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Country analysis > Zimbabwe Last update: 2020-11-27  

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A Study of Child-Headed Households on Commercial Farms in Zimbabwe

Executive Summary
Farm Orphan Support Trust of Zimbabwe (FOST) undertook this study into child headed households on commercial farms in April/May 2002 with the aim of identifying their problems and needs and planning potential interventions.

The unique nature of farm worker communities makes them particularly vulnerable to the effects of HIV/AIDS. In particular, the lack of traditional safety nets within these communities increases the vulnerability of children, especially orphaned children.

The methodology employed for the study was action research oriented and involved interviewing 17 child headed households in Mashonaland Central and Manicaland provinces. Half of a day was spent with each household and a further half day was spent talking to members of the farm community. In total 47 children and 27 community members were interviewed.

The findings of the study reveal that child headed households on commercial farms face a number of problems including:
  • Food insecurity
  • Problem of access to education and skills training
  • The struggle to meet material needs
  • The absence of psycho-social support
  • Poor life skills and knowledge
  • Abuse and exploitation
  • No extended family network
  • Poor housing conditions and lack of tenure security
  • Poor access to health care
These are common problems to most orphaned and vulnerable children but it was found that child headed households are especially vulnerable because of the lack of the usual community "safety nets".

The report makes a number of recommendations regarding interventions. It is suggests that psycho-social support (PSS) interventions should be integrated with the meeting of material needs. All stakeholder groups in farm communities need to be involved in the delivery of PSS, especially the youth and the children themselves. Ways to meet material needs are suggested including external funding and utilisation of existing systems such as BEAM. Advocacy and awareness raising are needed to ensure that child headed households are cared for, protected and included in national development agendas.

It is concluded that future interventions to respond to the needs of child headed households will need to balance material and psycho-social aspects in order to avoid undermining existing coping mechanisms. Supporting community-based responses will involve long-term capacity building and training and require thorough support and follow-up.

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