Forest Information System

Forest Information System

Land Cover Map 2017


In Zimbabwe, forest resources are under constant pressure and are called upon to produce useful forest products, environmental services, wildlife habitat, recreation, and opportunities for livelihoods. Many of these demands conflict with one another – for example, the need to convert forested land to agricultural production in Zimbabwe due to the increasing demand for food and fuel is a threat to the use of natural forests as carbon sinks. Conflicting demands increase as the human population continues to grow, income levels and wood and food consumption rates increase at a time when the area of natural forest continues to decline.

Forestry Commission first produced a national land cover map in 1992, with technical and financial assistance from GIZ.The statistics for 1992 have been used for all international reporting e.g. FAO Forest Resource Assessment (FRA) and sustainable development goal number 15. The 1992 land cover maps were produced from interpretation of Landsat images of 30 metre resolution.

 The 2017 land cover map was produced from the interpretation of sentinel 2 satellite images, processed using Google Earth Engine (GEE) platform. The map was produced with technical assistance from Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Forest Resource Assessment team. The FRA Remote sensing team developed the script in google earth engine, while the Forestry Commission Mapping and Inventory unit (M&I) did the interpretation, editing and field ground truthing exercise.

Knowing how and why forest area changes over time is important for managing forests sustainably because such changes may result in long-term deletions (e.g. forest conversion to agriculture) from the forest land base or additions (e.g. afforestation). Therefore, the current need to periodically update the data of Zimbabwe to provide the forest community, particularly at national level with reliable information to describe the forests and how they change over time, to support decisions and programs about its sustainable management and utilization.

Zimbabwe is a signatory to the UNFCCC requirement for parties to submit National Communications. Zimbabwe has resolved to use the latest 2006 IPCC Guidelines and the 2019 refinements in GHG inventory of the AFOLU sector for the fourth national communication (NC4) and first biennial update report (BUR1). These guidelines entail the use of land representation, an analysis undertaken to identify and quantify human activities on land and track their changes over time, resulting in stratification of the total area of the country into strata (land units). This requires the use of remote sensing and satellite data, allometric models and biomass density maps for estimation of biomass carbon. It also entails assessment of changes in land areas and land use changes over time, and estimation of soil carbon and non-carbon GHGs from soil. This data is not captured by most of our data providers. This data is central and useful not only in NC4 and BUR 1, but also in the country’s Low Emission Development Strategy (LEDS), National Adaptation Plan (NAP) and Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC).

 Land Cover Statistics are critical in policy formulation and decision making for sustainable management of natural resources. Therefore, there is needed to periodically produce exactly accurate information.

Deforestation is the conversion of forest to other land uses, such as agriculture and infrastructure. The difference between forest area net change and deforestation is that the former is the result of all losses and gains (natural expansion of forest as well as afforestation) and the latter considers only the area of forest that has been converted to other land uses (FAO ,2020).

The period 1992 to 2017 key findings:

  • The country has a total natural forest area of 18.351 million hectares, which is about 46 percent of the total land area. The area under forest plantation is estimated to be 187 531.42hectares, which is about 0.48 percent of the total land area.
  • The area of forest continues to decline, and the country lost approximately 6 558 724.54 hectares for the period 1992 to 2017.
  • The annual deforestation rate is estimated at 262 348.98 hectares per annum for the period 1992 to 2017.The deforestation was derived from simple subtraction of 1992and 2017 land covers maps
  • Forest loss is mostly due to agriculture expansion and infrastructure development
  • Top ten districts with highest deforestation rates between 1992 and 2017 are: Hwange, Chiredzi, Hurungwe, Binga, Mwenezi, Mbire, Bulilima, Gokwe South, Beit Bridge and Bubi.
  • Districts that lost more than 50% of its forest cover between 1992 and 2017 are: Buhera, Insiza, Seke, Centenary, Marondera, Bulilima, Goromonzi, Gweru, Mbire and Gutu
Class Area(Ha) % of land
Forest 18351530.53 46.98
Bushland 5499231.607 14.08
Cropland 11951833.94 30.60
Grassland 1507895.38 3.86
Natural Moist 11607.5066 0.03
Water 414775.0515 1.06
Settlement 255981.46 0.66
Rock Outcrop 129067.342 0.33
Forest Plantation 187531.42 0.48
Wooded grassland 754816.23 1.93
Total 39064270.46 100












Geospatial tools

Forestry Commission Mapping and Inventory Unit developed a digital platform that allows easy access to the map and statistics. The platform was developed for 2017 and 1992 land cover map, it allows the user to view, generate and download statistics. The data can be accessed at district level.

The land cover app is in the Google Earth Engine interface and the user can access freely. The app is supported by the computing power of Google. The platform makes it easy even for people without prior remote-sensing experience to access the map. The scope of the new sharing platform is not limited to forest assessments only. It serves other reporting needs as well, including its significant contribution to the NDCs, LEDS and to the forest related indicators of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

Link to the 2017 land Cover Map

Link to the 1992 land Cover Map

1992 land cover map