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Household Economy Assessment: Nyaminyami (Kariba Rural) District - Save the Children Report, 21 June 2002


Wealth Breakdown

A wealth breakdown is an exercise carried out with community leaders and key informants to understand socio-economic differences between households with a given food economy zone. It provides a rough outline of livelihood patterns and asset holdings. In the current context, it is important also for understanding the types of households that may need to be targeted by food aid and other interventions.

Wealth Breakdown - Mola/ Negande

Characteristics Poor Middle Better off
% of Population 70 - 80% 10-20% 5-10%
Livestock owned
  • Cattle
  • Goats
  • Donkeys
  • Chickens
    Land cultivated 1-2 acres 4-6 acres 10-12 acres
    Agric. Labour Employed locally or in Gokwe Some employed in bad years Employ others
    Children's Schooling Primary only Primary; some secondary Primary and secondary
    Average HH Size 10-12 8-10 7-8

    With the problems experienced in 2001-02, there has been a marked impoverishment of communities in the Mola/Negande area, and in the other zones of Nyaminyami. Some of the households in the higher wealth groups have joined the lower wealth groups as they have sold off livestock and lost some of their capacity to cultivate. The poor who normally make 45-55% of the population were now said to account for 70-80%. The numbers in the middle and better off groups dropped correspondingly.

    Wealth Breakdown - Kasvisva/ Msambakaruma

      Social Welfare Poor Middle Better off
    % of Population 10-20% 45-55% 15-25% 10-15%
    Livestock owned
  • Cattle
  • Donkeys
  • Goats
  • Sheep
  • Chickens
    (Depends on Inheritance)
    All have some
    All have some
    All have some
    All have some
    Land Available
    Land Cultivated
    Of which, cotton
    12 acres
    1 acres
    12 acres
    1-3 acres
    12 acres
    4-8 acres
    1-2 acres
    12 acres
    >12 acres
    4-6 acres
    Agric Labour Local/ Gokwe Local/ Gokwe Local/ Gokwe in bad years only Employ others
    Children's Schooling Some to Grade 7 Some to Grade 7 All to Grade 7, some to secondary All complete primary and secondary
    Average HH Size Very variable (5?) 7-8 7-8 8-9

    The wealth breakdown for Kasvisva/ Msambakaruma differed from the other zones in that a fourth wealth group was identified - the "social welfare" category. Otherwise, similar trends to the other zones were found, i.e. increasing numbers of people were falling into lower wealth groups, and the livestock holdings of each group had declined due to disease and de-stocking last year.

    The "Social Welfare" category could arguably be labelled the "HIV/ AIDS -affected". The majority of those included under this category are orphans living on their own (child-headed households, or households of siblings with the eldest being an adult), children living with grandparents, widows and elderly people living on their own. Households headed by disabled people are included here. The group is quite heterogenous in this respect, but the common thread is having either only one or no able-bodied adults within the household. Livestock holdings are largely dependent upon inheritance, and therefore vary significantly.

    Although separate interviews were held with this group, it was found that these households' sources of food and income and their expenditure patterns were not sufficiently similar to one another's to be presented separately in the sections that follow. Different households had livelihood patterns very similar to any one of the other groups, apparently depending on the group in which they were before the loss of either or both adult. A recently-deceased man may have left his family with many livestock, and that family may be able to continue cultivating a relatively large amount of land as they can afford to employ additional labour. However, the key differentiating factor between HIV/AIDS-affected households and others within a particular category is that their capacity to cope with any shock is severely compromised by not having additional labour of their own to rely on. Most of the coping strategies discussed further on in this report are dependent on being able to call on additional members of the family to take on extra tasks, either productive or domestic, but this is often not possible when an adult has been lost.

