North, especially if the region is severely affected by climate change/variability. If
alterations in precipitation and temperature result in less cultivable land,
and water, Ndebeles may fear for their future survival. Under such circumstances the latter will be even more likely to seek comfort and security in narrow ethnic networks; especially if state institutions continue
to fail to mitigate processes of socioeconomic stress. Climate change/
variability therefore has the potential to further radicalize the Ndebeles
– a group that is already politically mobilized – thereby increasing the
risk of communal tensions escalating into open violence. Such a development is particularly likely if three scenarios unfold. First, if Ndebeles
believe they suffer disproportionally from the negative effects of climate
change/variability – which is a real possibility considering the ZANUPF’s manipulation of the drought during the early 2000s – bad leaders
may have an easier time to manipulate members of the community to
employ arms. Second, violent actions could be the outcome if MDC-M,
MDC-T, ZAPU and Ndebele politicians within ZANU-PF engage in
ethnic outbidding during times of elections, playing on Ndebeles fears
of resource scarcity. Third, there could be an increased risk of violence
if Mnangagwa – who heads one of two factions struggling for power in ZAPU-PF – succeeds Mugabe as President of the party, or even
more problematic, if he becomes head of state. Considering that many
Ndebeles have a deep aversion to Mnangagwa, anti-ZANU-PF agitation could, under similar circumstances, easily spiral out of control.
4.3 Mozambique
4.3.1 Climate Change/Variability in Mozambique
UNFCCC documents on Mozambique’s climatic development describe
overall changes in the climate under the assumption of a ‘doubling in
the global concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere.’ The models suggest that through climate change/variability, simulated for the period
1975-2075, the mean temperature in Mozambique will increase between 1.8°C (Genesis model) to up to 3.1°C (GFDL-R30 and UK89
models). This means that precipitation would decrease between 2 per
cent (Genesis) and 11 per cent (GFDL-R30) (UNFCCC 2003: 64).
There will not be any generalizable affect of climate change/variability in Mozambique, considering its geographic length of 2300km.
And the impact on the population will also vary considering that coastal
areas are typically densely populated and inland areas less populated.
The costal populated areas account for 40 per cent of the total population (Chemane et al. 1997: 69). Rainfall in Mozambique varies between
1,400 mm a year near the Zambezi Delta to about 300 mm a year in the
lowlands of the southern interior. The hottest region in Mozambique is
the interior Zambezi valley.
The biggest challenge that climate change/variability will pose to
Mozambique is an excess of water in the form of rainfall/sea water.
Therefore, Mozambique, and in particular the Zambezi Basin areas
will suffer from increasing floods from the west through the Zambezi,
while at the same time from the east it will be affected by sea level
rise through increasing amounts of global sea water, and sea level rise
through cyclones. Mozambique’s coast is prone to tropical cyclone impacts, which are believed to increase due to climate change/variability
(Osbahr et al. 2008: 1953). This interaction of Zambezi floods and sea
level rise is already affecting the delta area, particularly Chinde:
There are villages where the coastline has retreated or advanced as
much as up to 1 m per year in the last 40 years, e.g. Chinde (Zambezi
delta). Erosion has been identified as a serious problem in some regions,
including particularly the city of Beira where many property and infrastructures (e.g. roads) have been already lost (Chemane et al. 1997: 70).
The harbor town Beira in the southern neighboring province of
Zambezia, 200km south of the Zambezi delta, is considered extremely
vulnerable to sea level rise. It is possible that up to 40 per cent of the city
will be inundated by 2100 (Chemane et al. 1997: 77). This would have
severe implications for trade in the region: ‘Beira is a low lying harbor
town of strategic importance for Mozambique and for the hinterland. It
is the nearest natural port for Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe and other
landlocked countries in southern Africa’ (Chemane et al. 1997: 70).
The construction of the Kariba and Cahora Bassa dam had a severe
impact on the lower Zambezi Basin. Kirchhoff and Bulkey write that
when the dams where finished (Kariba dam in 1959 and the Cahora
Bassa dam in 1974) ‘nearly 90% of the Zambezi catchment has become
regulated and the natural flood cycles of the lower Zambezi River are
now a phenomenon of the past. Overflows were cyclical in the past, but
now are unpredictable and result in severe damaging floods’ (Kirchhoff
and Bulkley 2008). People in the lower Zambezi (below Cahora Bassa
dam) complain about the government’s regulation of the dam and the
lack of warnings provided when the government releases water. Water
levels can change tremendously within hours due to the dams (Beilfuss
et al 2002).
In 2001 Mozambique and other parts of south-eastern Africa were
heavily affected by floods. Floods increased when the Zambian authorities were forced to release water from Kariba dam after heavy rainfall in the region. In Tete, farmland was flooded, but the Cahora Bassa
dam prevented further damage to the lower lying Zambezia province.
However, weeks later when a tropical storm hit Mozambique, heavy
rain and subsequent flooding affected 250,000 people in Zambezia.
With the destruction of many bridges and infrastructure, Quelimane,
the provincial capital, was cut off from Pebane and others.17
The first month’s of 2007 saw a major Zambezi flood, affecting
four of the central provinces in Mozambique (Tete, Manica, Sofala and
Zambezia). Several roads crossing the Zambezi were cut off. The floods
in 2007 worsened with Cyclone Favio18 The World Food Program writes:
‘285,000 people in Mozambique may need food assistance for the next
few months as many have had to flee the rising flood waters, leaving be17
hind their meager possessions and food stocks. Early estimates are that
15,000 hectares of crops have been lost in Mozambique.’19 Estimates
of flood displaced people range from 50,000 to 300,000. The Natural
Disaster Management Institute is quoted with an estimate of 285,000
affected people and 163,000 displaced (Bambaige 2007: 8). 20 During
floods in 2008 the BBC reported that ‘50,000 people displaced by flooding along Zambezi valley, about 150,000-200,000 people affected.’21
In reference to climate variability, the floods in 2010 were preceded
by a major drought:
‘Large amounts of agricultural land have been flooded, particularly
along the banks of the Zambezi, causing serious losses to peasant
farmers. Luis Pacheco, the Sofala delegate of the country’s relief
agency, the National Disasters Management Institute (INGC), told
the independent daily “O Pais” that up until the last couple of weeks
the main problem farmers in Sofala had faced was drought.’22
Moreover, Mozambique experienced unseasonal floods in 2010 in the
Zambezi Basin (in June).
