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Urban Agriculture: Improved Governance for Resilience in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

This case study focuses on the development of an urban agricultural policy which led to urban farmers helping to steer the decision-making process about the city's urban agricultural management.
Multiple Authors
Urban Agricultural plot in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

Key Messages

  • Increasing periods of drought will cause more challenges to urban farmers and futher exacerbate food insecurity caused by water shortages.
  • Multi-stakeholder forums proved to be invaluable spaces for lesson sharing and coordination.
  • Relationship-building with key members of the community is a good tool to eleviate these challenges and implement alternative agricultural practices.


This case study is from theFRACTAL Adaptation Inspiration Book– this link provides a summary of the book, the other case studies and a downloadable pdf.

This case study focuses on the development of an urban agricultural policy which promotes urban agriculture in an effort to provide the urban community with augmented food sources and nutrition in a socially inclusive and gender-sensitive manner. The policy encourages productive use of land by supporting sustainable practices, and promoting financial and educational resources for urban farmers. It led to urban farmers helping to steer the decision-making process about the city’s urban agricultural management.

The FRACTAL Adaptation Inspiration Book contains a variety of case studies which are related to this case study, examining adaptation of urban water resources, agriculture and energy. The related articles can be found here:

Climate Risks and Other Stressors

A risk related to urban agriculture in Bulawayo is that it is located in a dry region with inadequate supply of surface and underground water which creates chronic water shortages. The likelihood of increasing periods of drought will futher exacerbate food insecurity caused by water shortages.

Another issue is access to land for urban agriculture. a major portoin of the several thousand hectares of vacant land in Bulawayo belonged to private owners. As a result, farmers plant crops in more fragile areas, exposing these areas to soil erosion and other farm-related sources of environmental degradation.

Other factors have impeded the implementation process for urban agriculture management. Prior to 2007, neither a legislative framework nor an institution dealt explicitly with urban agriculture in Zimbabwe. Financing of urban agricultural projects is difficult. Stakeholders have faced challenges in accessing loans.

Adaptation Approach

The Urban Agriculture Policy is an explicit policy intervention to encourage the productive use of land, and to provide better financial and training support for urban farmers.

Through its participatory approach, the policy fosters sustainable, community-based adaptation to a changing agricultural environment. The approach relies on integrating local communities into the planning, and providing them with capacity-building and other assistance. The assistance comes through partnership initiatives with NGOs, the private sector and/or other stakeholders and through financial assistance and other measures.

As the risk of climate-related disasters in the region will likely increase in the future, this policy furthermore addresses both the short and longer-term vulnerability of local communities.

Link to SDGs

As the policy aims to boost food security and sustainable agriculture in the region, this project primarily aligns with SDG 2. These measures in turn promote healthier lives and improved well-being (SDG3), and enhance local communities’ resilience to changing climatic conditions (SDG 11). The policy also promotes a sustainable use of land by a sound management of terrestrial ecosystems (SDG 15).


  • Persuading community members to change their established farming practices.
  • Attendance at the forum stakeholder meetings remained limited, which rendered the meetings less inclusive and, consequently, less effective.
  • Power relations at play during these meetings further hampered the engagement.
  • Enforcement of the policy continues to be a challenge.

Relationship-building with key community members addressed these challenges. Improved relationships and open communication eventually led to increased willingness and engagement of the members to implement alternative agricultural practices.


Through the implemented policy, urban agriculture as a practice is becoming more institutionalised and increasingly accepted in Bulawayo.

Urban agriculture is increasingly seen as a vehicle for self- empowerment of people, and as a way to sustainably use and manage of natural resources.

Agricultural diversification fosters an increasingly resilient food system. This will improve the quality of life for everybody, but mostly for those living in poverty, the economically disadvantaged, and other vulnerable groups such as those living with HIV / AIDS.

Multi-stakeholder forums led to enhanced communication between farmers, city officials, relevant NGOs and agencies – and to better coordination and improved partnerships.

Lastly, through the leasing system, farmers’ access to financial support improves.

Lessons Learnt

The engagement of different stakeholders with local communities led to several key lessons:

  • The inclusion of local knowledge and the involvement of the people on the ground were crucial in order to draft a policy that could be implemented and enforced.
  • Multi-stakeholder forums proved to be invaluable spaces for lesson sharing and coordination. Nevertheless, behavioural patterns on the ground proved very difficult to change.
  • A key difficulty surfaced when trying to persuade individuals to quickly shift from planting crops that were different from the ones they are used to growing. Continuous communication and capacity building are vital to ensure that this behavioural shift is sustainable.
  • In addition, steps need to be drafted so that policies and plans are effectively enforced.

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