Tag Archives: mazvihwa

Zimbabweland wins a prize!

Last week our work was runner up in the category of ‘Outstanding International Impact’ at the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council annual Celebrating Impact award ceremony. I had to go to London to receive the award (a trophy and some money that we will help keep the research going). They even made a slightly embarrassing film about the work that you can see here. It’s the 50th anniversary of the Council, and they are keen to demonstrate that research they invest in has an impact.

Over the years, we have received several grants from the ESRC for our work in Zimbabwe. The core of our work that became the book, Zimbabwe’s Land Reform: Myths and Realities, was funded as part of a regional project led by PLAAS on livelihoods after land reform. More recently the ESRC/DFID grant for the Space, Markets, Employment and Agricultural Development (SMEAD) in southern Africa – also led by PLAAS – allowed us to expand our case study sites to Mvurwi, and continue work in Masvingo. Indeed, my UK Research Council funding goes back much further – to my PhD work in Mazvihwa communal area which started a shocking 30 years ago.

Long-term research and engagement leads to impact, and in our work since 2000, it has been this ability to track changes since the land reform that has allowed us to generate deep, textured, longitudinal data, and so a rich evidence base to engage with debates about the impacts and consequences of land reform. The prize money we won last week will help keep the work going – now in Masvingo, Mvurwi and Matopos.

The prize committee really liked the range of ways we have communicated our work. Impact emerges from engaging with different audiences through a range of channels. Our outputs have included conventional academic material, such as books and journal articles, but we’ve also put out our material through other routes. This blog has been especially important, and has helped update the research, challenge misinformation and generate debate. I am continually amazed how many of you read it each week. There are now over 190 blogs on the site, and last year there were over 40,000 views. As readers of this blog will know, there have been videos that have allowed us to present findings in a different medium, and these have been widely viewed in Zimbabwe and beyond. And also we’ve produced a set of booklets, including one in Shona. This has allowed the work to be debated in the villages where we have worked, with reading circles formed to discuss them. It’s this diversity of formats that really helps create debate and dialogue in a whole range of fora.

After all the hard work, we are naturally delighted to be recognised in this way. Although rather focused on me in the ESRC publicity, this is of course a team effort. The field team, led by BZ Mavedzenge, but also involving Felix Murimbarimba, Jacob Mahenehene and many others, has been at the centre of this work. BZ, Felix and I have worked together now continuously since 1990, when we were working in Chivi with the Ministry of Agriculture’s Department for Research and Specialist Services on a project on risk, that became the book ‘Hazards and Opportunities. It has been an immensely productive working relationship and I feel immensely privileged to have had this opportunity.

For now, I will keep the blog going, and I hope all readers will celebrate with us, as it is a recognition that research, when done thoroughly, over a long time and is communicated well, can really make a difference.

This post was written by Ian Scoones and first appeared on Zimbabweland



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Twenty years of livelihood change in southern Zimbabwe

In 1985 I first went to Zimbabwe, and to Mazvihwa communal area in Zvishavane district in particular, at the invitation of Ken Wilson and Cephas Mukamuri, the late father of Billy Mukamuri, now chair at CASS at UZ. I was to start my PhD research on the ecology and economics of livestock production in the communal areas.

1985 was a time of hope and expectation. Independence had been achieved, investments were flowing (if rather slowly to the remote Mazvihwa), and everyone was expecting – including us idealistic researchers – a great developmental transformation. Yes there were challenges to this idealistic (naive?) vision. Unknown to us then, the brutal massacres in Matabeleland were happening, and the political formation of the new Zimbabwe was shaky to say the least. South Africa was still under apartheid, and launched destabilising raids into what were then ‘the frontline states’. But despite this the future to us at least looked bright.

So what happened in Mazvihwa since? I have been visiting friends there over the last 20 years, and during the 1990s, I was involved in a project over the Runde river in Chivi which became the book, Hazards and Opportunities. But it was not until 2004 when Josphat Mushongah wrote to me proposing PhD at the IDS that I got to know what really had happened in the intervening years. Josphat had been the assistant district administrator in Zvishavane in the 1990s and knew many of the people I did. I suggested that he do a restudy for his PhD, asking what happened to people’s livelihoods between 1986 and 2006.

And this is what he did. A restudy is not as easy as it sounds. In the 1980s Ken Wilson and I only had a small sample of around 70 households. Many were still resident, although the older household heads had passed on. Some households had dissolved, and discovering when and why required some patient forensics. But tracing those who had left the area required the biggest challenge. Josphat travelled by bus, donkey cart and foot to the furthest reaches of the country, and located everyone. Tracing the next generation was also a challenge, as many had spread through the diaspora – from South Africa to Botswana to the UK.

His PhD is a fascinating read, and a paper emerging from that restudy has just been published in the Journal of Development Studies (submitted version). In this paper we take the ‘wealth ranking’ analysis I did in the 1980s and the repeat Josphat did 20 years on, and explore, with survey data, livelihood biographies and so on, what happened to particular households – both those in the original sample, and their Mazvihwa resident offspring.  It’s an engrossing tale. Some have improved their lot, some have declined, while others have stayed much the same. The factors that have affected these changes are diverse. A sequence of poor harvests could push someone down; a death, illness or period of unemployment could have dramatic consequences. Equally, a windfall payout from a retrenchment or an inheritance of some animals could have the opposite effects. Chance, luck, and happenstance have as much to answer for as the relatively more predictable dynamics of social differentiation.

While the sample is small, as only 11 acquired new land through resettlement – either through the formal resettlements in the 1980-90s, the informal movements to the ‘frontier lands’ of Gokwe and beyond in the 1990s, or the fast-track; in the 2000s – the results are interesting. Nearly all of these households improved their lot, and only one who fled to the frontier areas showed a decline. Gaining land as an asset is an important form of social protection, and can help improve living standards.

Overall, though, the great expectations and naive hopes of the 1980s have not been realised in Mazvihwa. Despite the tarmac road, the new resettlement opportunities and the investments in schools and clinics, the place remains a backwater. Poor, isolated, and plagued by drought, few are making a significant living from farming alone. Off-farm opportunities are perhaps fewer than they were in the 1980s, and the prospects for the next generation are limited. Most talk of exit – getting educated, and getting out. For some this is to the new resettlements where there is land and some prospect of prosperity; for others it is out of the country, perhaps as border jumpers but ideally with a proper job.

This post was written by Ian Scoones and originally appeared on Zimbabweland


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