4.3.2 Economic Impact of Climate Change/Variability in
Mozambique ranks third amongst the African countries most exposed
to risks from multiple weather-related hazards, mainly floods and
droughts. Even though its economy has been growing at the rate of 8
percent over the past decade, it has one of the lowest per capita GDP
in the world ($397 in 2007), and poverty remains widespread. Mozambique’s growth is also very dependent on its natural capital, foreign financed “megaprojects” and large aid inflows. Several of these projects
are dependent of non-renewable natural resources like gas, coal and
heavy sands. Agriculture, livestock and fisheries are amongst the most
important sectors of Mozambique’s economy. Agriculture contributes
about 26% of GDP and employs more than 80 per cent of the labor
force in Mozambique, providing livelihoods to the vast majority of its
18 million inhabitants. It is also an important source of foreign exchange
20 http://www.disasterscharter.
Table 12: Mozambique: Area planted to the major food crops, 2002/03 (hectares)
Sorghum Millet
1 356 177 515 342 105 821 178 992 424 633
292 537
1 045 625
Total North
346 586
139 358
88 805
233 816
40 055
68 412
13 342
1 931
4 573
55 529
4 690
14 933
193 616
62 518
57 268
111 017
3 980
45 189
637 525
25 588
172 958
118 423
125 349
6 838
35 906
73 830
61 848
438 979
687 500
241 263
72 409
115 385
124 667
63 833
297 304
215 538
171 042
207 553
93 367
71 514
59 535
49 928
60 286
14 697
29 070
16 903
11 739
83 653
30 678
55 095
46 222
4 661
18 689
33 400
17 017
4 827
8 589
280 777
1 423
14 370
322 091
40 263
20 070
8 078
106 350
117 687
110 796
113 149
144 221
64 721
24 163
14 640
1 460
10 994
9 076
3 448
2 900
1 730
54 225
39 660
12 465
77 815
28 930
10 942
67 604
37 076
6 116
Source: (FAO 2003)
earnings. Mozambique has diverse climatic conditions and different
types of soils that are suitable for a wide variety of crops and livestock.
Agricultural production is predominantly rain fed. About 97 per cent of
production takes place on small subsistence farms averaging 1.2 hectares, with very few commercial farms in the country. The use of purchased agricultural inputs (improved seeds, fertilizers and pesticides) is
very limited, and crop yields are generally low. Maize is a major staple
grown in all regions of the country. Other crops include rice, sorghum,
millet, cassava, Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, beans and a wide variety of vegetables. Cassava is grown mainly in the north where it is the
main staple, but it is being introduced along with sweet potatoes under
a government initiative, in drought-prone areas throughout the country.
The main export crops are tobacco, cotton, cashew, sugar, copra, tea
and citrus. Cattle, goats, pigs, sheep and poultry are raised in sizeable
numbers across the country (FAO 2003). The average area planted by
smallholders is estimated at 1.18 hectares on two or more plots that are
Table 13: Mozambique: Production of major food crops 2002/03, by province (‘000 tons)
Sorghum Millet
1 247 897
Total North
468 194
199 556
133 293
158 900
26 907
48 165
8 343
1 179
2 966
55 844
4 225
17 538
94 675
28 221
33 177
53 869
1 792
18 050
3 603 781
179 118
1 203 284
135 345
83 828
4 198
34 081
33 277
34 027
2 221 379
Total Centre
704 940
265 461
182 068
177 261
80 150
142 624 34 067
49 160 8 998
26 882 12 037
25 741 6 942
40 841 6 090
131 865
100 845
30 207
61 902
35 163
17 050
1 462
8 227
28 811
19 373
4 817
1 210
3 411
2 062 447
1 965 438
7 824
7 683
81 502
Total South
74 763
28 206
30 885
15 672
12 730
2 045
7 726
2 959
22 976
13 127
7 500
2 349
27 235
19 654
4 259
3 322
483 669
347 768
123 176
12 725
314 589 48 021
13 065
8 580
4 047
5 611
3 425
2 186
Groundnuts Cassava
200 439 179 553 109 915
6 149 897
Source: (FAO 2003)
generally intercropped. Table 12 shows the estimated areas planted with
major food crops during the 2002/03 agricultural season.
Zambezia province is one of the most agriculturally productive
provinces in Mozambique (see table 13).23 Parts of the coastal districts
of Pebane, Maganha da Costa and Inhassunge have porous sandy soils.
Weather conditions (rainfall and temperature) are favorable for agriculture, especially in the upper Zambezia region. The average farm
holding is 1.00 ha; the main food crops are cassava and maize, followed by sorghum, millet, rice, beans and groundnuts, while coconut,
cashew and tea are important cash crops. The interior central and north,
and the coastal north of Mozambique contains about 45 per cent of
the rural households, cultivated fields, and chickens. The dry semi-arid
tropics of the central provinces of Zambezia and Tete are also rich in
livestock, especially cattle and goats, compared to the other agroecologies. However, the north-western parts of Zambezia province are power
23 Zambezia is situated north of the Zambezi River, which separates it from the rest of the
central region. It borders Malawi to the west and Niassa and Nampula provinces to the north.
Table 14: Mozambique: Crop production in 2002/03 and 2001/02, by region (‘000 tons)
468 194 158 900 8 343
395 780 162 046 8 331
704 940 142 624 34 067
715 989 134 460 31 959
74 763
13 065 5 611
123 889
17 630 9 209
-25.89 -39.07
1 247 897 314 589 48 021
1 235 658 314 136 49 499
55 844
52 549
131 865
102 906
12 730
12 470
200 439
167 925
Groundnuts Cassava
94 675
53 869
92 538
52 768
61 902
28 811
57 119
28 214
22 976
27 235
27 699
28 805
179 553 109 915
177 356 109 787
3 603 781
3 530 076
2 062 447
1 870 030
483 669
524 444
6 149 897
5 924 550
Source: (FAO 2003)
deficit, with only 1 farmer in 50 using animal traction, and 1 in 100
employing a tractor.
Mozambique is vulnerable to climate change/variability due to its
geographic location (about 2,700 kilometers of coastline, at the confluence of many international rivers flowing into the Indian Ocean, and
land area that is under sea levels), high temperatures, aridness, infertile
soils, many endemic diseases, lack of communication infrastructure,
high level of illiteracy, high population growth rate, absolute poverty
and a high dependence on natural resources that are dependent on precipitation. Agriculture in Mozambique is precarious. The floods of 2000
were one of the worst weather-related rainfall events. Widespread regional drought in 1992 also damaged agricultural production. According
to UNFCCC, the Zambezia province (Morrumbala, Mopeia, Chinde,
Inhassunge, Namacurra and Maganja da Costa) is amongst one of the
most flood vulnerable regions in Mozambique (UNFCCC 2007).