    Wealth Breakdown - Kanyati

    Characteristics Poor Middle Better off
    % of Population 70-85% 10-15% 2-5%
    Livestock owned
  • Cattle
  • Goats
  • Chickens
    Most 0-5; some up to 20 if not affected by disease
    Land Owned
    Land cultivated
    12 acres
    2 acres
    12 acres
    3-4 acres
    12 acres
    5-6 acres
    Agric. Inputs Worked for inputs Bought on credit Cash and credit
    Agric. Labour Worked in neighbouring district - Hurungwe Some worked in neighbouring district - Hurungwe  
    Education All groups sent children to primary and secondary levels
    Average HH Size 7-8 7-8 7-8

    Kanyati is considered the wealthiest zone in Nyaminyami. However, the wealth breakdown for Kanyati for the year 2002 has seen a shift in terms of the numbers of people in each of the three wealth groups, in comparison to the baseline year. Kanyati experienced two consecutive bad agricultural seasons (2000-01 and 2001-02). However, the 2001-2002 season has been described as even worse than the previous one. During average agricultural seasons in Kanyati, the middle and better off farmers have surplus yields.

    Kanyati used to enjoy larger livestock holding than the other FEZs. However since early last year, cattle have been succumbing to trypanosomiasis (caused by tsetse fly) and this trend continued up to the time of the current assessment. Most farmers lost nearly 80% of their cattle herds while others especially those near the game area have lost all their cattle. This in turn affected crop harvests, as draught power was lacking.

    The changes in crop yields and animal holding have meant that some households have slipped from the middle or better off groups down to the poor group. The poor group now accounts for 70-85% of the total population, compared to 55-65% in the baseline year. This has always been the largest group and the most vulnerable to food insecurity. The middle group has decreased from the range of 25-35% to 10-15%, as some of the households have moved to the poor wealth group. The same applies to the better off group as it also decreased in size as some of the households have shifted to the middle group. The better off are now about 2-5% of the total population instead of 5-15% previously.

    Sources of Food

    Each of the graphs below shows the percentage of minimum household food needs (defined as 2,100 kcal per person per day) that each of the wealth groups was able to meet in the twelve months between April 2001 and March 2002.

    Mola/ Negande

    All of the wealth groups were able to source only 90-95% of their minimum food needs over the last year. This was in part due to the relatively poor harvests, but other shocks that affected access to food last year included a 350% - 400% increase in the price of maize on the parallel market, and reductions in the payment rates for casual labour/ piecework and in the relative price of livestock. In other bad years, the most important coping strategies have been increasing the amount of piecework undertaken on other people's farms (mainly for the poor, but also for the middle), and selling livestock to raise cash to buy food (mainly for the better off and middle, who own more animals). Last year, there was increased reliance mainly on wild foods, bartering and purchase.

    Crop Production

    Harvests in 2001 were substantially reduced by erratic weather, with a mid-season dry spell being followed by very heavy rains in February and March. The lost crop production accounted for approximately 20% of minimum food needs for all groups, hence for example the middle got 30-35% of their food last year from their own crops, compared to 50-55% of their food in a normal or average year.


    Purchasing food using income from various sources was the single most important way of accessing food for the poor and middle groups, accounting for roughly 40% and 35% of minimum food needs respectively. Although more food was purchased than in an average year, there were significant changes in the types of food purchased. Maize grain dominated food purchases, with very few other types of food being purchased. All groups - even the better off - had to cut back on their purchases of items such as cooking oil, sugar, flour, fish and meat, which were already extremely limited for the poor. This has led to a marked lack of diversity in people's diets.

    The poor maize harvest was exacerbated later in the year by the effects of national food shortages. In Mola there were some problems with maize availability, but for most of the time the main problem was the very high prices rather than a lack of maize on the market. The GMB only opened a sales point in Mola in April 2002, therefore most maize had to be purchased at parallel market prices.

    Wild Foods & Hunting

    The collection of wild foods and the hunting of game are normally important ways of getting food for the poor. Quantifying this source of food is difficult, as nutritional values are not available for all types of wild foods consumed, and also because hunting/ poaching is an illegal activity and therefore people are reluctant to provide details on it. However, in 2001-02, the importance of this source for the poor was reported to have increased, and we would estimate that it accounted for up to 15% of food needs. The middle and better off also expanded on the use of wild foods as a coping strategy.

