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Household Economy Assessment: Chihwiti and Gambuli Informal Settlements - October 2001


The assessment findings suggest that food security is not currently a high priority area for intervention in either Chihwiti or Gambuli. In the short-term, all wealth groups are predicted to be able to meet their minimum food needs, mainly as a result of reasonably good food and cash crop harvests earlier in the year, and the availability of employment opportunities in the form of piecework within the settlements and on nearby commercial farms. Some households in Chihwiti may fall slightly short of their food needs, but there does not appear to be a justification for food aid.

Although there appears to be capacity in Chihwiti (though not Gambuli) to absorb more settlers, it will be important to continue to monitor population changes in the settlements. Very soon, further new arrivals will be too late to cultivate this year and they could place a heavy burden on support from relatives and others already in the settlements. New arrivals may be able to find employment on farms in the area, but already in Gambuli the amount of piecework available is becoming limited. The status of the commercial farms where people from these settlements currently get occasional employed must also be monitored. The closure of these farms would have an extremely detrimental impact on the livelihoods of the poor in Chihwiti and Gambuli.

Both settlements appear to have very good potential for further agricultural development, however, and the situation of households in the poor wealth group in particular could be enhanced through medium- and longer-term support. The land appears to be quite productive, and all households have access to at least 3 acres. Input credit schemes, for example, would probably be viable and very beneficial in these settlements. However until the status of these communities is formalized, there will probably be a reluctance for private companies to extend existing schemes to these areas.

Although food may not be a significant problem at present, it is stressed that the level of provision of basic services such as water and sanitation, healthcare and education in the settlements is extremely poor, and there are great needs in these sectors. Improvements in the health status in particular of these communities could have very positive knock-on effects for food security in terms of improved productivity.

Wider Applicability of Conclusions and a Note on Targeting

It should be stressed that although the situation in these settlements does not appear to warrant emergency food aid or relief interventions at this time, this should not be considered necessarily to have wider applicability in relation to displaced farm workers. The circumstances and nature of displacement will vary from area to area, and will clearly have different implications for livelihoods. The ability of workers to move with their assets or savings, the timing of their displacement, the existence of relatives elsewhere with whom they can stay, the availability of land and employment opportunities in the area to which they have moved, and their access to agricultural inputs will all have a bearing on their capacity to re-start their lives.

If anything, the situation described here may turn out to have a greater resemblance to the situation of new settlers on acquired or occupied commercial farms rather than that of displaced farm workers. One practical point regarding interventions that should also be highlighted is that it would be extremely difficult, and arguably unwarranted, to attempt only to target the recently displaced in a context such as this. The difficulty would arise partly because new arrivals are often absorbed into existing families, and also because they do not seem to be particularly worse off than existing residents. This point may have a wider applicability regarding former farm workers, as it increasingly appears that they are being absorbed into existing settlements, rather than creating new settlements as was originally feared would occur.

  • Positive steps recently taken by the Government towards the formalisation of the status of Chihwiti and Gambuli should be encouraged

  • More broadly, the Government needs to give greater consideration to the issue of land tenure for commercial farm workers within a broader programme of land reform and rural development in Zimbabwe

  • Ongoing monitoring should be carried out of population changes in the settlements and of the status of the commercial farms which provide seasonal employment to large numbers of residents.

  • Agritex and the Department of Veterinary Services should extend their services to these settlements to provide the necessary support for agricultural development.

  • FCTZ should engage with private companies currently operating agricultural input credit schemes in other areas to examine means of extending those schemes to Chihwiti and Gambuli, or should establish such a scheme itself.

  1. For recommendations relating to health, water and sanitation and education, please see the Baseline Study.
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