Table 14 compares the production forecasts for the 2002/03 cropping
season with those for 2001/02, reflecting the dramatic effect of droughts
in the country. The south of the country was the worst affected, but the
main fertile maize producing central provinces (including Zambezia)
also witnessed a decline in the maize production.
4.3.3 Political Situation in Mozambique Bad Leaders in Mozambique and Zambezia
The presence of malign elites constitutes one of the main grounds for
suspecting that climate change/variability-related violence could break
out in Mozambique, and particularly in the province of Zambezia. Not
only do dignitaries within the FRELIMO-government (Liberation Front
of Mozambique) have a history of employing excessive violence, so
have most central figures in the country’s opposition parties. Therefore
there is a high risk that national and local elites may, in the future, sponsor different types of violence if faced with societal problems emanating from severe floods, lack of clean water and food scarcity. Due to the
ecological fragility of the region and the important role it plays in national politics, such violent acts are likely to be centered in Zambezia.
There are two categories of leaders in particular who would have the
capacity and motives to engage in climate change/variability-induced
violence: FRELIMO-elites and RENAMO-affiliated dignitaries.
During most of its existence, violence has been seen as a legitimate
political act by FRELIMO. Formed as a liberation movement in 1962,
armed action was at the center of FRELIMO’s struggle against the
Portuguese colonial authorities. After independence in 1975, which allowed the movement to set up a one-party Marxist-Leninist state, FRELIMO was immediately engulfed in a protracted civil war (1975-92)
with the Mozambique National Resistance (RENAMO).24 In order to
counter the threat from RENAMO – seen as “South African-backed
armed bandits” – the FRELIMO government mobilized Mozambican
society to defend the winnings of the revolution, further institutionalizing armed actions as a legitimate tool (AC 2001: 20 April 2001: 4).
Even if much of the horrendous atrocities committed during the war
can be ascribed to RENAMO, the FRELIMO controlled armed forces
had its share of abuses ranging from forced displacement of local communities and pillage raids, to extrajudicial executions and burning of
residences with people inside (Schafer 2007: : 77-92; Sumich and Honwana 2007: : 12-13). The belligerent stance taken by the FRELIMO
establishment changed first during the late 1980s. Caught in a military
stalemate with RENAMO – and receding outside support from USSR
– President Joaquim Chissano initiated a more conciliatory policy to24 RENAMO was initially known under the acronym MNR.
wards the opposition. Not only was multi-party democracy introduced
in 1990, a peace accord was signed with RENAMO in 1992.
Even if Chissano steered FRELIMO in a more liberal direction
during the post-war period – working for improved relations with
RENAMO and holding the first set of democratic elections in the country’s history (1994 and 1999) – the FRELIMO elite did not hesitate
to employ violence when challenged (Africa Confidential 2001). This
became especially apparent in the aftermath of the December 1999
national elections. Claiming that RENAMO – which had been transformed into a political party in 1994 – had been robbed of a victory,
the party’s President, Afonso Dhlakama, refused to acknowledge defeat
and in November 2000 called for national protests. Declaring the demonstrations illegal, the regime sent in police who on several occasions
attacked and even shot protesters. The worst abuses were committed in
the town of Montepuez in Cabo Delgado, were 116 people – many of
them believed to be RENAMO supporters – were killed.25
Since Chissano’s replacement by Armando Guebuza as Head of
State and party president in 2005, FRELIMO has taken an even more
aggressive stance towards the opposition in general, and RENAMO
in particular. Leading the hardline faction of the party – composed of
veteran leaders from the liberation struggle who had never been comfortable with Chissano’s political liberalism – Guebuza has sought to
crack down on the opposition (Africa Confidential 2001, 2002, 2006).
These actions have reawakened fears of a democratic backlash, especially due to Guebuza’s own bleak human rights track record. Not only
did he obtain infamy for great harshness as governor of Sofala in the
early 1980s, he – as Interior Minister – initiated ‘Operation Production’
in 1983 which forcibly removed thousands of people from Maputo to
remote districts (Africa Confidential 2002). As President, Guebuza has
also been ultimately responsible for several violent incidents against the
opposition. For example, in 2005 at least eight RENAMO supporters
were killed by security forces in Mocímboa da Praia, after RENAMO
contested the outcome of a mayoral by-election (George 2010).
Considering FRELIMO’s propensity to solve disputes by employing
violent means, there are reasons to believe that pro-government elites
may also become bad leaders in the future; this is particularly true concerning President Guebuza and the old guard around him. However,
25 83 of the victims died as a result of suffocation and hunger in a local prison. Africa
Confidential, Africa Confidential, /multiple issues (2001), Africa Confidential, Africa
Confidential, /multiple issues (2010)..
why should we suspect that such violence will be related to climate
change/variability and be particularly predominant in Zambezia? As
discussed, climate change/variability will in all likelihood hit Zambezia
hard. If floods and cyclones result in food shortages, increased prices
on basic commodities, and lack of clean water, inhabitants in the province may take to the streets to demonstrate. There is evidence that such
collective expressions of frustration could meet harsh retaliation from
the authorities. In September 2010, for instance, the security forces responded to widespread food riots by killing 13, injuring about 440 and
detaining more than 150 people. One reason for why these types of
demonstrations become so violent is that ‘mass and street protests are
one of the few ways to express dissatisfaction with a ruling elite seen as
arrogant and out of touch’ (Africa Confidential 2010). Any sign of open
dissent is liable to be particularly bloody in Zambezia. The area has historically been a key province for any political actor with national ambitions. During the civil war, Zambezia was, for example, possibly the
most bitterly disputed part of the country (João Paulo Borges Coelho
and Vines 1994b: : 31). With its large population and strategic position
– at the mouth of the Zambezi River and the only land route connecting
northern and central Mozambique – both FRELIMO and RENAMO
invested large resources to control it. Its importance has been just as
great in the post-war period. This is partly due to that it – together with
Nampula – is the province that has the largest number of representatives
in the national parliament, and partly due to that, Zambezia is one of
the few provinces that still has a large RENAMO-following.26 It could
therefore be crucial for the regime to quickly and decisively quell any
demonstrations to prevent RENAMO from politicizing public grievances related to climate change/variability.
