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Vulnerability and resilience of competing land-based livelihoods in south eastern Zimbabwe

  • Murungweni, C.
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2011
Wageningen University and Researchcenter Publications
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<p> Key words: vulnerability; resilience; livelihood; drought; Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area; south eastern Zimbabwe.</p> <p> Vulnerability and resilience have emerged as powerful analytical concepts in the study of socio-ecological systems. In this research these concepts are used to enhance our understanding of heterogeneous rural livelihoods in a semi-arid area on the western border of protected wildlife areas in Zimbabwe’s southeast lowveld. The purpose of this thesis is to develop a methodological approach that helps understanding the vulnerability of rural livelihoods to change and relate this to adaptive mechanisms employed by people to cope with the resulting change. Although most households in the study area keep livestock, practice arable farming, and receive remittances, they differ in terms of their dependency on cattle, cropping, and non-farm and off-farm activities, especially in years of drought. Households most dependent on livestock – the cattle-based livelihood type – generally cope with hazards by selling cattle. Households of the crop-based livelihood type strive to spread the risk of crop failure by cropping across the landscape, ranging from flood plains to uplands on the interfluves. Households of the non-farm livelihood type rely for their survival on paid employment outside the study area, mostly of households’ members working in South Africa. Fuzzy Cognitive Mapping (FCM) was used to assess the vulnerability of the three livelihood types to different hazards. The vulnerability analysis shows that policies relating to the permeability and/or enforcement of protected area boundaries can strongly aggravate the effects of other external influences, such as drought or climate change. To cope with drought-induced fodder shortages, people of cattle-based households have recently started to use <em>Neorautanenia amboensis</em> (Schinz). This tuber shrub, locally known as <em>Zhombwe</em>, is now saving many cattle from death in periods of drought, thus reducing livestock keeping households vulnerability to drought. This thesis shows the anthelmintic properties of <em>Zhombwe</em>; its distribution in the field was quantified. Crop experiments explored adaptive strategies which can be used by the households of the crop-based livelihood type to increase food self-sufficiency. Results show that by making better use of different landscape units in the area food production can be increased, both in good and bad rainfall years. By applying a method like FCM and by analysing quantitatively different options for increasing the resilience of the local households, this thesis shows that it is key to take into account the heterogeneity of rural households in an area, as adaption options differ strongly between them. </p>

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