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Research Report

Household Livelihoods in Semi-Arid Regions:: Options and Constraints

B.M. Campbell
S. Jeffrey
W. Kozanayi
M. Luckert
M. Mutamba
C. Zindi
Copyright Date: Jan. 1, 2002
Pages: 170
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 3-5)

    This book is about the challenges and constraints rural households face in living in semi-arid areas, and the role of development in alleviating poverty. Foremost among the challenges are the often-marginal environmental conditions for many forms of agriculture, created by low and erratic rainfall, frequent droughts and generally poor soils (Scoones et al. 1996; Mortimore 1998; Frost and Mandondo 1999). Surface and groundwater supplies are often poorly developed, unreliable or contaminated by livestock. Access to good-quality agricultural land is often limited, sometimes by high population densities (e.g., Malawi) or by the alienation of better farming land for large-scale commercial concerns...

  2. (pp. 6-13)

    The work was conducted at two sites in Chivi District of Masvingo Province in southeastern Zimbabwe. The study areas were the villages of Romwe (20° 45’S, 30° 46’E) and Mutangi (20° 15’S, 30° 30’E) surrounding two physical micro-catchments. They are 70 km apart as the crow flies (Figure 1). In Romwe the physical catchment was centred on the Chidiso collector well,⁴ used for small-scale irrigation of the Chidiso garden. In Mutangi the physical catchment was that of the Mutangi Dam, also used for small-scale irrigation (Figure 2). Our survey covered households from villages in the so-called social catchment, covering the...

  3. (pp. 14-22)

    In order to collect data to support the livelihood analysis, a household questionnaire was designed and administered. The survey paid particular attention to the need to ask questions that did not require long–term, detailed memory, and were therefore answerable with a high degree of accuracy. Therefore, highly disaggregated data were collected, and then aggregated by the analysts. The uniqueness of the survey has to be noted. The survey followed the methods of Cavendish (1999a; 2002a), with some modifications that we believe are improvements. Cavendish (1999a) notes that such survey instruments lead to unique empirical results; very few of the resource-use...

  4. (pp. 23-24)

    In conducting the analyses in this paper, we were interested in how income sources differ amongst households. While we return to the topic of differentiation in detail in Chapters 7 and 8, here we need to introduce one of the major differentiating factors: asset status, as this will be used in the descriptive results presented in the subsequent sections. Wealth ranking, a PRA technique, was undertaken for three villages centred on the Romwe physical catchment to explore local perceptions of household stratification. The key informants regarded ‘wealth’ as the main differentiating factor. In the wealth ranking, 10% of the households...

  5. (pp. 25-55)

    Households use a variety of resources as inputs into their production processes as they attempt to meet and extend their livelihood needs. These can be classified as human, financial, physical, natural and social capital, as has been popularised in the sustainable livelihoods approach (Carney 1998). We have used the five capital assets as a means to structure this chapter, as it ensures that all the components of the livelihood assets are addressed. Similarly, in our modelling endeavours we have used the capital assets framework as an organising principle. By breaking down the assets into different components one risks having a...

  6. (pp. 56-82)

    Given the assets that households have at their disposal, what productive activities do they undertake? In this chapter we describe the productive activities of households and the cash and subsistence (in-kind) benefits that households receive from those activities. What becomes clear is the variety of goods and services coming from the land and the diversity of income-generating activities. While differentiation data are presented in this chapter but we return to differentiation in Chapter 7 by looking at the gross income characteristics of different household types. Given the difficulty of calculating expenses for each of the livelihood sub-components, this chapter is...

  7. (pp. 83-88)

    It is apparent from the case studies that households have a rich diversity of livelihood strategies. We see households that concentrate on gardening (Box 11), dryland crop activities with emphasis on cotton (Box 3), cattle raising (Box 8), woodland activities (Box 5), trading (Box 9), local employment (Box 6), or off-site employment (Box 12). At another level, however, the differences among households are quantitative rather than qualitative, with households largely involved in the same set of basic activities but with quantitatively different amounts of time spent on and returns from each. Even in the boxes presented here there is never...

  8. (pp. 89-103)

    We now turn to net income, that is, gross income less non-labour costs. As described earlier this is a standard measure of welfare in rural household studies (Section 3.2.2). We first look at total net income and poverty status, reflect on local perceptions of poverty and explore factors important in moving people out of poverty. We then explore the variation in net income and its components, using similar techniques as used to study gross income (Chapter 6). We also investigate the degree to which households depend on environmental resources. Finally we summarise, reflecting on the links between assets and production....

  9. (pp. 104-117)

    Having described the livelihood system in detail, it is sobering to consider that all the quantitative data are only a snapshot for the growing season 1998/99 and the subsequent dry season. A single year of data may be better than nothing but, in these highly dynamic systems, it is of limited use. Supplementing it with qualitative data has helped to show how livelihood strategies change. In this section we synthesise and summarise the qualitative insights about livelihood changes, and supplement the discussion with additional quantitative data, where available (Section 9.1). We then go on to identify five key drivers of...

  10. (pp. 118-124)

    As described earlier, an integrated model (Bayesian Network — BN) was produced over the period of the three-year project. An iterative process culminated in a four-day workshop in which nine researchers finalised the model (Section 3.5). The focus of the model was on investigating the best ways to improve the cash income of poor people, as this was considered to be the key to other livelihood improvements. In previous sections we have indicated the key role that cash plays in local livelihoods, and how the local economy is becoming increasingly monetised (Sections 6.5.1 and 6.5.4). We also explored ‘vulnerability’, which...

  11. (pp. 125-141)

    In this research, we embraced the now well-established sustainable livelihoods perspective as the entry point for analysis and action. We now examine the usefulness of such an approach (Section 11.1). The major part of this last chapter looks to the future in terms of what the development community can do to achieve the poverty-alleviation goals it has set itself. In the second section we examine the resourcefulness of farmers, their apparently infinite ability to rise to new challenges. However, we do not see this as meaning poverty will disappear — we conclude, rather pessimistically, that the current processes of intensification...