Although the FRELIMO regime is most likely to take a reactionary stance when it comes to popular frustration over floods and food
insecurity, it may – under certain circumstances – take a more offensive posture. In 2000, for example, rumors spread that Dhlakama was
responsible for massive floods, which killed 700 and forced 200,000 to
flee their homes. The accusations started after Dhlakama – commenting
on the recent 1999 elections – stated in a radio interview that ‘the rain
will not stop. The rain will not stop because this election is a fraud. It
will rain until we are in power!’ (Africa Confidential 2000; Bertelsen
2002). However astonishing as they sound, such rumors were convinc26 In the 2009 national elections Zambezia was the province in which RENAMO achieved
its best results, with 39.1 per cent of the votes.
ing for many Mozambicans, due to Dhlakama’s royal N’dau descent
and his assumed spiritual powers as RENAMO leader.27 Similar accusations, based on traditional beliefs, could give the regime some political maneuverability when it comes to addressing grievances emanating from climate change/variability in the future. For example, had
FRELIMO manipulated the rumors about Dhlakama’s guilt as a rainmaker, they may have been able to redirect some of the criticism about
the government’s inadequate responses to the flood against the opposition (Africa Confidential 2000). If resource scarcity is severe enough,
and political tensions are soaring, such types of regime disinformation
could possibly trigger communal violence between supporters and opponents of the government.
RENAMO Affiliated Elites
Just as FRELIMO leaders, RENAMO elites have a long history of sponsoring acts of brutal violence. The rebel group was initially created by
the Rhodesian secrete services to function as its extended arm against
Zimbabwean guerrillas based in Mozambique. With limited domestic
backing, RENAMO at first lacked a clear political agenda. Even if it
later articulated a political program of its own – based on a neo-traditional ideology opposing FRELIMO’s Marxist policies – RENAMO’s
mode of operation continued to be dominated by excessive violence
throughout the war (Sumich and Honwana 2007: : 12). Abuses such
as massacres, mutilations, forced recruitment and systematic pillaging,
earned it the epithet the “Khmer Rouge of Africa” (Thomas Ohlson
1998: : 63; Söderberg Kovacs 2007: : 100-01). With the signing of the
Rome General Peace Accords RENAMO was – despite widespread expectations to the contrary – largely successful in transforming itself into
a viable political party. In fact during the 1990s and 2000s it was the
largest opposition force in the country and from 1999 to 2009 the only
party, besides FRELIMO, to hold seats in parliament.
Despite its growing democratic credentials, RENAMO has never
completely relinquished violence, or the threat of it, as a political tool.
Dhlakama and other party dignitaries have on several occasions made
more or less overt threats of returning to war. In the aftermath of the
regime’s repression of RENAMO demonstrations in November 2000,
Dhlakama declared that ‘we want power before 2002, and if the issue
27 N’daus is an ethnic group found mainly in southern Manica and Sofala provinc-
es. Bjørn Enge Bertelsen, ’Till the Soil - but Do Not Touch the Bones’, (University
of Bergen, 2002), p. 182.
is to blow up the country (…) we are prepared and not afraid of anything’ (Bertelsen 2002: : 3). Similar warnings were made after the 2004
national elections. Claiming that the process had been fraudulent, the
party threatened to boycott the opening of the parliament and go back
to war (Söderberg Kovacs 2007: 91). Even if Dhlakama is reputed as
an expert on staging “walk outs” and hurling admonitions, threats of
rebellion carry some weight due to Dhlakama’s possession of a 150man strong unit of body guards.28 This security outfit has also been
engaged in several violent incidents. In August 2004, for example, one
policeman died in a shootout in Sofala when police units were trying
to arrest two members of Dhlakama’s armed group (African Research
Bulletin, August 2004: 15882). Such acts of violence have, however,
not only been confined to Dhlakama’s bodyguards. In May 2000, armed
men believed to be RENAMO supporters, attacked a police station in
Nampula leaving five people dead (George 2010).
RENAMO’s belligerent stance appears to be based on a frustration
over being caught in a political impasse. Not only do RENAMO leaders feel that they, due to FRELIMO instigated fraud, have no honest
chance to win national elections, they have been unable to gain political
concessions through negotiations with the regime (African Research
Bulletin, Oct. 1994: 11612; Bertelsen 2002: 164-73; Hanlon and Smart
2008: 95). Such aggravations seem to have increased during Guebuza’s
presidency, who has taken a more openly anti-RENAMO position.
Besides occasional crackdowns against the movement, FRELIMO has
gone to great lengths to encourage defections and penetrate traditional
RENAMO-strongholds (Africa Confidential 2006; African Research
Bulletin, Nov 2008: 17745-17746). In November 2006, for instance,
FRELIMO held its national conference in the capital of Zambezia,
Quelimane. This prompted a strong reaction from Dhlakama, who
quickly organized a special conference of war veterans in the town to
underline RENAMO’s claims to the province. Dhlakama’s reaction
must be seen in light of the historical importance given to Zambezia, by
RENAMO, as one of the party’s most strategic provinces.29 It has, however, been difficult for RENAMO to withstand FRELIMO’s incursions
into its heartlands. After gaining a majority of the votes in Nampula,
28 Dhlakama is, according to the 1992 Rome Accord, allowed to keep an armed unit of 150
RENAMO fighters to ensure his personal security. Africa Confidential, (African Research
Bulletin, (Oxford: African Research Bulletin. Political, Social and Cultural Series), Aug.
2004: 15881.
29 RENAMO’s first national conference after the initial 1994 elections was, for example,
held in Quelimane. Carrie Manning, ’Constructing Opposition in Mozambique: Renamo as
Political Party’, Journal of Southern African Studies, 24/1 (1998), 161-89 at: 168, 83..
Manica, Niassa, Sofala, Tete and Zambezia in the 1999 national elections, it lost in all 11 of the country’s provinces, in 2009.
The former guerrilla group’s increasingly vulnerable position is
also a function of intense intra-party disputes. Dhlakama’s autocratic
leadership style – which has systematically sought to prevent potential
internal rivals from gaining too much prestige and publicity – has resulted in several senior RENAMO officials creating new political parties (Africa Confidential 2001, 2010). While Raul Domingos, who was
the ex-rebel movement’s Chief of Staff during the civil war, formed the
Party for Peace, Democracy and Development (PPDD) to contest the
2004 elections, Maria José Moreno (RENAMO’s parliamentary leader), Eduardo Namburete (RENAMO spokesperson) and Daviz Simango
(RENAMO mayor of Beira) founded the Mozambique Democratic
Movement (MDM) in 2009 (Africa Confidential 2001, 2004, 2009).
PPDD and MDM have sought to establish themselves by taking voters
from RENAMO. It was therefore no coincidence that the PPDD held its
founding conference in Quelimane in 2003 (African Research Bulletin,
Oct. 2003: 15490). The challenge posed by the PPDD and MDM to the
former rebel movement has exasperated an already tense political climate. In fact, in June 2009 RENAMO was accused of an alleged assassination attempt against the MDM leader Simango when Dhlakama’s
security men opened fire against Simango’s motorcade (George 2010:
: 847).
