Nkulumo ZINYENGERE, PhD in Environmental Science (Zimbabwe)

Nkulumo Zinyengere

Nkulumo holds a PhD in Environmental Science from the University of Cape Town, South Africa. His latest research focuses on the impact of climate change, specifically in climate sensitive sectors in Africa.

Current position: Research Lead & Project Manager at SouthSouthNorth NPO, South Africa

Research focus: Climate change impacts and adaptation in various climate sensitive economic sectors in Africa

During his PhD thesis, he and his research team developed a large-scale case study of five localities spread across the region (Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe) and tested localised farming strategies and their potential contribution to adaptation.

For his achievements, Nkulumo was awarded a Green Talent in 2014. The jury was particularly impressed by his determination to seek a more holistic, location-specific perspective on adaptation to climate change. During his research stay in Germany, at the University of Bonn, he made considerable networks and coordinated and co-edited an academic book. Afterwards, he worked as a climate change Research Fellow at the African Centre for a Green Economy, South Africa.

2013-14 Global Environmental Change Research in Africa Award (System for Analysis, Research and Training)
2012-13 African Climate Change Fellowship Program Award (International Development Research Centre)

CV as submitted for the Green Talents award (2014):


Research focus: Assessing impacts of climate change and adaptation options for dry land farming systems in Southern Africa

Adaptation to climate change and variability by smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa takes a localised and diversified strategic approach. Doctoral candidate Nkulumo Zinyengere is leading the research effort into which strategies are most effective.

Nkulumo’s academic background in Agricultural Meteorology, in which he gained an MSc from the University of Zimbabwe, has led him to apply a fresh approach to the search for effective adaptation options for smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). He believes that agriculture is crucial to alleviating poverty in the region and that smallholder farming – which provides a livelihood for around 60% of the region’s population – is particularly important. “Yet agriculture, especially smallholder farming, is the sector most vulnerable to climate variability and change”, explains Nkulumo. “It is therefore essential to develop and implement climate appropriate, smart and proven sustainable agriculture strategies to alleviate poverty in SSA”.

In the course of his research, Nkulumo has identified the main weakness of previous strategies for adaptability: “Currently, the crafting of suitable adaptive practices remains top-down and ill informed by local realities”. His PhD research project is seeking to change this. In a large-scale case study of five localities spread across the region (one each in Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe), Nkulumo and his team are testing localised farming strategies. These include soil and water management, timing of activities and crop management using crop models and downscaled climate change projections. These attempts to tailor farming practices to particular localized climatic conditions of the farming communities are part of a wider strategy to view adaptation to climate change in the context of complex and highly diversified local realities. “The study will address this by analysing bio-physical, social and economic viability of climate change adaptation options for smallholder farmers”, says Nkulumo.

Ultimately, Nkulumo is dedicated to a career in “helping to develop more effective and innovative development interventions in dealing with the promotion of food security and poverty alleviation in Africa in the face of climate change and variability among other challenges”.  

The Jury was particularly impressed by Nkulumo’s determination to seek a more holistic, location-specific perspective on adaptation to climate change. They believe that the Green Talents forum will give him further momentum through the exchange of ideas with other young scientists in the field of sustainability.