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Wetlands & Human Wellbeing, Part 2

The following is an illustrated text version of a presentation Wetlands & Human Wellbeing given by Dorothy Wakeling at the Highlands Presbyterian Church, Harare on the 3rd February, 2024 in honour of World Wetland Day. This version has been divided into two parts, Part 1. Harare’s Wetlands and Their Crucial Function and the section which follows below, Part 2. Monavale Ramsar Site: A Model for Wetland Restoration and Management. (At the same event Julia Pierini, C.E.O. of Birdlife Zimbabwe, spoke on Wetlands: Concerns and Suggestions, also reproduced on this site.)

What is a Ramsar Site?

Before we plunge into the Monavale Wetlands story it is important to understand the significance of its being a Ramsar site.

“The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat” (or Convention on Wetlands, for short) is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands focusing on wetlands that have been designated as “Ramsar sites”. It is named after the city of Ramsar in Iran, where the convention was signed in 1971. Wikipedia

Zimbabwe has been a signatory of the Ramsar Convention since 2013.

There are seven Ramsar site in Zimbabwe, listed below.

  • Cleveland Dam
  • Driefontein Grasslands
  • Lake Chivero and Manyame
  • Mana Pools National Park
  • Monavale Wetland:
  • Victoria Falls National Park
  • Chinhoyi Caves Recreational Park.


Tribute to Alex Masterson who with fellow bird and vegetation enthusiasts highlighted the importance of wetlands from the 1950s onwards.

History – leading up to the formation of COSMO (Conservation Society of Monavale)

  • 2001 – Threat of rose farming led to a community environmental action group
  • 2001 – Landowner agreed to sell critical 16 ha to BLZ 
  • 2005 – Landmark meeting held at Town House of all stakeholders proclaiming Monavale Vlei to become a model for wetland protection in Harare – May 2005


  • 2005 Employed a Vlei Scout
  • 2005-07 Wetland Taskforce was set up, a technical paper and management plan written for Monavale Vlei, with BirdLifeZimbabwe, COSMO and Environment Africa managing the 34 ha area.
  • 2009-2011 Monavale Vlei Biodiversity Project
    • Restoration of the Vlei
    • Setting up Indigenous Tree Nursery
  • Livelihoods options – composting and vermiculture
  • Monavale Local Environmental Subject Plan No. 55
  • Conservation Society of Monavale Trust established in 2009, partnered to BLZ and EA
    • Core purpose to address issues surrounding the wellbeing of Monavale Vlei WetlandSelf sustaining entity, manages the Vlei, with consultation from City of Harare and EMACertificate to manage the wetland from EMA issued on an annual basis.
    • COSMO Management Committee

2013 Monavale Wetland became a Ramsar Site

  • COSMO sits on the National Wetland Committee.
  • Monavale Vlei model shared with numerous communities
    • Funds from Jensen/BLI for purchase transferred to a project replicating Monavale Vlei Model on Marlborough Vlei.
  • Formation of the Harare Wetlands Trust, of which BLZ is the institutional support.
  • Funding secured for Harare Wetlands Advocacy Project
Visits from International Organisations

Monavale Model

Monavale Vlei

Create a Community Structure

  • Form a trust and create a constitution
  • Create a management committee
  • Hire a Vlei Scout
  • Engage with Authorities: EMA and City of Harare
  •  Start restoration work
  • Engage with experts to identify biodiversity
Scientific surveys carried out to determine the health & significance of the Vlei

COSMO has made contact with the widest possible range of specialists to understand the full environmental significance of the Vlei – geologists, botanists, ecologists, National Herbarium staff, Tree Society, grass specialists, University of Zimbabwe, hydrologists, lawyers, town planners, experts on butterflies, fish, snakes, frogs and birds, Graphic Designers, photographers, IT Specialists. 

Various groups of university students have received part of their training on the Vlei
  •  Wetland awareness raising with as many different groups and communities as possible
Introducing adult community members to the Vlei
  • Raise awareness of the importance of wetlands amongst school children
School parties being introduced to the Vlei
COSMO Kids’ Club
Youngsters learning about bird ringing
  •  Draw attention to the rich biodiversity of the wetlands at every opportunity

Monavale Vlei is a an inspiring example of how committed community engagement can bring a degraded wetland back from the brink of destruction to a fully functioning wetland performing all its proper vital functions.

Video: Monavale Vlei

Dorothy Wakeling

Monavale Vlei Programme Manager. Conservation Society of Monavale Trust

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