When considering the willingness of RENAMO leaders – as well
as rebel-affiliated elites within MDM and PPDD – to sponsor armed
actions in the past, there is a real possibility that they may manipulate climate change/variability-related grievances in the future. This
is especially true for Zambezia. For example, Zambezia, has experienced serious problems with cholera epidemics. In a local outbreak in
the district of Gurue in early 2010, over 600 people were diagnosed
with the disease, of which 19 eventually died. During the height of
the epidemic, riots broke out after rumors were circulated that local
health workers and traditional leaders were actually spreading, rather
than fighting, the disease. The troubles resulted in seven people being
lynched.30 This event highlights the explosive character that deteriorating health conditions can have on social stability and gives an indication
of what may happen, but on a much larger scale, if Zambezia is hit by
a severe flood that destroys local sanitary systems and access to clean
30 Mozambique – Seven Deaths in Cholera Violence in Zambezia. Available
at (Last visited 29 March 2011).
water. In the event of a major cholera outbreak in the aftermath of such
a flood, political entrepreneurs – such as Dhlakama or MDM and PPDD
leaders – would be in a good position to manipulate flows of information to mobilize local communities against the government or each other.
Dhlakama has also shown that he is not averse to taking advantage of
natural disasters to score political points. During the 2000 floods he attacked the FRELIMO-regime, accusing it of focusing rescue and relief
operations in southern regions, while neglecting RENAMO strongholds
further north (Africa Confidential 2000). The prospect of RENAMO-led
violence is especially daunting considering Dhlakama’s 150 men strong
bodyguard force. Even if these are based in neighboring Sofala, there
have been allegations that Dhlakama has recruited ex-RENAMO fighters in Zambezia to reinforce his security outfit (Schafer 2007: 163-64).
The question is, however, what precise motives opposition elites
could have to sponsor climate change/variability-related violence?
Here it is argued that such a development is particularly likely in the
event of one of two scenarios. Such actions could, first, unfold if the
FRELIMO government continues its penetration of Zambezia. Even if
FRELIMO won a majority of the province’s votes in the 2009 elections,
Zambezia still holds the largest RENAMO constituency in the country
– approximately 39 per cent cast their votes for the former rebel party.
Considering the party’s belligerent past, it is unlikely that it will give up
its core province without a struggle. Second, Dhlakama has announced
that he will not lead the party in the next elections (presumably held in
2014). In view of the crucial role Dhlakama plays in RENAMO, there
is an imminent risk that his retirement will cause a leadership vacuum
and a subsequent power-struggle for the party’s presidency. Under such
circumstances it can be tempting for certain factions to embrace a more
radical discourse and signal a willingness to take more violent actions,
in order to rally RENAMO veterans to their cause. Weak Institutions in Mozambique and Zambezia
One of the main obstacles hampering the development of Mozambique
is the presence of weak state institutions. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the northern parts of the country, which have been marginalized in favor of the southern areas around Maputo. Without improving
the quality of local services and infrastructure, as well as strengthening
democratic institutions and the rule of law, it will be difficult to mitigate
the socioeconomic effects of future environmental crises and resolve
the conflicts arising from them. This is particularly true in the case of
Zambezia, a province that has already suffered much due to floods and
cyclones. At worst, institutional deficiencies, in conjunction with climate change/variability, can generate different forms of collective violence in this area. The remaining two parts will be devoted to giving a
more in-depth look at the societal risks associated with having weak
institutions in Mozambique and Zambezia.
Inability to Ensure the Socio-Economic Wellbeing of Citizens
Low institutional capacity is nothing new in Mozambique. Upon gaining independence in 1975, FRELIMO inherited a country that had not
only suffered from a destructive anti-colonial rebellion, but had also
seen its infrastructure sabotaged by departing Portuguese administrators and settlers (Sumich and Honwana 2007: 7). Even if the new regime, inspired by Marxist-Leninist ideals, launched ambitious projects
seeking to bring health clinics, schools and water to local communities,
such policies of state intervention were soon hampered by RENAMO’s
rebellion (Sumich and Honwana 2007: 11). During the war, RENAMO
– opposed to the government’s policy of “socialization of the countryside” – targeted symbols of FRELIMO achievements, such as social
projects, transportation infrastructure, educational facilities and health
clinics (George 2010: : 842). As a result large tracts of the country,
especially the northern areas such as Zambezia, were systematically
stripped of infrastructure and state presence (George 2010: 842; Hanlon
and Smart 2008: 9).
Despite the massive international presence in Mozambique, in the
form of the United Nations Operation in Mozambique (ONUMUZ),
little efforts were made to rehabilitate infrastructure and local administrative capacities after the end of the war. This was largely due to the
International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) reluctance to sponsor post-war
reconstruction at the time. Arguing that such actions would lead to national inflation, it refused financial assistance to repair war damages
(Hanlon and Smart 2008: 13-14). Those national and international investments that were, in spite of this, still made, tended to be concentrated to Maputo and its immediate surroundings (Africa Confidential
2000). The lack of resources directed to the northern regions has, for
example, meant that economic recovery in Zambezia – a key province
when it comes to agricultural output – has been slow (Coelho and Vines
1994a: ii, 48; Schafer 2007: 97).
The fragility of Mozambican state institutions becomes apparent
when analyzing their capacity to ensure the socioeconomic wellbeing of
their citizens. Not only have malnutrition rates increased during much
of the 2000s, but only 23 per cent of the rural population had access
to safe drinking water in 2006 (Hanlon and Smart 2008: 56-57, 79).
The issue of malnutrition has been an especially large problem in the
northern provinces, where as many as 23.7 per cent of the population
were found to be undernourished in 2006.31 The inability of national
and local authorities to provide basic public goods has been particularly
evident during times of national disaster. The floods in 2000, for example, left 700 dead and 200,000 displaced. Another 25 were killed and
95,000 forced to flee their homes, in late 2007 and early 2008, when
the Zambezi River overflowed. Unable to organize rescue operations
and food distribution, the government has been dependent on foreign
aid workers and resources to deal with such crises (Africa Confidential
2000; African Research Bulletin: Feb. 2000: 13859, Nov. 2000: 4196,
Dec. 2007: 7339; George 2010: 846).
