Monavale Vlei (Ramsar Site 2107)






East Atlantic flyway


WLI Africa


The Conservation Society of Monavale (COSMO Trust)

Funding support: Former funding support is as follows: UNDP SGP Small Grants Programme 2009-2010, 2013; AAGE V Jensen Charity Foundation / BirdLife International 2013-2015. COSMO members contribute small donations, with a few more donations coming from beyond the community. These donations contribute towards staff salaries, but are not sufficient to support Vlei management activities, which take place in kind.

Number of staff: 2 paid field staff, 1 wetland manager (resident of Monavale)

Number of visitors per year: Up to 1000 per year depending on the activities planned.

Overall aims of the centre

Our overall aims are to ensure that our “centre”, Monavale Vlei remains a projected wetland; that it continues to contribute to the saving of Harare’s wetlands through sharing the conservation model created by the Monavale community’s restoration of Monavale Vlei over the past 17 years; through ongoing wetland education walks in the Vlei; ongoing research on the Vlei; ongoing outreach to other wetland communities; through ongoing advocacy, education and awareness; through ongoing influencing of policy makers, relevant government departments and awareness to educational institutions and the general public.

Harare’s wetland ecosystems are under threat from construction developments and widespread agriculture resulting in the rapid loss of these headwater wetlands which are the source of water for the city’s supply dam which lies downstream, and the groundwater within the city. The survival of these wetlands is critical as fresh water is becoming more scarce given the demands of the ever growing population. However, as these wetlands are the only open spaces left in the city they are tempting for construction development, despite the laws which are there to protect them.

In more recent times wetlands have been used for small and large scale urban agriculture, maize growing, which is very destructive to the ecosystem and results in biodiversity loss. This activity is prohibited by the law, but enforcement of the law is sidelined. Meanwhile water provisioning ability of these areas is being negatively impacted and the capacity of the dam downstream is being reduced due to siltation. The Monavale model has shown it is possible to restore the wetland biodiversity but it is preferable not to destroy this valuable and free asset at all.

To achieve these aims, our work, which has led to the formation of the Wetlands Survival Forum and the Harare Wetlands Trust, is attempting to raise the voice of residents to influence government to ensure full protection for Harare’s wetlands to hedge against the water security issues currently facing the city’s people.

Description of the centre

There are no buildings on the site. The wetland is our “experiential centre”. The preserved area of the Monavale Vlei, which lies within the Monavale Wetland Ramsar Site, is 34 hectares in extent. The entire Ramsar Site is 507 hectares. This area is located a few kilometers north west of the Harare City centre and surrounded by a number of residential suburbs.

The habitat is seasonally inundated open grassland (treeless) wetland ecosystem characteristic of the Mashonaland Plateau watershed. This grassland wetland habitat is threatened in southern Africa, and its decline is contributing to fresh water security issues in the region. Harare lies within the the source of its water, the catchment headwaters of the Manyame and Mazowe Rivers.

This site supports over 120 different wetland adapted plants, orchids and grass species, with occasional trees on the edges. Over 244 bird species have been recorded, with important breeding migrant birds such as Striped Crake, Streaky-breasted Flufftail other birds dependent on this type of grassland wetland. Clawless otter, serval, duiker, bushpig, giant bullfrog, many species of mice and rat, snakes, scrub hare are also found on this wetland. Fish spawn on this wetland.


The Conservation Society of Monavale runs COSMO Kids Club for children in the community on Saturday mornings, on the Vlei. They learn about wetlands and water, the plants and animals on the wetland, about other environmental concerns such as waste management and how to plant vegetable home gardens.

This well known club also provides a model for other communities to follow;
A monthly bird walk is conducted with BirdLife Zimbabwe on the Monavale Vlei; School groups visit for walks and training on our wetland functions and services and to experience the wetland; University students undertake under graduate and post graduate research on the wetland; Community organizations visit the wetlands for awareness walks.
Bird watchers from around the world visit the Vlei in the wet season in search of the rallids which come to breed, and other special vlei birds; World Wetland Day and Climate Change events have been held on Monavale numerous times over the years.

