Mainstreaming biodiversity conservation in a critical watershed

The case of Chimanimani Mountains in Zimbabwe


There is no one in Chimanimani who would dispute that climate has been changing. In this eastern Zimbabwean District on the border with Mozambique, people have experienced several recurring droughts, cyclones and changing landscapes over the past twenty years. Forest fires repeatedly destroyed large sections of the commercial timber industry. 

TSURO Hangani Village Head and elders touring watershed sites that need rehabilitation © TSURO

The water flow in the rivers reached alarmingly low levels by the end of 2016 until a La Nina related rainy season replenished the water bodies. But of course not all degradation of land, destruction of habitat and loss of biodiversity has been due to climate change - inadequate management of the watershed areas and human destruction of ecologically sensitive areas also played a part.

“We noticed, as people of Chimanimani, that we need to combine our efforts,” says Roseline Mukonoweshuro of TSURO Trust. She is a Forester by profession and currently works for the TSURO Trust in Chimanimani as a programme officer. “So in 2015, we managed to mobilise many smallholder farmers from all over the District, and stakeholders to come together and design a joint response strategy to the multiple threats to bio-diversity and hazards to rural livelihoods.” Women, men, young people initiated Climate Change Action Groups in six critical watershed areas. Traditional leaders, Government departments, civil society organisations and the private sector all took part in an inclusive dialogue process over two years, in which participants identified climate change related problems, causes and opportunities for adaptation and mitigation.

Facilitated through BirdLife International, the TSURO initiative has also been supported by a CEPF small grant between July 2016 and August 2017. Chimanimani is a highly threatened Key Biodiversity Area within the Eastern Afromontane Hotspot and part of a Trans-Frontier Conservation Area between Zimbabwe and Mozambique.


11 August 2017

Council Chamber before its adoption in the 11 Aug full council meeting © TSURO

May be one of the most impressive results of the TSURO initiative has been the adoption of a Chimanimani District Climate Change Response & Watershed Management Policy by the Chimanimani Rural District Council. 

“We are strongly convinced that, if this policy is implemented correctly and consistently, the District will be able sustain its beautiful and vibrant natural resource base and diversity. This in turn is expected to lead to a community that is more resilient,” says Brian Muchinapo, a Council Officer who actively promoted the adoption of the Policy on 11 August 2017.


Recognising the crucial role of appropriate climate change and watershed governance at all levels, a multi-stakeholder dialogue platform has been set up, which will monitor the implementation of a variety of well defined strategies across all sectors. Linking up with the Zimbabwe National Climate Change Response Strategy, this is a first such policy in Zimbabwe, developed in a bottom-up participatory process.  

“We now have a much stronger foundation on which we can build our actions”, says Chief Raymond Saurombe, “We will put this into practice, together! Although we are all diverse, we have a common aim of sustaining our District: the land, all its plants, animals and people.”


And yes, birds

TSURO Chikukwa Climate Change Action Group planting Macademia plants © TSURO

For the birders reading this story: the local people in the Chimanimani watershed have also learnt how to identify birds and other species, and how to introduce measures to conserve them. 

A total of 132 community members have been carrying out conservation works such as gully reclamation, spring and stream protection, tree planting, removal of invasive plant species in and around springs, and storm drain constructions. The Climate Change Action Groups identified 102 tree species, 14 medicinal plants, 26 grass species, 41 bird and 13 wild animal species, 4 aquatic life species and 3 reptile species in the six primary watershed areas.

The Chimanimani Mountains KBA still displays a high degree of biodiversity and a good number of endemic species. It is worth protecting this Key Biodiversity Area against the multiple threats it faces.


By Ulli Westermann and MWACHEZA Solomon, TSURO Trust; Maaike Manten (BirdLife / RIT)


Chimanimani District Climate Change Response & Watershed Management Policy details are as follows:

Resolution Number: C3331

Full Council Number: 165

Date of Adoption: 11 August 2017

You can download the Strategy here and the Policy here.


See the interactive map of all projects implemented under the CEPF Eastern Afromontane Hotspot programme here.

The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) is a joint initiative of l’Agence Française de Développement, Conservation International, the European Union, the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Government of Japan, the MacArthur Foundation, and the World Bank. A fundamental goal is to ensure civil society is engaged in biodiversity conservation. More information on CEPF can be found at

BirdLife International, together with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society (BirdLife in Ethiopia) form the Regional Implementation Team (RIT) for the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) investment in the Eastern Afromontane Hotspot (2012-2017). The investment will support civil society in applying innovative approaches to conservation in under-capacitated and underfunded protected areas, Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) and priority corridors in the region.


Read more NEWS from the Eastern Afromontane Hotspot!