The incapacity of state institutions to deal with health issues and natural disasters in Mozambique and Zambezia gives cause for concern;
this is especially true if climate change/variability results in increased
precipitation and more severe storms. There is, for example, a high risk
that floods will be more extreme in coastal areas, such as Zambezia, in
the near future (Africa Confidential 2000). This is not only because the
province is placed at the mouth of the Zambezi River, but also because
it is regularly affected by cyclones coming in from the Indian Ocean. If
such a scenario of increased flooding were to unfold, we can expect an
increased probability of different forms of collective violence, such as
communal conflicts, breaking out. First, if floods contaminate the water
sources used for drinking and hygienic purposes, epidemics, such as
cholera, may break out. If severe enough, and coupled with local rumors
and suspicions, they can, as was touched upon in the previous section,
degenerate into riots. Second, Zambezia is the most populous province
in Mozambique. Already now, local and international actors are having
trouble feeding flood victims. In December 2007, for example, 520,000
faced starvation after the Zambezi River overflowed its banks (African
Research Bulletin). If future floods grow in intensity, destroying valuable farmland, food security could be in even greater jeopardy. At worst
increased prices or food shortages could, as in September 2010, generate urban riots pitting protesters against security forces. Finally, floods
in Mozambique have always generated huge flows of internal refugees,
often in the hundreds of thousands (Africa Confidential 2000; George
2010: 846). If local resources are overstretched when seeking to accom31 This was higher than in the southern parts of the country. Africa Confidential, Africa
Confidential, /multiple issues (2006).
modate and assist internally displaced people, there is always the risk
that communal conflicts will erupt between newcomers and members
of local communities.
Faulty Democratic Institutions and Lack of Rule of Law
Another institutional set of factors that may undermine the state’s capacity to prevent climate change/variability-related conflicts, is the democratic deficit and lack of rule of law in the country. This poses a particular problem for Zambezia, due to the intensity of political contestation
in the province. The constitutional reforms and liberalization of the political system during the early and mid 1990s had initially given hope
that Mozambique could make a successful transition from authoritarian rule to democratic governance. There were, in fact, several positive
signs suggesting such a development: a generous multiparty system was
introduced, RENAMO succeeded in transforming itself into a political
party, and both Dhlakama and Chissano embraced a course of political
dialogue after FRELIMO won the first elections in 1994. Even if the
opposition was checked when mobilization became too threatening for
the regime – as during RENAMO’s national protests in November 2000
– electoral fraud was kept at a relatively low level (Africa Confidential
2001; African Research Bulletin, Oct. 1994: 11611-11613).
With Guebuza as President, there has however, been a return to a
more autocratic mode of governance. Efforts to circumscribe the opposition have been most visible during times of elections. Fraudulent
activities have included vote-rigging, selective application of electoral
laws by the National Election Commission (NEC), police and media
bias, destruction of opposition party offices and threats against its observers (Africa Confidential 2004, 2009). Similar excesses have also
been carried out in Zambezia. During the 2004 elections, for instance,
many voting stations never opened, were not located in the correct place
or had the wrong voter register. It is estimated that RENAMO lost as
many as two parliamentary seats due to this (Hanlon and Smart 2008:
93). The most flagrant breaches were, however, probably carried out
five years later, when new elections were held. Fearful of the popular
support that the newly formed MDM could muster, the pro-FRELIMO
electoral commission excluded MDM candidates from running in nine
of the country’s 13 constituencies. In fact, FRELIMO was sometimes
the sole party contending in some districts (Africa Confidential 2009;
George 2010: 847). Actions such as these have raised questions of
whether RENAMO has a political future in Mozambican politics, and
if the regime will allow parties such as the MDM and PPDD to grow.
If climate change/variability exasperates societal grievances in
Mozambique and Zambezia, it is unlikely that the country’s democratic
institutions will have the capacity and credibility needed to mitigate
them. Lack of food and clean water may, for example, force the main
political parties to take a more radical stance to defend the interests of
their constituencies. If the democratic process is seen as biased during
such times of turbulence, political entrepreneurs and their follower’s
would have incentives to take unilateral, violent actions. A particularly
hazardous scenario is if future cyclones and floods result in large flows
of displaced people. Even if Mozambique has a long history of dealing
with internal refugees from the civil war, it is not clear that local authorities in provinces such as Zambezia would have the capacity to receive,
lodge and feed flood-affected people. If refugee camps become more
permanent, there is greater risk for electoral complications. Should displaced people vote in their home districts or in the communities that
they are residing in? Ambiguities such as these give much leeway for
government officials to manipulate voter registration lists; whereby
suspected opposition supporters would be unable to cast their votes,
not know where to vote or lack the capacity to travel to their designated
poll stations. When recalling the fraudulent behavior concerning voting
stations in Zambezia in 2004, a similar development is not unthinkable.
Electoral tampering such as this could spark local violence, especially
if supported by RENAMO, PPDD or MDM affiliated elites.
A final reason why changes in temperature and rainfall patterns can
trigger acts of violence in Zambezia is through the lack of a strong
judicial system. During Chissano’s time in office there were several incidents of regime critics dying as a result of government neglect or murder condoned by FRELIMO-elites. In the aftermath of the November
2000 protests, 83 people who had been rounded up by the police, died
of suffocation and starvation while in prison in Montepuez (Africa
Confidential 2001). And between 2000 and 2001, two public figures
that were investigating bank frauds – Carlos Cardosa (journalist) and
António Siba-Siba Macuácua (central bank official) – were executed in
broad daylight by armed men. Initially there were no efforts by the authorities to look into the killings, causing concern about the independence of the judiciary, since senior FRELIMO officials were implicated.
Even if seven people – including President Chissano’s son Nyimpine
Chissano – were eventually convicted for the murder of Cardosa, noone has been charged with the killing of Macuácua (African Research
Bulletin, Feb. 2005: 16117; Hanlon and Smart 2008: 113-16). Guebuza,
and the old guard around him, may not have engaged in the same type
of killings as their predecessors, but they have undermined the autonomy of the country’s courts by systematically politicizing independent
state institutions (Africa Confidential 2006; Hanlon and Smart 2008:
97, 117). This has had serious repercussions on the efficiency of the
judicial system. First, many FRELIMO-elites have been able to influence judges to ensure that they are not prosecuted on charges of corruption. Second, the constitutional court has acted in a manner contrary to
its mandate, by condoning electoral tampering carried out by the NEC
during the 2009 elections. Finally, national courts have been unable or
unwilling to hinder FRELIMO dignitaries from acquiring land illegally
(Hanlon and Smart 2008: 96-97).