Exhibits are mounted at trainings on the Vlei and at other functions, meetings and outreach occasions at public events; Outreach to schools and other groups to educate on awareness, by invitation; The Monavale Indigenous Tree Nursery was set up by COSMO. The trees are NOT for planting on wetlands, but for reforestation in their correct habitats around Zimbabwe and well away from wetlands, with sales intended to support wetland protection.

Work Areas

Main CEPA work areas

Radio and TV interviews and documentaries; Art competitions on wetlands with other stakeholders such as the National Gallery, embassies, and BirdLife Zimbabwe; Fliers, posters and car stickers; Wetland research is ongoing; Daily recording of birds and other biodiversity; School visits and walks; Local government official interaction; Reporters from print and sound media visit for walks; Other wetland communities visit for walks; Presentations are made to different platforms including local government; Wetland Ecosystem Training Workshops; Facebook Pages: The Conservation Society of Monavale Facebook Page; BirdLife Zimbabwe Facebook Page. Wetland Survival Forum Facebook Page.

PechaKucha talk on “Where Does Harare’s Water Come From?”; There is much material on Google on Monavale Vlei, on Harare’s wetlands; on Harare Water; We attend local planning meetings and work with the authorities at local and national level.

We try to influence newspaper articles which are becoming more numerous as the water situation deteriorates and in times of flooding and droughts.

Top three successes

The successful Monavale Vlei model of community wetland restoration management, and wetland awareness and advocacy, is has been shared with other wetland communities. The engagement of a full time Vlei Scout, who works in the wetland, has been central to the ongoing success of the conservation of Monavale Vlei, since 2005. The Vlei Scout keeps daily biodiversity records, takes visitors on walks, assists with research, reports to the COSMO Monavale Vlei Manager and residents on activities and possible threats.

Working alongside local and national government and wetland concerned organizations, such as BirdLife Zimbabwe, and other stakeholders is essential, as it broadens the ownership of the wetland cause and supports conservation efforts. Sharing with other wetland communities has broadened the campaign to save the wetlands.

Engaging the support and contributions of specialists such as hydrologists, hydrogeologists, ornithologists, plant, grass and tree experts, soil scientists, biologists,frog and fish specialists has contributed considerably to the wetland’s biodiversity data baseline. This is very useful to measure improvements in biodiversity and wetland functioning into the future.

Top three challenges

Our overall programme is successful and the projects have also been successful so we don’t have less successful projects to share. However, obtaining funding for restoration activities and salaries is challenging. We reach out to the private sector for support, with limited success, as we seek bigger donor funding.

Housing construction and agriculture pose a great threat to Harare’s wetlands. These are major challenges which require constant lobbying and this activity must be factored into project management, which would include alternative sites for housing construction and agriculture beyond the city or in other parts of the country.

In future projects we would avoid livelihood activities in favour of wetland activities as so many other organizations address livelihood options. However, we would offer guidance as to which organisations to approach, or suggest improved home gardening for food security. Urban agriculture is a threat to wetlands and their integrity so we encourage home gardening instead.


Interpretation techniques

Creating signage; site information; Producing written materials; Using audio-visual tools; Developing nature trails

Visitor centres

Managing / creating habitat


Engaging hard-to-reach groups; Engaging young people; Engaging the local community; Working with volunteers

Education and communication

Early years education; Delivering adult education; Working with primary schools; Lobbying / running campaigns; Working with secondary schools; Developing resources / materials


Auditing / assessing effectiveness; Running effective administration; Fund-raising; Project planning.


Dorothy Wakeling


Monavale Vlei Programme Manager,

COSMO. 11, Lyndhurst Road, Monavale,

P O Avondale, Harare, Zimbabwe.


Mobile phone number: +263 772376506;

Skype: dorothywakeling

Website address: