The ruralization of urban spaces in the context of subsistence farming : the case study of Gwabalanda Township, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.
Chibvongodze, Danford Tafadzwa.
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The burgeoning of subsistence agriculture in the townships of Bulawayo, the second largest city in Zimbabwe symbolizes a change in the use of urban space in many cities of the global South. The activity of subsistence agriculture, which in both colonial and post-colonial Zimbabwe has been highly regarded as a rural activity is now a common sight in most townships of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe (RAUF, 2007). Indeed the rise of subsistence agriculture in the residential areas of Bulawayo particularly in the township of Gwabalanda is leading to what I refer to as the ‘ruralization of urban space’, where through practises of subsistence agriculture, elements of rural life have slowly seeped into the everyday life of urbanites (cf. Rogerson, 1993:33; Zeleza, 1999:45). The thesis uses Lefebvre’s (1974) theory of Production of Space to investigate some of the conditions and factors that have influenced the ruralization of urban space in the township of Gwabalanda, as seen in the intensification of a rural-oriented activity of subsistence farm. Using primary data from 17 semi-structured interviews with Gwabalanda residents involved in farming, the thesis intended to interrogate the perceptions and attitudes Gwabalanda residents hold towards the changes in the use of urban space and also examine the possible benefits of urban farming. The investigation of subsistence farming in Gwabalanda led me to identify three complementing and overarching themes or factors that drive urban farming and the ruralization of urban space. The first two themes are the political and economic factors which seem to operate on a macro-level, whereas the other theme of socio-cultural factors functions at an individual or household level. Economic and political factors such unemployment, lack of income, high transport costs of moving food, political alienation and freedom were identified by Gwabalanda residents as important drivers of urban agriculture. On the other hand, socio-cultural aspects which included identity, traditional religion, socialization and changes in migration patterns appeared to be crucial motivators for cultivating urban spaces. The research study also found out that urban households that are engaged in subsistence farming are more food secure and generate extra income from selling some of the produced crops. The income generated is used to pay school fees, pay bills and buy farming inputs for the next planting season. Furthermore some households were sending excess farm produce to their rural homes.
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