Efforts to prevent violence caused by ecological distress may, in the
future, be impeded if the integrity of Mozambique’s judicial system is
not strengthened. For example, if the government is unable to handle the
societal effects of climate change/variability – such as food insecurity
and large refugee flows – there may be calls for independent investigations about how the regime is dealing with these issues. Additionally,
if government sponsored violence continues to be directed against ‘uncomfortable’ individuals, there is not only a risk that the legitimacy of
the FRELIMO-regime is undermined, but it may also create incentives
for oppositional elements to engage in extra-parliamentary activities.
The land issue is another aspect of concern. With more severe and frequent floods, the amount of cultivable land is likely to decrease. If the
court system is unable to prevent government elites from grabbing further land in the future, communal conflicts may be the logical outcome.
This is particularly true when considering that elite expropriated land
has, historically, seldom been used in a productive manner (Hanlon and
Smart 2008: 97). Hence, not only can such actions result in less agricultural produce for consumers – increasing food prices, it can also
generate resentment from people who have lost their land and income
due to floods. Polarized Social Identities in Mozambique and Zambezia
A final factor that could escalate societal grievances, caused by climate change/variability, into open violence is the presence of polarized
social identities. Despite ending 19 years ago, the wartime cleavages
generated by the civil war still define ideas of collective belonging and
social interaction in Mozambique. Nowhere is this more prevalent than
in northern provinces, such as Zambezia. The collective identity found
in these areas is not merely a function of experiences from the previous
armed conflict; but also founded on feelings of socioeconomic margin99
alization and political affiliation. If rising temperatures and precipitation results in refugee flows, food shortages, and contaminated water
supplies, there is a substantial risk that local communities will become
even more radicalized. Such a development, of increased polarization,
can easily trigger collective forms of violence, if harnessed by bad leaders. The following sections will continue by examining the strength of
societal cleavages in Mozambique and Zambezia, and explain how climate change/variability can interact with polarized identities to cause
armed action.
Segmentation of Wartime Identities
The resilience of wartime identities in Mozambique and Zambezia can
be attributed both to the ferociousness of the previous civil war and the
dynamics of post-conflict politics. Although RENAMO was, as previously mentioned, largely a creation of the Rhodesian authorities, it did
eventually acquire a substantial domestic following. Not only could the
guerrilla group play on frustrations over FRELIMO’s socialist policies
– such as the promotion of collective agriculture and the oppression of
traditional leaders, ceremonies and beliefs, it was also able to gain legitimacy by tapping into rural feelings of being discriminated against by
urban intellectuals. By channelling these grievances against the regime
and promising to reinstate traditional authorities, RENAMO was able
to find support in several rural provinces such as Manica, Nampula, Sofala, Tete and Zambezia (George 2010: 842; Schafer 2001; Söderberg
Kovacs 2007: 89).
Whereas RENAMO was largely a rural phenomenon concentrated
to the north-central parts of the country, FRELIMO received its main
support from the inhabitants of Maputo and its immediate surroundings. By vastly expanding the state bureaucracy – to enable it to achieve
its Marxist-Leninist aims of creating a modern industrial nation –
FRELIMO was able to ensure loyalty from a growing urban proletariat,
and a middle-class of civil servants, teachers and nurses. RENAMO’s
brutal tactics, rural background and dependence on support from whiteruled minority governments in Rhodesia and later South Africa, meant
that the rebels were commonly referred to as foreign-backed, uncivilized bandits from the bush (Africa Confidential 2001; Coelho and
Vines 1994a: 7). However, as RENAMO established itself in larger
parts of the country, and was finally able to fight the government to a
standstill, FRELIMO was obliged to acknowledge that the rebels had
an important following and represented legitimate grievances.
After the end of hostilities in 1992, and the subsequent democratization process, wartime identities have, to a large extent, been segmented
rather than dissolved. This is presumably due to two reasons. First,
Mozambican elites have not sponsored any national reconciliation initiatives, such as the setting up of a truth and reconciliation commission,
after the signing of the Rome Accord (Hanlon and Smart 2008: 10.). The
leaders of the two former belligerents, have instead agreed to not dwell
in the past and have only occasionally made symbolic acts or statements in support of national reconciliation (Brounéus 2008). To some
extent, reconciliation has at least at the local level still happened. For
example, the social acceptance of ex-FRELIMO and RENAMO combatants has been facilitated in many war affected communities through
the organization of different ceremonies; either in the form of traditional
cleansing rituals or services held by local churches or mosques (Lundin
1998; Schafer 2007). However, there is no evidence that such grass-root
initiatives have had a substantial affect on the more aggregate political
level. On the contrary, as we have seen, relations have continued to be
tense between RENAMO and FRELIMO leaders and followers, occasionally bursting out into violence.
Second, despite the arrival of peace, politicians have, especially
during election campaigns, continued to employ wartime stereotypes
in their rhetoric, belittling their opponents and awarding them crude
qualities. FRELIMO-elites habitually describe RENAMO as savage and wild bandits, only capable of killing. To underline their point
they often invoke acts of violence committed by the rebels in the past.
On the other hand, they award heroic qualities to themselves, stressing FRELIMO’s role in liberating the country (Bertelsen 2002: 2-3,
153, 66-70). Meanwhile, RENAMO representatives often portray their
opponents as corrupt, undemocratic usurpers of power, set on ‘deAfricanizing’ the country by destroying traditional beliefs and structures, and see themselves as moral victors of fraudulent elections and
champions of traditional Mozambique (Bertelsen 2002: 2-3, 166-70).
According to Bertelsen, such rhetorical devices are ‘aimed at capitalizing on popular social memory, tentatively drawing on and endeavoring
to shape experiences for electoral support.’ It is easy to see how such
antagonistic discourses have not facilitated the processes of creating a
new, less radical, collective Mozambican identity.
There is an overwhelming risk that these wartime identities will continue to define social and political life in the country in the coming
years. With Guebuza’s ascent to power, FRELIMO has rejuvenated the
party’s old revolutionary rhetoric, calling for ‘sacrifice’ and ‘patriotic
enthusiasm’. This has fallen well with the old veterans of the liberation
struggle, which constitutes Guebuza’s powerbase (Africa Confidential
2006, 2010). Such echoes from the past are, however, unlikely to dampen RENAMO’s fears for its political future. Furthermore, even if several
new opposition parties have appeared during the last few years (PPDD
and MDM), it is unlikely that they will contribute to the construction
of new, more inclusive social identities. As de facto splinter groups of
RENAMO, they will presumably be caught in the same wartime rhetoric as the former rebel group.
Overlapping Politicized Identities and the Risk of Climate Change/
Variability Induced Violence
A complicating factor is that old wartime identities largely overlap with
other social markers of belonging in Mozambique. This is especially
true when it comes to communities that generally supported RENAMO
during the war. Since the latter are mainly located in the northern parts
of the country, they have – as previously mentioned – had less access
to investments and infrastructure rehabilitation. This has created widespread resentment and frustration among northerners, generating accusations of regional discrimination (Africa Confidential 2000, 2009).
