The city of Bulawayo in Zimbabwe, and Chinde district in the Zambezia province of Mozambique have been identified as areas that are highly susceptible to future climate-induced conflicts. Although it is unlikely that climate change alone will be a direct cause of conflict, research points to the fact that it is a conflict threat multiplier that will intersect with countless other factors, including the quality of political governance, which could make the difference between adaptation or confrontation.
Empirical work on the causal relationship between climate change and conflict in different settings has yet to produce consensus. However, climate change can be linked to conflict in various ways, including increased competition over reduced and uncertain water supply; increased competition over agricultural land in the face of reduced crop yields, desertification and rising food prices; large-scale migration as a result of sea-level rise, weather changes and loss of land productivity; and diminished capacity of governments to provide services to their people in the face of increasing poverty. The paper reports the findings of a study investigating the dynamic relationship between climate change, natural resource management and the likelihood of violent conflict in Bulawayo, which sits on a watershed between the Zambezi and Limpopo drainage basins, and Chinde district in the Zambezi delta. The paper also discusses entry points for strengthening local capacity for conflict management in Bulawayo and Chinde. It ends by outlining a research agenda towards improved understanding of the climate change, natural resource management and conflict nexus in the Zambezi basin.