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Limpopo River Basin

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Saved by Maya Rajasekharan
on June 30, 2009 at 10:11:20 am

Zim. Homestead Zimbabwe. Well needs to go deeper What's happened to my water?  More Photos...

The Limpopo basin, located in South-eastern Africa, covers 1.3% of the continent and spreads over four countries. The Limpopo river (1,770 km), flows from Limpopo Province, South Africa in a great arc: first north (forming part of the South Africa–Botswana border), then east (forming the South Africa–Zimbabwe border), and finally southeast through Mozambique to the Indian Ocean.


When the rains hit the Limpopo basin, they are intense, but the rainfall is highly unreliable. In this mainly semi-desert environment, the effects of rain are short-lived. People living by the major reaches of the Limpopo and its tributaries may see water flowing for only 40 days or less in a year. Food security is a constant problem. Around a million people currently rely on food aid.


The Limpopo River supports impressive mangrove vegetation and freshwater ecosystems that provide an important source of food and income for local communities. However, rapid urbanization and tourism development are causing widespread environmental degradation. Along vast stretches of the river, mangrove areas are being cut down for construction or cleared for agriculture. In addition, at the narrow coastal zone at the mouth of the river there is salt water intrusion at high tide which is affecting the quality of irrigation water, and raising soil salinity. The level of damage to the environment means that any attempt to rehabilitate irrigation infrastructure must work in parallel with the preservation and restoration of the riverine environment. As the potential for irrigated agriculture is limited, for the most part, increases in agricultural production need to be achieved through rainfed cropping systems.


CPWF is working with many local partners to improve food security and maximize the use of available water. The program is focusing on the areas of greatest poverty and encouraging equitable allocation of increasingly scarce water resources. If people can overcome their food security problems, they will be better able to manage their water resources, make decisions regarding land use and help plan for a sustainable future for the basin as a whole.


Basin priorities include:

  • Promoting sustainable agricultural development for poverty alleviation

  • Facilitating greater cross-border cooperation and ensuring equitable inter-country and intersectoral water allocation

  • Protecting and restoring areas of environmental degradation

  • Introducing technologies to optimize water use efficiency

  • Improving natural hazard forecasting, particularly drought and floods


The Integreated Database Information System [IDIS] Basin Kits provide baseline data layers (vector and grid) for the Limpopo Basin covering various domains such as climate, agriculture, soil, land use, topography, etc.


Publications from Limpopo


Team Members



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