RENAMO and Dhlakama have systematically sought to play on such
feelings of marginalization during political rallies, further entrenching
the image of a North-South divide in the consciousness of people (Africa Confidential 1994: 1). Post-war political affiliations have, finally,
also contributed to segmenting wartime identities, as opposition parties,
such as RENAMO and MDM, have had most electoral success in are
areas that the rebels dominated during the armed conflict (Nampula,
Sofala and Zambezia). Of Mozambique’s provinces, Zambezia is probably the one with the highest degree of overlapping identities. This is
not only because RENAMO controlled large parts of the province during the war, Zambezia also has a long history of being socioeconomically marginalized and currently has the largest RENAMO following
in the country (Coelho and Vines 1994a: 33). This is one of the reasons
for why we can expect future violence in Zambezia; with overlapping
polarized social identities, local communities will be less moderate and
more susceptible to elite manipulation.
The question is how such violence could be related to climate change/
variability? If Zambezia is particularly exposed to natural calamities,
such as floods and food shortages local communities could, for example, become even more radicalized and North/South cleavages further
segmented. There were, in fact, signs of this already during the 2000
floods. According to some commentators at the time ‘animosity between
RENAMO and FRELIMO has worsened because foreign investment
– and flood related aid money – is concentrated in the south, the ruling
party’s heartland’ (Africa Confidential 2000).” If a similar development
would take place in the aftermath of coming floods, and FRELIMO
continues its political offensive against RENAMO in Zambezia, it
could be tempting for the latter to mobilize radicalized communities
against the regime. This is particularly true for a specific sub-category
of individuals where social identities are quite strong: ex-rebel fighters.
Even though it is almost two decades ago since they demobilized, many
continue to identify themselves with RENAMO and actively take part
in local and national politics (Schafer 2007: 134). At times, this group
of individuals has taken extreme stances. After the 2009 elections, for
example, a group of former RENAMO fighters threatened to return to
war if voting was not redone (Africa Confidential 2009). As an agrarian community, most ex-combatants in Zambezia receive their income
from farming, plantation work or petty-trade of agricultural produce
(Coelho and Vines 1994b; Schafer 2007: 117-18). Future overflows of
the Zambezi River therefore constitute a major threat to the ex-rebels’
and their families’ economic wellbeing. If they were to lose their jobs as
a result of climate change/variability, one cannot exclude the possibility
that they would use violence to express their grievances or gain alternative sources of income.
The aim of this study has been to identify areas in the Zambezi River
Basin that are prone to the risk of violent conflicts (collective violence,
popular unrest) induced by climatic changes/variability.
The study argues that climate change/variability will have a significant impact on the socio-economic system, and thus affect the life of
millions of poor people in the region. However, it is unlikely that the
socioeconomic impact of climate change/variability will cause conflict
on its own. The quality of governance, particularly the role of elites,
institutions and social identities, are crucial and can make the difference
between adaptation or confrontation.
Exposure to climate change/variability of the regions has been measured, taking into account the impact of existing socio-economic and
political factors. Taking note of the ecological impact, the study focuses
on socio-economic and political problems that are multiplied by climate change/variability impacts. Weak and partisan political structures
adversely affect the governance of natural resources, and hence, are
linked to a weakened mitigation and adaptation capacity of societies
to the negative effects of climate change/variability. Bad leaders, weak
institutions and polarized social identities – that were maintained over
years due to a lack of reconciliation in the aftermath of civil wars and
overall liberation struggles – appear to have the potential to be the tipping points for causing conflict.
This study identifies Bulawayo/Matableleland-North region in
Zimbabwe and the Zambezi Province in Mozambique as two regions
that are most likely to experience climate induced violent conflicts. The
following factors are behind their selection:
a) Climate change/variability will bring severe water scarcity in
Bulawayo/Matabeleland-North; and cause high floods, sea-level
rise, and costal erosion in the Zambezia Province.
b)Matebeleland North is amongst the poorest parts and most vulnerable to climate change/variability. The area under maize production
(the staple crop of the area) has seen some of the sharpest declines
in Matabeleland. A decline in agriculture production combined
with political stressors thus amplifies the real potential for violent
conflict in the region. In addition the other high-risk region, the
Zambezia province, is one of the most fertile parts of Mozambique,
which accounts for a large share of the countries agricultural production. Given that Mozambique is amongst the third worst affected
countries in Africa with respect to floods and droughts, makes its
agricultural production especially vulnerable. This situation has the
potential to result in a catastrophe that will harm agricultural production, given the recent record and impact of climate change/variability. In recent years, the negative shocks from floods and droughts
have been limited to the southern provinces with a relatively minor
effect on Zambezia. However, it is likely that with the increased
stress of climate change/variability, this relatively prosperous province might become increasingly vulnerable.
c) Bulawayo/Matabeleland-North and Zambezia are both suffering
from poor political governance, bad leaders, weak institutions, and
polarized social identities. National and local elites have a history
of sponsoring violence in the two provinces, and they have not been
averse to manipulating humanitarian crises and resource scarcity for
their own political purposes. State institutions have furthermore been
largely unable to ensure the socioeconomic wellbeing of inhabitants
of these two regions and are ill-prepared to mitigate future conflicts
arising from climate change/variability.
It is very likely that the Bulawayo/Matabeleland-North and Zambezia
regions in southern Africa will witness climate induced violent conflicts in the near future. Violence will further reduce the adaption ability of society to climate change/variability related challenges. Survival
threats posed by climate change/variability will be further multiplied by
violent conflict, resulting in a serious humanitarian crisis in the southern African region. Thus, it is first important to find possible ways to
identify and assess the climate change/variability induced vulnerability
factors in these two regions. The follow it with swift and smart support
to improve political and social institutions to create a better governance
structure to address theses vulnerabilities.
Existing political regimes and the prevailing post-colonial mindset
make the transformation process at the state level institutions problem105
atic. With their refusal to change they become a liability to any process
supporting and promoting societal change. In this context, the focus of
external support should be directed towards creating and/or nurturing
local institutions to be representative, effective and transparent. Civil
society organizations and groups in the climate vulnerable regions can
be identified and supported to help lead this process of institutional
change. While the state regimes are reluctant, the role of regional and
sub-regional organizations like the African Union (AU) and South
African Development Cooperation (SADC) are crucial to facilitating
this local institution building process. They need to play a critical role
in strengthening the local institutional capabilities of vulnerable areas
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