    Both the quantity and types of wild foods consumed differed last year. Where they were available, people gathered more of wild foods that are normally consumed, such as busika (tamarind) and chisyungwa. However, they also consumed more roots, tubers and wild grasses as substitutes for staple grains. The consumption of some of these is considered as a distress strategy, as they require repeated boiling to stop them from being poisonous. Normally, wild leaves and fruits are consumed mainly as relish or as snacks, rather than forming main meals as they did last year.


    In Mola, most bartering was in the form of livestock, especially goats and chickens, for grain. In a normal year goats would mainly be sold for cash, and the cash earned could purchase the equivalent of 60kg of maize (3 buckets). This year, there was a greater emphasis on direct exchange for maize. However, because of the shortages and the high price of maize, the exchange value of 1 goat dropped to 20kg (1 bucket). Just under 5% of minimum food needs were accessed by all groups through this mechanism.

    Labour Exchange

    Agricultural piecework and local casual labouring can be both a source of food and a source of cash for households in Mola and elsewhere in Nyaminyami. The peak seasons for agricultural work are during the cotton picking months (May to July) and during the weeding period (December/ January - late February). In Mola, working on others' farms is less important than in other parts of the district, partly because low production even in normal years means little work is available locally, but also because of the long distances to more productive areas in Gokwe where employment opportunities are usually more common.

    This year there was only a marginal increase in the value of labouring both as a source of food and as a source of income for the poor and middle groups in Mola. This was less to do with the limited availability of such work in the area, than to do with the reduction in payment rates. In relatively poor agricultural years, such as 2001-02, more people tend to seek this type of work, while opportunities for employment at best remain unchanged but often decrease. This pushes payment rates down, with the rate in early 2002 falling to as low as 5kg for 1 day's work, down from a normal level of up to 20kg. Hence for the contribution of labour exchange to have increased marginally actually meant a significant increase in the amount of time spent doing this work and/ or an increase in the number of household members getting involved in it. Whereas 1 person could earn 1 bucket of maize in 1 day in 2000-01, in early 2002 it took up to 4 days for 1 person to earn the same amount, or alternatively it took 4 people working together 1 day to earn that bucket of maize.

    Cash payments were more common during the cotton picking season, when most families had some grain stocks of their own and therefore preferred to receive cash. But there was a marked shift towards payment in food in early 2002, as maize became very scarce on the open market and it became more convenient to work directly for food from those households who still had some stocks left.

    Own Animals

    The products of households' animal holdings were only significant for the better off group. This group slaughtered a number of goats, the meat from which contributed up to 5% of minimum food needs. As there are very few cattle in this part of the district, milk production was not significant.

    Food Aid

    Save the Children (UK) provided rations of maize meal, cooking oil and beans to 5,000 people on a monthly basis from December 2001 onwards. These rations were targeted at "Social Welfare cases" (i.e. orphans, widows, elderly and disabled). As the number targeted was relatively small, food aid did not contribute more than 5% of food needs for any wealth group. It was interesting to note that some interviewees in all wealth groups reported that they or their family members received food from SC. It appears that although the Social Welfare registers are supposed to include only those within households that are poor, some elderly people and widows who were better off or had support from able-bodied family members were also included.

    The larger WFP-supported food aid programme by Christian Care only began in April 2002, and therefore was not considered in last year's food sources.

    Sources of Food - Kasvisva/ Msambakaruma

    Households in Kasvisva and Msambakaruma were found to have met 90-95% of their minimum food needs last year. The means of accessing food were largely the same as in Mola, though the relative contributions of each source is somewhat different. Consistent with its status as a relatively more agriculturally productive area, households in all but the poor group produced more from their own fields than corresponding households in Mola. The poor, middle and better off produced enough to meet approximately 20-25%, 40% and 65-70% of their needs respectively.

    Another significant difference with Mola and with the situation during the baseline year, is the large contribution made by labour exchange. In this area, many people were able to undertake piecework on farms in nearby Gokwe district, where agricultural production in 2001 was quite good and therefore there were many employment opportunities. This contributed almost 25% of minimum food needs for both the poor (who would normally undertake this type of work) and the middle (who only do this work in bad years). This is only a small increase over the 15-20% that piecework contributed to the poor's needs in the baseline year, but is more than double the 10-15% contribution to the middle group's needs during the baseline year. This would be consistent with the poor not having much extra time or labour to enable them to expand this type of work in a bad year.

