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Zimbabwe: 'Friendship Bench' proves effective at alleviating mental illness symptoms
29 December 2016 - Their offices are simple wooden seats, called Friendship Benches, located in the grounds of health clinics around Harare and other major cities in Zimbabwe. The practitioners are lay health workers known as community 'Grandmothers,' trained to listen to and support patients living with anxiety, depression, and other common mental disorders. But the impact, measured in a ground-breaking study, shows that this innovative approach holds the potential to significantly improve the lives of millions of people with moderate and severe mental health problems in countries where access to treatment is limited or nonexistent. (more)

Zimbabwe plans to use drones to fight elephant poaching
15 August 2016 - Zimbabwe plans to deploy aerial drones in its biggest wildlife sanctuary in the west to combat poaching of elephants, a parks official said on Monday, as the country aims to protect one of its top tourist attractions. Tourism contributes 11 percent to Zimbabwe's $14 billion economy, according to Ministry of Tourism data, with the country's wildlife parks popular with overseas visitors. (more)

'Sweet business' of beekeeping helps protect Zimbabwe's forests
27 June 2016 - Every district in Zimbabwe now has flourishing beekeeping projects, sustaining thousands of households. The number of beekeepers is growing steadily, and has topped 50,000, according to the Beekeepers Association of Zimbabwe. Beekeeping is fast becoming a profitable activity thanks to high domestic demand for honey as a food and other products such as beeswax which is used to make candles, the association says. Beekeeping is also proving an innovative way to protect forests. (more)

Zimbabwe's 2015 gold output seen at highest in 11 years
14 October 2015 - Gold output in Zimbabwe is expected to rise this year to 18.4 tonnes, the highest level in 11 years, thanks to higher production from small-scale miners, the mining chamber said on Wednesday, 14 October. (more)

Zimbabwe capital turns to solar streetlights to cut costs, crime: TRFN
27 March 2015 - Harare City Council is installing solar-powered street lights that will illuminate the central business district at night, with plans to extend the project to other parts of Zimbabwe's capital city. The country is increasingly turning to the sun for its energy requirements, with the government hoping to build billion-dollar solar plants countrywide if it can find needed investment. (more)

Zimbabwean writer up for Baobab Prize
24 September 2014 - South Africa-based Zimbabwean writer Myke Mwale has been long-listed for a 2014 Golden Baobab Prize for African children's literature. Mwale is among six other writers from different African countries long-listed for the Picture Book Prize which is awarded to 'the most captivating unpublished African manuscript for a picture book targeting readers aged 6-8 years'. The Picture Book Prize is one of the six Golden Baobab Prizes for African literature. (more)

Zimbabwe explores non-genetically modified biotech to boost food security
20 December 2013 - Zimbabwe has launched a forum to encourage public discussion on the use of biotechnology to boost the country's food security. The Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB), launched earlier in December, aims to explore ways to boost Zimbabwe's crop yields without using genetically modified (GM) crops, which are banned in the country. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are the most divisive among the various biotechnologies, and Zimbabwe is one of several African countries that have banned the cultivation or sale of GM crops. Agriculture minister Joseph Made recently told Zimbabwe's National Assembly that the government policy banning GMOs had not changed. He said introducing them would be detrimental to the local seed industry, and that the country has sufficient capacity to produce high-yielding varieties of grain suitable for its changing climate. Jeffery Smith, an advocate of GM-free agriculture in the United States and executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology, said hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent by biotech companies trying to convince the world that GM crops are safe, and are needed to feed the planet's population. 'Based on considerable scientific evidence, we now know that the current generation of genetically modified organisms is not safe and therefore GMOs should not be used in the food supply,' Smith said via e-mail. (more)

Zimbabwe: Smallholder farmers fair celebrates traditional seed, food
7 November 2013 - In early November, smallholder farmers held a fair at CHIEHA Information Centre in Chibhememe Village, Chiredzi North, to celebrate traditional seed and food. The fair saw small grain farmers from Chiredzi North and Chipinge South demonstrating how they cultivate, store, and prepare traditional food. Maize, nut, cereal, and legume seed variety and food were on display at the fair. Programme co-ordinator Mr Norman Chibhememe said: 'Our programme is running under the theme 'Celebrating seed and food sovereignty through ecological farming by smallholder farmers'. It encourages farmers to feed their families with traditional food. (more)

