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Remote sensing based drought monitoring in Zimbabwe

Godfrey Mutowo (Department of Geography and Environmental Science, Great Zimbabwe University, Masvingo, Zimbabwe)
David Chikodzi (Department of Geography and Environmental Science, Great Zimbabwe University, Masvingo, Zimbabwe)

Disaster Prevention and Management

ISSN: 0965-3562

Article publication date: 28 October 2014




Drought monitoring is an important process for national agricultural and environmental planning. Droughts are normal recurring climatic phenomena that affect people and landscapes. They occur at different scales (locally, regionally, and nationally), and for periods of time ranging from weeks to decades. In Zimbabwe drought is increasingly becoming an annual phenomenon, with varying parts of the country being affected. The purpose of this paper is to analyse the spatial variations in the seasonal occurrences of drought in Zimbabwe over a period of five years.


The Vegetation Condition Index (VCI), which shows how close the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index of the current time is to the minimum Normalized Difference Vegetation Index calculated from the long-term record for that given time, was used to monitor drought occurrence in Zimbabwe. A time series of dekadal Normalized Difference Vegetation Index, calculated from SPOT images, was used to compute seasonal VCI maps from 2005 to 2010. The VCI maps were then classified into three drought severity classes (severe, moderate, and mild) based on the relative changes in the vegetation condition from extremely bad to optimal.


The results showed that droughts occur annually in Zimbabwe though, on average, the droughts are mostly mild. The occurrence and the spatial distribution of drought in Zimbabwe was also found to be random affecting different places from season to season thus the authors conclude that most parts of the country are drought prone.


Remote sensing technologies utilising such indices as the VCI can be used for drought monitoring in Zimbabwe.



Mutowo, G. and Chikodzi, D. (2014), "Remote sensing based drought monitoring in Zimbabwe", Disaster Prevention and Management, Vol. 23 No. 5, pp. 649-659.



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