    Due to the maize shortages, payments were mainly in the form of grain rather than cash. As in Mola, payment rates dropped very significantly during the year, reaching the same low levels as in Mola (as low as 5kg for an average day's work). The low payment rate meant that many families brought extra household members to the fields to work, with children as young as 6 years old being reported to have gone to work with their parents. Although the children could contribute relatively little, all those who worked were provided with lunch on the farm on which they were employed, and this was often the main meal of the day for the children.

    There were some other small differences with Mola. For example, the contribution of own animal products to food needs for the better off came partly from milk, in addition to slaughtered goats. Bartering was less important in Kasvisva than in Mola, and the commodity bartered was mainly a wild tuber called manyeme, which was available around July/ August. Food aid was quite insignificant for all groups, with the poor only getting less than 5% of their needs from Save the Children's programme.

    The increased consumption of wild foods last year compared to the baseline year was very noticeable in this zone, and similar foods were consumed as were described for Mola.

    A concerning factor, not brought out by the figures so far, is the decreasing diversity in the food basket being consumed by all groups, but especially by the poor. Maize is by far the most important foodstuff in terms of contributions to energy requirements. Wild foods and the produce from gardens add micronutrients and palatability to meals, but there is now a real lack of high-protein foods such as fish, beans and groundnuts in diets. More expensive foodstuffs such as cooking oil, sugar, meat, milk and bread are almost completely absent from food baskets.

    Sources of Food - Kanyati

    Detailed interviews were only held with the poor and middle groups in Kanyati, as the "better off" population was so small (approximately 200 people). Both of those groups were able to access slightly in excess of 100% of their minimum food needs last year. Own crop production accounted for a similar proportion of needs for both groups as in Kasvisva, but was roughly half of the level of the baseline year. In Kanyati, households also produced a more diverse range of crops. Maize and other grains were still the most significant in terms of energy provided, but there were also significant amounts of sweet potatoes and groundnuts produced.

    For the poor, bridging the deficit caused by reduced crop production meant mainly increasing wild food consumption - though not to the same extent as in other zones - and receiving gifts of food from relatives, while food aid and the consumption of animal products also added to the food basket. The latter, however, was due to very negative reasons. Due to the devastating effect of tsetse fly on cattle herds in this area, many people pre-emptively slaughtered cattle and consumed the meat. This is something that the poor and middle would ordinarily never do, and the contribution of the meat to food needs was at a very high cost.

    As with the other zones, the contribution of purchased food to minimum needs increased particularly for the middle, and maize was the dominant commodity in the purchased food basket. This is in contrast to average or normal years, when a more diverse range of goods is bought.

    Sources of Income

    The graph below shows the total amount of cash (in Z$) earned by each of the wealth groups between April 2001 and March 2002 in the 3 food economy zones assessed.

    As with the baseline year, there are clear trends in terms of income differences between wealth groups and between the 3 food economy zones. Within each zone, incomes increase from the poor to the middle to the better off. Meanwhile, the poor in Kanyati earn more than the poor in Kasvisva, who in turn earn more than the poor in Mola. It is interesting to note that although the Z$ income levels are consistently higher than in the baseline years of 1997/98 and 1998/99, they have not even come close to keeping pace with inflation, which reached 122.5% in the twelve months to the end of May 2002 alone.

    The table below shows the percentages of total income earned from various sources for each wealth group in each zone.

    Income Sources Mola Kasvisva Kanyati
      Poor Middle Better Off Poor Middle Better Off Poor Middle
    Food Crop Sales 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0-5% 0% 0%
    Cash Crop Sales 30-35% 35-40% 75-80% 3-5% 40-45% 65-70% 3-7% 35-45%
    Vegetable Sales 5-10% 15-20% 5-8% 0-5% 0% 0-3% 0-3% 0-5%
    Sale of Livestock 5-10% 0% 8-12% 2-5% 15-20% 20-25% 2-5% 8-12%
    Agric Labour 15-20% 0-3% 0% 65-75% 20-25% 0% 3-7% 2-5%
    Casual Labour 20-30% 40-50% 0% 13-17% 0% 0% 65-75% 30-40%
    Trade 0% 0% 3-7% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0%
    Brewing 10-15% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0%
    Crafts 0% 0% 0% 2-5% 10-15% 3-7% 2-5% 2-5%
    Public Works 0% 0% 2-5% 2-5% 2-5% 0% 3-7% 3-7%
    Remittances 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 3-7% 0%
    Average Z$ Annual Income 12,513 13,750 55,670 15,350 22,560 35,775 20,003 41,200

    Crop Sales

    The contribution of food crop sales to total income dropped to zero for almost all groups last year. In an average year, the better off in all areas normally produce a small surplus of maize or groundnuts for sale. However, with the drop in production last year this proved not to be possible.

    Cash crop sales were much more significant across the district, and cotton accounts for almost all of this income. Cotton was less affected by the climatic conditions in 2001 than food crops, and so the contribution to total income was not significantly reduced. The poor and the middle tended to produce 1-2 bales, while the better off could produce an average of 5-7 bales. The middle and better off tend to benefit from access to input credit schemes from Cottco, which enables them to get fertiliser and chemicals that they would not be able to afford on their own.

    The sale of vegetables from gardens is undertaken by households from almost all wealth groups across the district. The vegetables, cultivated in gardens near water points or on streambanks, are mainly sold from June to August. However, because so many people grow vegetables either for consumption or for sale, the market is very limited and therefore this activity contributes only a small amount to total income.

    Livestock Sales

    The sale of livestock - particularly goats and cattle - normally contributes in the region of 10-20% of household income for the middle and better off households in all three zones. Last year, the figures were roughly unchanged. In some ways this is surprising as livestock sales are often cited as an important coping strategy in difficult times. There are two main reasons for this. First, the loss of cattle due to trypanosomiasis and tick-borne diseases during the year was reported to have been substantial, and therefore there were fewer animals to sell. Second, the cash prices for animals decreased marginally, but the real prices relative to the price of maize fell to between 20% and 33% of normal levels due to the maize shortage. This encouraged many people to barter their livestock directly for maize, rather than selling them for cash. Hence this source of income must be viewed in conjunction with the bartering of livestock referred to under "Sources of Food".

    Agricultural and Casual Labour

    There was a lot of variation in the contribution of different labouring activities to income across wealth groups and across food economy zones. As in a normal year, the better off do not engage in labouring. However, the middle group use labouring as a coping strategy in bad years, hence the contribution of this source to total income was much higher last year compared to the baseline year. For the poor, labouring is a normal part of their livelihoods, but they often try to expand on it in a bad year.

    Agricultural labour has been described under "sources of food", and it is worth noting again that many people chose to be paid directly in food rather than in cash for this type of work, particularly in the early months of 2002.

    Casual labouring involves a variety of activities such as hut construction, brick-making and fencing. It is mainly undertaken by men during the dry season. In parts of Kanyati and Mola, the data for income from casual labour is unusually high because a number of substantial construction projects were undertaken in the wards assessed in the last year, for example school and clinic construction. These caused a large number of people to be able to earn money through brick-making (which paid about Z$650 for 1,000 bricks)and other related work. However it is unlikely that similar work would be available every year, and therefore this may not be a coping strategy that could be regularly relied upon.

    Other Sources of Income

    A variety of other means of earning income were employed during the last year. Brewing normally provides 10-20% of the income for the poor in Mola and Kasvisva, and smaller amounts for other wealth groups. But this year because grain was in short supply and because the price made it so valuable, there was little used in brewing.

    Petty trade and remittances were also largely insignificant across the district, as was the case in the baseline year. It should be noted, however, that the tourist industry in Nyaminyami suffered over the last year from declining business and a number of lodges (such as Bumi Hills) ceased business.

    Nonetheless, contrary to what might be expected, there was a definite improvement in the market for Tonga crafts, apparently unrelated to tourism. Buyers have been coming from Harare and as far as South Africa to purchase baskets, mats and pots on quite a regular basis over the last year. Kasvisva, Msambakaruma and parts of Kanyati (which are on the main road from Karoi) benefited most from this. The traders apparently also travelled through neighbouring Binga district, which also reported an increase in demand for crafts this year.

