Towards climate change resilience and informal workers’ health in Zimbabwe: an action-research case study

Artwell Kadungure, Alice Sverdlik, Rangarirai Machemedze, Wisborn Malaya, Nathan Banda, Rene Loewenson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite rising concern for climate change in cities, urban informal workers are rarely considered in climate and health interventions. Globally, about two billion people work in the ‘informal economy,’ which encompasses all livelihoods lacking legal recognition or social protections. To encourage more holistic studies of workers’ health in urban areas, we discuss recent action-research in Zimbabwe’s cities of Harare (population 2.4m) and Masvingo (urban population 207,000). Using surveys (N=418) and focus group discussions (N=207) with informal urban agriculture workers and plastic waste-pickers, we analysed their climate-related, occupational, and environmental health risks. Approximately 55% of waste-pickers and urban agriculture workers reported that heat extremes already shortened their working times and lowered incomes. We highlight the close links between living and working conditions; discuss gendered differences in risks; and examine how heatwaves, water scarcity, and floods are affecting informal workers. In Masvingo, local authorities have begun collaborating with informal workers to tackle these risks. We recommend multi-sectoral, co-produced strategies that can simultaneously promote health and resilient livelihoods. Although climate change could further entrench urban inequalities, there may also be unusual opportunities to spark action on climate change by using a health lens to improve livelihoods and foster more inclusive, resilient urbanisation pathways.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1055-1071
Number of pages17
JournalCities & Health
Issue number6
Early online date20 Oct 2023
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Informal workers
  • climate change
  • gender
  • health equity
  • occupational health


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