Harare, Zimbabwe
City population: 1485000
Duration: 2009 – 2010
Implementation status: Completed
Scale: Meso-scale: Regional, metropolitan and urban level
Project area: 340000 m2
Type of area: Natural Heritage Area/Untouched nature
Last updated: May 2022

Monavale Vlei is an important wetland area within the city of Harare, characterised by miombo woodlands that play an important role in the fragile ecosystem of the Manyame catchment basin, the main supplier of water for the city of Harare and its suburbs. Throughout the years, Monavale has been subjected to a number of threats such as construction developments, dumping of waste, fires, illegal farming, invasive plants, informal agricultural practices and loss of biodiversity. To address some of these challenges the local community organized itself into a group - Conservation Society of Monavale (Cosmo) Trust, to protect the area and, with the help of the municipality of Harare and some international bodies, implemented a series of actions designed to protect the wetland and reduce the loss of biodiversity, among many others. In 2009 the NGO was awarded a United Nations Development Programme Global Environment Facility Small Grant. The intervention had 3 objectives: to restore parts of the wetlands, to advocate with the local and international authorities for the legislative protection of the wetlands, and to engage the scientific community in research regarding the wetlands. This enabled Cosmo to restore Monavale vlei to an almost pristine wetland state, and other UN funding has made possible several training and awareness projects for a wide range of audiences. (1,2,3)

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Nature-based solution

  • Blue infrastructure
  • Deltas
  • Wetlands/peatlands/marshes

Key challenges

  • Climate action for adaptation, resilience and mitigation (SDG 13)
  • Climate change adaptation
  • Climate change mitigation
  • Environmental quality
  • Soil quality improvement
  • Green space, habitats and biodiversity (SDG 15)
  • Habitat and biodiversity restoration
  • Habitat and biodiversity conservation
  • Water management (SDG 6)
  • Flood protection
  • Improvements to water quality
  • Inclusive and effective governance (SDG 16)
  • Effective management
  • Social justice, cohesion and equity (SDG 10)
  • Environmental education
  • Economic development and employment (SDG 8)
  • Economic development: agriculture


Management of rivers and other blue areas, Protection of natural ecosystems, Improved governance of green or blue areas, Monitoring of habitats and/or biodiversity

Project objectives

The overall goal of the project was to restore an urban wetland called Monavale Vlei, which is one of Zimbabwe’s seven Ramsar Sites. The goals of the intervention include: 1. To address biodiversity issues by restoring the Monavale Vlei and adjacent riverine areas to near pristine conditions through sound management and particularly through the removal of invasive species. 2. To support a variety of birds, mammals, rodents, amphibians and reptiles including the near-threatened Cape clawless otter Aonyx capensis and many other wetland-dependant animals which maintain the biological diversity of the Site. 3. To ensure community biodiversity awareness through environmental education and training. 4. To improve livelihood prospects within the community through training about composting and vermiculture techniques monitored by local experts and trained local residents. 5. To address climate change issues such as land degradation that diminishes the wetland role in the purification of diffuse source pollution. In particular, cultivation and any form of soil disturbance create the opportunity for alien species to take hold. Healthy wetlands are critical for climate mitigation and adaptation as they store more carbon than any other ecosystem. Moreover, inland wetlands ecosystems also absorb excess water and help prevent droughts and floods. (1,2,4)

Implementation activities

COSMO (constituted in 2005) grew out of the Monavale Residents' Environmental Action Group (formed in 2001), intent on preventing the development and degradation of Monavale Vlei, an important wetland of outstanding natural beauty and enormous biodiversity. The area concerned for this intervention was 594 ha, of which 34 ha is considered protected. Implementation activities: General protection of the area by working also with government and agencies, lawyers, scientists etc. Restoration of parts of the wetlands by removing invasive species and letting the indigenous species take over. The principal alien species were removed, such as red sesbania, bauhinia, cactus, sisal, and syringa lantana. Creation of habitats and protection of several important species. Organising a campaign for the removal and collection of waste dumps together with authorities: 4 tonnes of domestic waste was collected by the community (household waste, composting) Educational component- teachers are bringing school children from different districts to experience the wetland - Cosmo Kids Club (since 2006) - children can come every Saturday morning and learn about the wetland. Over the years COSMO has continued with its wetland awareness walks for schools, university students and other interested parties. Organisation of composting and vermiculture workshops directed specifically towards the Monavale community and attended by 2/3 of the community. To stop land cultivation domestic worm kits were distributed, free of charge, and inhabitants could do backyard farming and use the kits for fishing, as well (30 compost pits and wormeries during the first year and 30 pits in the second year). Undertaking a baseline ecological survey of the wetland area using a wetland specialist to determine the degradation of the soils, biodiversity of plants and animals, and hydrological functioning: over 120 different wetland adapted plants, orchids and grass species, with occasional trees on the edges and over 244 bird species have been recorded Establishment of the Monavale Indigenous Tree Nursery (1,2,6) The intervention directly affected the lives of 40 households next to the wetland, and indirectly 1.4 mil. inhabitants of Harare. (Ref 3)

