Climate & Agriculture
The rain map
Zimbabwe lies within the tropics. However, many parts enjoy a subtropical climate because of their high elevations – much of the country lies above 900 metres.
In the summer months, elevated regions enjoy maximum temperatures which are usually in the high 20s°C (though humidity can make it feel hotter). There is a definite winter, with temperatures in Harare and Bulawayo averaging around 14°C in July.
Rain generally falls between November-March, when the weather can be humid and sticky. The amount of rainfall varies across the country. Most regions have 750-1000mm. But the eastern highlands receive over 1500mm and a longer rainy season here runs from October-April.
Coping with drought
Farmers are being advised to plant drought-resistant grains, rather than traditional crops such as maize.
But lower-lying regions, such as areas of Matabeleland in the south, receive smaller amounts of rainfall. And prolonged dry spells are becoming a problem. Farmers have seen their harvests suffer as climate change brings more uncertain weather patterns.
The crop scene
Maize/corn is the staple food crop in Zimbabwe, with millet, wheat and barley also grown for the local market. Groundnuts/peanuts and soya beans are also commonly grown.
Tobacco is Zimbabwe’s most valuable crop – it was the top agricultural export in 2009 – and is particularly grown across the High Veld regions. Three types of tobacco can be found; large farms tend to grow Virginia flue-cured tobacco, smallholders mainly grow burley tobacco and a few farmers grow the Turkish variety.
Zimbabwe used to be the top producer of tobacco worldwide; in 2009, the country was the 13th largest exporter of unmanufactured tobacco.
Sugar and cotton are also important export crops, with cottonseed and cake of cotton seed (used as animal feed) sold as by-products. Tea and soybean oil are also produced for export.
Grain as feed
The cattle trade has suffered in recent years from a shortage of grain for animal feed.
Cattle are the main livestock animal and beef is the single largest agricultural product. Cow’s milk and animal hides are also important sources of income for farmers.
Pigs, goats and sheep are raised in some areas, though chickens are generally kept for home use.