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Land reform as a strategy for sustainable livelihoods in Zimbabwe: breaking the household poverty in selected resettlement farms in Matabeleland.

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Zimbabwe’s agricultural production has remained low in spite of the presence of various agrarian policies including the recently implemented land reform programme. The agrarian policies focus extensively on crop and animal rearing development neglecting vast rural development prospects from non-farming livelihood options. This study focuses on livelihoods diversification in three selected newly resettled farms ie Springrange, Fox and Rocksdale in Matabeleland. Specifically, focus is on livelihood vulnerability, drivers and constraints of livelihood diversification as well as its implications on household well-being. It also interrogates the nature of post land support programmes from a diversification lens. This study is premised on the Sustainable livelihood’s framework, the Capabilities Approach and the De-agrarianisation hypothesis. Methodologically, the study adopts a qualitative case study that uses in-depth interviews, focus group discussions, key informants, visual sociology and observations for data collection purposes. This study shows that livelihood diversification in newly resettled areas is an alternative to overcome household poverty and in some instances for accumulation of income and assets. It emanates from the study that determinants to livelihood diversification are classified under push and pull factors, and that varying socio-economic and context specific factors influence the nature and patterns of diversification. It emerges that insecure land tenure, collapsing rain-fed agriculture, lack of markets, growing rural unemployment and HIV/AIDS are some of the factors pushing households to diversify. Discussions also uncover that households are motivated to diversify their livelihood portfolios by factors such as the availability of mineral endowments, proximity to the urban area, and the desire to accumulation income and assets. It emanates from the engagements that regardless of livelihood diversification, farming remains at the heart of the rural economy. It emanates that apart from smallholder agriculture, households are involved in small scale mining, eco-tourism, vending, wage labour, gardening, natural resource poaching and receive remittances and social grants for survival. The study also indicates that diversification of livelihoods into non-farm activities does not necessarily imply the death of peasantry but households compliment land-based livelihoods using off-farm and non-farm activities. It springs out that livelihood diversification increases household income, food security, asset accumulation and child welfare especially amongst the better-off households with capacity and assets. Government and other development agents should play a facilitator’s role in terms of promoting investment in rural infrastructure development, improving technology and skills as well as expanding rural credit schemes. There is also a need by government to consider issuing title deeds to the newly resettled farmers so as to address the land tenure insecurity challenge. Furthermore, there is need for scholars to consider studies focusing on the intricate link of smallholder agriculture and a number of non-farm and off-farm activities such as artisan small-scale mining.


Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.