Wetlands Project Summary

Water in the Matobo Hills is scarce and often very deep due to the granitic geology. And yet, this water is needed to support nature as well as human activities including crop production and livestock management. Population growth, the economic uncertainty in Zimbabwe, poor land management exacerbated by climate change are all factors contributing to the degradation of the wetlands and the siltation of reservoirs.

Dambari is pursuing projects to promote ecosystem management approaches in order to support wetlands and biodiversity. Previous projects have shown that, with community engagement and relevant guidance, degraded wetlands can be rehabilitated.  Dambari has supported the Matobo Conservation Society to apply for a Ramsar (Wetlands of International Importance) listing for the Matobo Hills. The relevant documents are currently with the Environmental Management Agency (EMA), who is the appropriate authority for nominating wetland sites in Zimbabwe to the Ramsar Committee.

Dambari is also planning to use remote sensing and site visits to map permanent and temporary wetlands in the Matobo Hills as well as conduct rapid biodiversity assessments to produce inventories of species present as well as obtain baseline measures for water quality and ecosystem health.

Australian bottlebrush is an invasive species

& Weeds Project Summary

Invasive alien plants, originally introduced in Zimbabwe as a garden ornamental, lantana (Lantana camara) “escaped” and spread throughout the southern and western parts of the country. Lantana is able to successfully outcompete natural vegetation due to the fact that it produces allelochemicals that suppress the growth of other plants, enabling it to form dense thickets. The weed produces massive numbers of flowers and fruit which are dispersed by birds. In addition to outcompeting native plants, lantana also causes photosensitivity, skin reactions and even death in livestock.

Lantana control is difficult as its seeds are capable of living in the soil for as long as ten years before germinating. Options include manual removal, the use of herbicides and biocontrol. The first two options require frequent follow ups and are labor intensive. In neighboring South Africa and Zambia, biocontrol agents – essentially natural enemies of lantana – have been screened, and those that specifically attack lantana have been released. However, Zimbabwe has been cautious about the introduction of biocontrol agents, for fear of introduced organisms that may damage indigenous plants or commercially important plants.

Lantana has been expanding in Zimbabwe over the past few decades.  It has become a serious weed in at least four of Zimbabwe’s five UNESCO World Heritage Sites (Khami Ruins, Great Zimbabwe, Matobo Hills and Mosi-oa-Tunya).  Survey work done by Dambari in 2014 indicated that up to 25% of rangelands in communal areas surrounding the Matobo National Park have been lost to lantana invasion, which has severe implications for human livelihoods, animal wellbeing and biodiversity.

Dambari, along with a group of interested stakeholders (e.g., Matobo Conservation Society, and NUST’s Institute for Development Studies), are in the process of developing a national strategy to combat lantana (and, potentially, other invasive alien plants). Dambari has liaised with the Environmental Management Agency with whom we now have a signed Memorandum of Understanding. Next steps include securing funding and bringing together delegates from government and research, policy, and management institutes in order to develop a holistic approach to controlling the effects of invasive alien plants.