Climate Violence and Mobility in Zimbabwe: Survival for Domboshava Community Residents


In the peri-urban community of Domboshava in Mashonaland West Province, Zimbabwe, a community 30 km away from Harare. Most people often have to walk between 10km and 50 km to access the nearest health facility. There are barriers to transportation to access health facilities due to poor roads with potholes and collapsed bridges. Culturally, the community is homogeneous, everyone knows everyone. More importantly, the majority of the people are religious, and many of them are affiliated with African indigenous-formed churches such as Zion Christian Church (ZCC), African Apostolic Churches, Marange and Mwazha. Domboshava has a population of about seven thousand people. It is largely an agrarian community with most of its dwellers active in agriculture, food production, livestock, water resources, petty trading, domestic work, health and wild resources.

Agriculture and survival in nature is a key sector for their mainstay. Regrettably, the rural economy has been under siege from the impacts of climate change. Climate change impacts have ravaged the community due to their low adaptive capacities. Some of the effects of climate change in the community include increased incidences of droughts, more hot days and heat waves affecting rural inhabitants. As the village head noted,

“Since time immemorial and back in the days, in this community, we have never witnessed such unprecedented high temperatures, it seems the temperatures are increasing day by day unrestrained. On some days, they can go as high as 42 degrees. It is not healthy, we are suffocating in this heat, maybe mother-nature cursed us or our ancestors are not happy with human conduct”

Climate Change

The effects of climate change have impoverished thousands of people in the community. In worst scenarios leading many to intra/internal migration in search of greener pastures for economic livelihoods for survival, food or even pastures for their livestock. The changing weather patterns brought challenges such as poverty and food insecurity to the lives of women, youth and children. The agriculture extension officer in the community responsible for overseeing government agricultural programs submitted that,

“Clearly, my 10 years experience and stay in this community has taught me, and l have witnessed cyclical migration patterns as people are moving away either to Harare in search of viable economic livelihoods. Or to other provinces such as Odzi, where they’re prazos with good climatic conditions to enhance their food security”

In support, Gillis (2014), Zimbabwe’s high dependence on rain-fed agriculture and climate-sensitive resources makes it particularly vulnerable to climate change. The rural folks are the hardest hit. They solely rely on agriculture for their survival due to skyrocketing levels of unemployment and a lack of adequate resources and income to supplement their food security. The dry spells are a major common problem caused by climate change in Zimbabwe, leading to low levels of food production which according to Gukurume (2012), are inextricably linked to widespread poverty and food insecurity in the rural areas.

The Domboshava People

In Domboshava, people walk between 10km and 50km to access the nearest health facility. Community health workers in the area stressed that climate change has serious effects on human health. Climate change effects on human health act in combination with other forces such as adaptive policies, population density and social conditions. Developing countries like Zimbabwe are the hardest hit and more susceptible to climate change-induced health hazards. This is because of the poor health status, lack of resources and infrastructure, lack of skilled personnel and economic underdevelopment.

In Zimbabwe, El Nino induced droughts and floods are being experienced as well as increased temperatures and heat waves. Zimbabwe is experiencing extremely hot and cold temperatures and heat waves. In the face of heat waves, people are at risk of suffering from heat cramps, strokes, headaches caused by excessive sweat and loss of water in the body. Additionally, women and girls are more vulnerable to climate change.

Several factors in the community substantiate this position. The oppression of women in the area emanates from archaic patriarchal traditions, cultures and their low levels of education as compared to men. Shortage of natural resources and extreme and unpredictable weather conditions due to climate change have caused significant changes coupled with hardships in everyday lives. One of the representatives from a locally based Women’s Rights organisation noted that,

“the intersection of climate change and women’s rights in patriarchal societies creates multiplier effects of disasters: either women’s SRHR shrinks, women’s decision power is usurped or women and girls are forced to migrate to safe houses or back to their parents’ place”.

Impact on women and girls

Studies have further shown that climate change and societal hardships affect women and girls most and will further aggravate the already existing gender inequalities. Further to the imbalances of climate change-induced disasters on women’s mortality and morbidity, it is expected that climate change will pose serious threats to women’s livelihoods by reducing their economic opportunities and female-headed households will be the hardest hit (Brown et al, 2012). The impacts of climate change will also be more severe for women residing in the rural areas as compared to their counterparts in the urban areas.

Climate change is a multiplier of existing health, migration, food insecurities and gender vulnerabilities in Domboshava. Thus, for far too long children, young people and women in the rural areas have been victims of climate violence. It is an additional challenge which they face daily. To make matters worse, odds have also been against them for a long time as patriarchy, neoliberalism, and capitalism have and are already putting them in positions of disadvantage in all facets of life. In our terms, we define Climate Violence (CV) as the absence of peace, it’s a society encumbered by the violence of wildfires, floods, sea level, pollution, extreme weather patterns, worsened incidences of diseases, extractive, and sharp food and water insecurity. Climate violence across Africa has triggered forced migration and displacement across Africa.


Therefore, l do recommend the following: Government and Institutions such as the International Organisation for Migration (IOM)

  • The government should treat climate change as a cross-cutting issue and victims of climate change disasters as a vulnerable group in its development plans and policies.
  • The government and donors should invest in health and migration facilities that specialise in mental health and drug and substance abuse beyond the existing general health infrastructure.
  • The government should consider developing the capacity of health personnel to effectively deal with mental health issues for climate change-induced displaced people.
  • The government should consider adopting a women empowerment policy that increases opportunities for women to access climate mitigation services.
  • Non-Governmental Organisations and private sector organisations should consider making climate change, gender, migration and mental health education a focus in their programming.
  • The civil society and donor community should be encouraged to invest in climate mitigation and resilience building among women and other vulnerable groups, especially in rural areas.
  • Health-providing organisations should provide low-cost and user-friendly mental health services in rural areas.
  • Academic Institutions; should invest more in knowledge production and improving access to information on both statistics and qualitative developments around the issue of climate change and migration.
  • Work with government departments and private organisations to develop innovative interventions to deal with climate change and migration.
Writer: Tapiwanashe Hadzizi
Editors: Amaka Obioji, Chimee Adioha
Featured image: Olakunle Aro

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