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The Use of Remote Sensing in the Study of Dambos in Zimbabwe

Mlindelwa LUPANKWA researcher laureate


°1969 Zimbabwe
B.Sc. geology, University of Zimbabwe, 1993

The Use of Remote Sensing in the Study of Dambos in Zimbabwe

With its ban on farming in the dambos (seasonally waterlogged wetlands, which are considered to be vulnerable), the prevailing legislation in Zimbabwe clearly aims at the sustainability of the agricultural area. Not releasing these lands for production automatically leads to a loss of income on the regional level. However, the possibility of lasting degradation by cultivation is not uniform for all dambos. Seen from the perspective of securing the food supply, a methodology should, therefore, be developed to differentiate the dambos according to degradation risk. As such, the dambos which can guarantee a sustainable farming output without leading to a permanent degradation of the farming land, can be released for production.

Via this work, Mlindelwa Lupankwa has shown that it is possible to stratify dambos according to the degree of risk as far as irreversible effects are concerned, and, therefore, according to their intrinsic vulnerability. In Zimbabwe, where rain is a limiting factor, the sustainability of a production environment is guided, above all, by the energy budget of the local ground cover. The author has, therefore, calculated the evaporation (an important factor within the energy budget) of the dambos from the spectral data which are collected by the Landsat 7 Thematic Mapper sensor at the height of 800 km. With this visual material, collected over the whole area and at various times of the growth cycle, he was able not only to identify the dambos, but also to classify them according to susceptibility to degradation. By means of the methodology put forward here, a segment of the agricultural area that is legally unusable could be released again for cultivation activities without affecting the sustainability.
In countries where the security of food supply remains a priority, this implies an important contribution on the medium term.

report by Prof. Dr. Pol Coppin, Laboratory for forest, nature and landscape research, Department of landmanagement, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium