Five main sources of vulnerability exist for families in these settlements. The first two apply to the short term (within the next six months), the third and fourth are ongoing threats, and the last applies to medium-term livelihood security.
1. Population influx
Chihwiti continues to receive sizeable numbers of new settlers every week. At some point the carrying capacity of the land will be exhausted, and the ability of existing settlers to support individual newcomers (usually relatives) will also be exhausted. The experience in Gambuli would suggest that newcomers will simply be refused permission to settle if that capacity is reached. However it is difficult to control the entry of individuals when they join existing households, therefore there is still some threat to livelihoods from an increased population.
2. Reduction in employment on commercial farms
Two commercial farms in the vicinity of Chihwiti and Gambuli provide a vital source of income for large numbers of residents of those settlements, predominantly from the poorer sections of the communities. Production on those farms does not appear to have been affected to date by the ongoing land reform process. However, should those farms be designated, occupied or resettled, employment opportunities for casual workers will be one of the first affected areas (as was shown in FCTZ 2001a).
Prices of foodstuffs, non-food items and agricultural inputs continue to rise rapidly in this area, as in the rest of the country. As is indicated above, most families have some capacity to reduce expenditure or, conversely, to cope with some level of inflation with existing income. The poor in Chihwiti вЂ“ who are the most cash-poor вЂ“ rely more on payment-in-kind in the form of maize for piecework, and therefore are partially insulated from the effects of price rises. Hence, on its own, inflation is unlikely to cause too much hardship, but would exacerbate the effects of other shocks.
4. The unofficial status of the settlements
Efforts have been made by the authorities to close these settlements and evict residents on a number of occasions over the last 10 years. Given the importance of the output of their land, the impact of such eviction on all residentsвЂ™ livelihoods would be extremely serious. Around the time of this assessment, however, the government did indicate that moves would be made to make the status of the settlements official.
5. Crop failure
Agriculture is hugely important to Chihwiti and Gambuli both as a source of food and of income. Crop failure, for example due to drought or excessive rain, therefore, could potentially be extremely damaging to these communities.