Forecast Based Actions in Zimbabwe

The frequency of droughts and dry spells are increasing in Zimbabwe and eroding the coping capacity of vulnerable populations who are forced into negative coping strategies by the repeated shocks. In response to this threat, since 2019 the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society, with technical and financial support from the Danish and Finnish Red Cross Societies is developing a drought-focused Forecast Based Actions project in Zimbabwe.


Project objective

FbA in Zimbabwe aims to develop the capacity of the Zimbabwe Red Cross to predict and prepare for droughts and to mitigate their impact on target vulnerable populations.  By the end of 2021, the project hopes to have reduced the humanitarian impact of droughts in Zimbabwe through timely activation of pre-agreed early actions triggered by hazard forecasts.

Key facts

Start/end date     

July 2019- July 2022

Hazards covered    


Regions covered    

Matabeleland North: Binga District

Mashonaland West: Kariba District

Early action sectors     

Agriculture | Livelihoods

Key actors/implementing partners   

Zimbabwe Red Cross Danish Red Cross | Finnish Red Cross | 510 Initiative of the Netherlands Red Cross Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre | Meteorological Services Department | Department of Civil Protection | Ministry of Agriculture

Anticipation in practice: Project description

Zimbabwe is suffers increasingly from drought, with agricultural drought occurring countrywide almost once every two years. The semi-arid regions to the south of the country experience chronic drought which, with climate variability and change, is slowly spreading to the rest of the country. Only 37% of the country receives adequate rainfall for agriculture, and the recurrent droughts have strained food security leaving one third of children younger than five chronically malnourished. Five of the last seven agricultural seasons were declared national disasters – with 59% (5.5m people) of the rural population considered food insecure for the 2019/2020 lean season (source: ZIMVAC).

A feasibility study conducted in late 2018-early 2019, indicated the potential for ZRCS to pilot the Forecast-based Action (FbA) approach. In March 2019, the feasibility study was transformed into a “Roadmap for a Forecast-based Early Action System in Zimbabwe and in the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society”. The result is this 30-month FbA Pilot Project with an initial focus on agricultural drought and el niño-induced drought. The aim is to develop an FbA mechanism that prevents or significantly reduces the impact of drought on natural-hazard-prone target communities through timely activation of pre-agreed early actions. The early actions for this protocol are still being defined.

Outcomes and lessons learnt

The COVID 19 outbreak and ensuing lockdowns have delayed implementation of some aspects of the project and have forced a change to project implementation plans. Consequently, activities relating to trigger-setting, identification of drought-focused early actions, and simulations have been postponed to early 2021.

With the support of the 510 Data team, the ZRCS have recruited a Data Team, comprising a Data Analyst and GIS specialist and have conducted a scoping study in country, mapping all stakeholders and publicly available vulnerability data. This data has been uploaded to an online Community Risk Assessment Dashboard and is currently being used to develop an Impact Based Forecast (IBF) Model which will be completed by December 2020. The IBF model will support the identification of target areas and beneficiaries that will be covered by FbA.

A community of practice convened by the Zimbabwe Red Cross has been established at the National level with widespread representation and collaboration from the NGO community and Government stakeholders, which will serve as a platform for a National FbA Technical Working Group. The community of practice has proved that there is considerable interest in collaborating for the development and testing of forecast models, for the sharing of data, and for the identification of Early Actions.

  • Collaboration with Universities has proven to be very useful and the project is now engaging graduate students to conduct research on FbA for drought and cholera.
  • The importance of conducting Preparedness for Effective Response (PER) assessments alongside the project is essential, as it develops the capacity for the rapid and effective responses required by FbA.


Mark Powell

Danish Red Cross

Tapiwa Chadoka

Zimbabwe Red Cross