    Expenditure Patterns

    How people earned their total income last year has been described in the previous section. This section discusses how that income was spent. In referring to expenditure on basic services such as education and healthcare, changes in households' abilities to access these services will also be discussed.

    Expenditure in Mola

    The graphs below show the proportions of total household income spent on various food and non-food items and services.

    It is clear that spending on food dominated total expenditure for all groups. Just under 80%, 65% and 50% of the income of the poor, middle and better off respectively was spent on food. The breakdown between staple (i.e. maize) and non-staple foods (such as oil, sugar, bread) is also important to note. For the poor and middle, maize was very dominant, whereas the better off bought a more varied food basket. These trends are similar to the baseline year, but in that year spending on food accounted for roughly half the amount that it did last year.

    This illustrates two important points in the sequencing of coping strategies. First, as food production and income declines, more money is spent initially on foodstuffs at the expense of other goods and services. Second, more money is spent on maize at the expense of other foodstuffs.

    In comparison with the baseline year, the items on which expenditure was cut were mainly clothing, household items (blankets, utensils, etc.), soap, fuel, beer and tobacco. Households were either willing to forego these items entirely or defer expenditure on them (for example by using the same clothes for another year), or they cut them down to a bare minimum. In the case of soap, for example, many poor households in all three zones reported purchasing one bar of soap per week to cover all bathing and laundry requirements.

    Spending on services such as healthcare and education did not seem to change significantly between the baseline year and last year. However it must be remembered that such spending was very limited initially anyway. As there are no fees for consultations, most healthcare costs relate to transport to the clinics or hospitals for referral. It is only in very serious cases that people will spend the necessary money to send people to hospital. Furthermore, the lack of drugs and other basic supplies available in many clinics meant that many people felt it was not worthwhile to seek treatment there.

    For education, many primary school children received support from the BEAM programme (Basic Education Assistance Module), which is important in enabling them to afford to go to school. Other costs relating to stationery and sports/ building levies still had to be paid by parents, however. Expenditure on education increases substantially when a family sends a child to secondary school, where there are fees, uniforms, stationery and transport or boarding costs to bear. Only the middle and the better off households could afford to send one or more children to secondary school.

    Expenditure - Kasvisva

    In keeping with its somewhat better agricultural position, spending in Kasvisva/ Msambakaruma was less dominated by food, with a greater portion being spent on basic households items such as soap and fuel. Foodstuffs accounted for approximately 60% of total spending for the poor, and 25-30% for the middle and better off. In this area, people earned more food directly through agricultural labouring, which may also account in part for the lower food expenditure in comparison with Mola. There was an increase in the proportions spent on maize by all groups compared to the baseline year, and a decrease in the amount spent on non-staple foods.

    For the poor, the two main items on which expenditure was cut because of the increased need to buy food were transport and agricultural inputs. Many people reported that they were unable to afford to purchase certified seed last year. This had a negative impact on production this year, and is something that must be addressed in the coming season also. "Transport" expenditure was mainly accounted for by visits to relative, or by visits to towns like Karoi; all households had cut back on this.

    Among the middle and better off, there were also cuts made in spending on beer and tobacco. Spending on agricultural inputs, healthcare and education did not change significantly.

    Expenditure - Kanyati

    The effect of the decline in agricultural production in 2001 was very visible in the changing expenditure patterns of households in Kanyati. In a normal year, only the poor have to purchase maize, and even then they only spend 10-15% of their income on maize, with an additional 20-25% spent on non-staple foods. In 2001-02, maize purchases accounted for almost 55% of total spending, while non-staple foods accounted for only 5%. The other items on which cutbacks were made to facilitate increased spending on food were household items, clothing, agricultural inputs, transport and beer/ tobacco.

    For the middle, total food expenditure as a proportion of income doubled compared to the baseline year, with the purchase of maize grain accounting for the increase. The main cutbacks were in spending on agricultural inputs (mainly certified seed and fertiliser) and on beer/ tobacco.

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