Climate-focused activities

Climate change adaptation:

  • Implement solutions to capture/store water to increase its availability and prevent shortages from droughts
  • Restore wetlands and/or coastal ecosystems to dissipate the effects of flooding and/or storms
  • Renaturalization of rivers and other water bodies

Climate change mitigation:

  • Increase green urban nature for carbon storage (wetlands, tree cover)
  • Improve carbon sequestration through selection of more adaptable species
  • Raise public awareness of behaviours, lifestyle and cultural changes with mitigation potential

Biodiversity conservation or restoration-focused activities

Biodiversity conservation:

  • Protect and enhance urban habitats
  • Preserve and strengthen existing habitats and ecosystems
  • Preserve and strengthen habitat connectivity
  • Reduce negative impacts and avoid the alteration/damage of ecosystem
  • Protect species
  • Undertake specific measures to protect species
  • Undertake specific measures to protect native species
  • Control and clean invasive alien species
  • Means for conservation governance
  • Raise public awareness
  • Public engagement
  • Capacity building

Biodiversity restoration:

  • Restore species (native, endangered, or unspecified)
  • Restore native species
  • Clear and control invasive alien species
  • Public engagement

Main beneficiaries

  • Local government/Municipality
  • Non-government organisation/Civil Society
  • Citizens or community groups
  • Marginalized groups: Low income citizens
  • Young people and children


Management set-up

  • Co-governance with government and non-government actors

Type of initiating organisation

  • Local government/municipality
  • Non-government organisation/civil society
  • Transnational network

Participatory approaches/ community involvement

  • Co-planning
  • Dissemination of information and education
  • Consultation (e.g. workshop, surveys)
  • Joint implementation (e.g. tree planting)

Details on the roles of the organisations involved in the project

The initiative was designed and eventually implemented by the Conservation Society of Monavale (Cosmo) Trust, set up in 2005 as a non-profit community-based organisation. The Environmental Management Agency (EMA)- a government institution, licensed Cosmo to carry out day-to-day management of the vlei. The initiative has been sponsored with funds from UNDP, as well as voluntary work from the local community. (2)

Project implemented in response to ...

... an EU policy or strategy? No
... a national policy or strategy? Yes (Prior to the initiative, Cosmo spearheaded a meeting of wetland stakeholders in May 2005, and the National Save the Wetlands Task Force was born and selected Monavale Vlei as a pilot project to demonstrate practical urban wetland protection, rehabilitation and conservation. In turn, two influential documents were published, Saving the Wetlands for People and the Environment in 2006 and Environmental Management Plan for the Monavale Vlei Biodiversity Project in 2007. (2))
... a local policy or strategy? Yes (The initiative aimed at lobbying for specific legislation to ensure future wetland protection at the local planning level and for the wetland Act and full membership at Ramsar. It also brought forth a Monavale Viel Biodiversity Plan. (1))


Total cost

€50,000 - €100,000

Source(s) of funding

  • Multilateral funds/international funding

Type of funding

  • Direct funding or subsidy

Non-financial contribution

Type of non-financial contribution
  • Provision of land
  • Provision of goods
  • Provision of labour
  • Provision of expertise
Who provided the non-financial contribution?
  • Public authorities (e.g. land, utility services)
  • Citizens (e.g. volunteering)
  • Other

Impacts and Monitoring

Environmental impacts

  • Environmental quality
  • Improved soil quality
  • Water management and blue areas
  • Improved water quality
  • Increased protection against flooding
  • Green space and habitat
  • Reduced biodiversity loss
  • Increased number of species present
  • Increased protection of threatened species
  • Improved prevention or control of invasive alien species

Economic impacts

  • Generation of income from NBS

Socio-cultural impacts

  • Health and wellbeing
  • Gain in activities for recreation and exercise
  • Education
  • Increased support for education and scientific research
  • Increased knowledge of locals about local nature
  • Increased awareness of NBS and their benefits

Type of reported impacts

Expected impacts, Achieved impacts

Presence of formal monitoring system


Presence of indicators used in reporting


Presence of monitoring/ evaluation reports

No evidence in public records

Availability of a web-based monitoring tool

No evidence in public records


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Information about this nature-based solution was collected as part of the UNA global extension project funded by the British Academy.