Stateless Zimbabwe residents gain citizenship
22 June 2013 - Standing in a winding queue in downtown Harare, Zimbabwe's capital, Judith Kapito, 38, cannot hide her excitement: she is waiting to receive a new identity document, one that will offer her rights and opportunities she has long been deprived of. The processing of documents at the Registrar General's office has been slow, but Kapito remains upbeat. 'I am happy that there is now... a new constitution that brings back my citizenship, and I see so many opportunities ahead of me,' she told IRIN. (more)

Zimbabwe: President Mugabe signs constitution into law, paving way for vote
23 May 2013 - Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe signed a new constitution into law on Wednesday, replacing a 33-year-old document forged in the dying days of British colonial rule and paving the way for an election later this year. A beaming Mugabe, flanked by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, his main political rival, and Deputy President Joice Mujuru signed multiple copies of the charter at State House in the capital to cheers and applause from aides. (more)

Short Summaries of Top Stories

Mugabe leaves legacy of economic ruin, upheaval in Zimbabwe
21 November 2017 - From widely acclaimed liberator of his nation to despotic dictator, Robert Mugabe's 37-year rule of Zimbabwe has been one of Africa's most controversial and influential. Wily and ruthless, the 93-year-old Mugabe outmaneuvered his opponents for decades but was undone by his own miscalculation in his final weeks in power. He blundered when he sidelined his right-hand man in order to position his wife, Grace, as his successor. He didn't anticipate that the fired vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, would swiftly and skillfully depose him. For years Mugabe inspired other leaders across the continent to emulate his tactics and extend their rule by manipulating the constitution and suppressing opposition through violence and intimidation. (more)

Millions need aid as Zimbabwe battles drought
26 July 2016 - Mafios Ganyari tills a dry, patch of land, coaxing a few thin cassava tubers from the soil. This year's harvest has been poor. Mafios has barely enough to feed his family. Southern Africa has been hard hit over the past year by drought exacerbated by El Nino, a warming of sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has said up to 4.5 million people, half of Zimbabwe's drought-stricken rural population, will need aid by next March. The impact of the drought is particularly serious for Zimbabwe, where the economy has been struggling for five years to recover from a catastrophic recession that was marked by billion percent hyperinflation and widespread food shortages. (more)

Drought-stricken Zimbabwe declares state of disaster
5 February 2016 - Underscoring the severity of the drought linked to the El Nino weather pattern hitting much of southern Africa, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe declared a state of disaster Thursday, with the hope of speeding up the flow of aid to needy communities. The drought has devastated crops. The situation is especially acute in Zimbabwe, where a declining economy and rising unemployment have made life hard for many people in a country once known as a regional breadbasket. (more)

Tobacco-curing eats up Zimbabwe's forests
31 July 2014 - Smoking tobacco is extremely harmful for human beings, but growing it was considered helpful to Zimbabwe's economy and its farmers. Now, however, both the government and farmers have become increasingly aware that tobacco farming also comes at a great cost to the environment. Income from tobacco in 2013, accounted for at least 10.7 per cent of the Zimbabwe's GDP and 21.8 per cent of all exports, compared to 9.2 per cent for other agricultural commodities. However, Zimbabwe's Forestry Commission says 20 per cent of the 330,000 hectares of natural forest lost annually (the Commission's 2005 figures) was cut for firewood to cure tobacco. The deforestation rate was particularly high during the height of the land reform programme, which began in 2000. Under the programme the government intended to acquire 11 million hectares of white-owned farmland and redistribute it on a massive scale. A majority of the new farmers use wood to cure their tobacco. (more)

A desperate moonlight economy in Zimbabwe's 'Sunshine City'
3 April 2014 - On Harare's hardscrabble streets, college graduates compete with peasants scratching out a living selling anything from mobile phone cards to herbal tonics, a measure of the decline of Zimbabwe's 'Sunshine City' under President Robert Mugabe. Those among Harare's 1.5 million residents who remember independence in 1980 will have known a city that was swept regularly at dawn, public buildings gleaming with fresh paint, and shop windows so spotless that pedestrians would walk into them, according to urban legend. Now the streets are dirty and dusty, the roads littered with pot-holes, and water gushes from leaking pipes. Less than 20 per cent of Zimbabwe's people are in formal employment, according to independent economists, and economic growth is flatlining due to shortages of electricity and capital. For many, the only options for survival are petty trading or chancing it as an illegal worker in neighbouring South Africa, the continent's biggest economy. Zimbabwe's economy shrank 45 per cent in the decade to 2009 due to plummeting farming output and hyperinflation. It bounced back for three years after Zimbabwe dropped its own currency and adopted the dollar, but it has since stagnated as companies have failed to find the cash to grow. (more)

Tobacco farmers fuel Zimbabwe deforestation
28 March 2014 - A drive through Mashonaland Central province will shock any remotely environmentally-conscious person as vast stretches of forests have been left barren, risking denudation due to the massive cutting down of trees by small-scale tobacco farmers who use firewood to cure their tobacco. The number of small-scale tobacco growers has grown exponentially since the country's controversial land reform programme which saw thousands of subsistence farmers resettled on prime agrarian land formerly owned by white commercial farmers. The tobacco farmers find themselves in what could be a vicious cycle. While tobacco farming affords them the opportunity to increase household income in the short-term and rescue themselves from poverty, it is inextricably linked to serious degradation of the ecosystem, raising questions about the sustainability of their operations. Tobacco industry sources estimate there are now 47 000 small-scale (holders of A2 farms) tobacco farmers making up about 83 per cent of Zimbabwe's total tobacco farmers, most of whom joined the industry in the past two years. In 2004, there were only about 4 000 small-scale black farmers. The decline in the prices of cotton and other cash crops has drawn a large number of the farmers to tobacco farming which offers better returns. (more)

Zimbabweans face gloomy holidays
25 December 2013 - Thousands of city-dwelling Zimbabweans travel back to their rural homes during the holiday season, taking gifts and foods for feasts to share with their families. But this year, the holiday spirit has been dimmed by Zimbabwe's worsening economic situation marked by company closures and job losses. Banks have experienced shortages of cash. Zimbabweans waited in long, winding lines at banks to withdraw money but many depositors came out with a just a fraction of the money in their accounts that they had hoped to spend during the holiday period. The bleak festive season caps a year marked by a disputed election in July, mired by allegations of vote-rigging, that long-time President Robert Mugabe won with a 61 per cent majority against his major opponent and former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. (more)

Zimbabwe: Poachers poison 91 elephants
1 October 2013 - Wildlife officials in western Zimbabwe, say at least 91 elephants were poisoned with cyanide by poachers who hack off the tusks for the lucrative illegal ivory market. Officials say cyanide used in gold mining was spread by poachers over flat 'salt pans,' also known as natural, mineral-rich salt licks. They say lions, hyenas, and vultures have died from feeding on contaminated carcasses or drinking nearby. 'The magnitude of what we are witnessing today is much higher than what has occurred previously,' environment minister Saviour Kasukuwere told reporters on a trip to the park Monday. Cyanide attacks the bloodstream and kills almost instantly. Most of the poisoned elephants died in the past month. The chemical is commonly used by illegal gold panners to separate the metal from surrounding ore and is easily available. Nine suspected poachers have been arrested this month after the biggest, most brutal poaching spree on record. (more)

Zimbabwe: Disputed poll poses fresh divisions
1 August 2013 - Allegations of vote-rigging flowed in Zimbabwe on Thursday, with reports of fake registration cards, voters turned away from the polls, and people appearing on voters' lists four times with different IDs. Even before results were announced, the main opposition camp said longtime President Robert Mugabe stole the election, which his supporters denied. Either way, the country faces fresh political uncertainty. Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, the main challenger to Mugabe, said the elections on Wednesday were 'null and void' due to violations in the voting process, and a poll monitouring group that is not affiliated with the state said the poll was compromised by a campaign to stop voters from casting ballots. In the first official results announced by the state election commission late Thursday, Mugabe's party captured 28 of the 210 parliamentary seats, compared to three won by Tsvangirai's party. Most of those results came from Mugabe's rural strongholds. (more)

Zimbabwe election 'not looking good', South Africa says
18 July 2013 - Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe branded the United States 'absolutely insane' on Thursday for voicing concerns about a 31 July election, although neighbouring South Africa joined Washington in criticising chaotic preparations for the vote. Tellingly, it is not just Mugabe's long-time foes in the West rounding on the continent's oldest head of state, who has run the southern African nation since independence from Britain in 1980. In unusually strong criticism, South African President Jacob Zuma's top Zimbabwe expert, Lindiwe Zulu, said Zuma had telephoned Mugabe to tell him he was 'not pleased' with the run-up to the poll. Zulu's comments are likely to infuriate Mugabe, who labelled her 'stupid and idiotic' at a rally this month after she called for a delay of a few weeks to ensure the process runs as smoothly as possible. nAdvance voting for 70,000 police officers and soldiers on Sunday and Monday compounded fears of a chaotic poll, raising the prospect of a disputed result and civil unrest in a country with a history of election violence. (more)


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