2001 ZIM: Study on Socio-Economic Status of Children and Women on Commercial Farms, Mining and Peri-Urban Areas
Author: Zimbizi, G.
Zimbabwe is currently facing a multitude of political, social and economic changes. An assessment is necessary because of lack of specific details on where the vulnerable groups are located, exact numbers and the extent and nature of the vulnerability.
Purpose / Objective
This phase of the study focused on limited but specific cases which, though less generalisable, provided significant insight upon which a full-scale national vulnerability assessment can be based. The assessment sought to review recent studies and surveys on vulnerable groups, consult with relevant stakeholders to determine the extent and nature of vulnerability of women and children in commercial farming, mining and peri-urban areas, and to identify further needs and requirements for further in-depth study for purposes of assistance and intervention.
The broad objectives were to:
1. collect primary and secondary information on the nature and extent of vulnerability of women and children in commercial farming, mining and peri-urban areas, their numbers and geographical location
2. identify further needs and resource requirements of existing institutions in the NGO and government sectors and discuss practical modalities for further in-depth assessment of vulnerable groups in Zimbabwe
3. identify coping mechanisms of the affected women and children, and the possible areas of assistance to improve their livelihoods both in the short and long term
Recent literature and studies on vulnerability in the three target areas were reviewed. Focus group discussions were held with women and children in one closed-down mine, two commercial farms and one peri-urban area. A semi-stuctured questionnaire was administered to individual women and youths in the target areas as well.
Anthropometric measurements were done on 241 children five years and younger to determine their nutritional status. The research team used observational checklists to note the physical conditions of children under five, conditions of shelter structures, water and sanitation sources and conditions of health and educational facilities.
Around 20 interviews with key informants were held with mine authorities, health and education officials, government officials, NGO representatives and local leadership.
The limited sample was a result of the limited budget; additionally, the narrow scope of this study was meant to be the basis upon which a much wider and representative assessment would follow. The results of this pilot study should not be viewed as nationally representative. Another constraint was the unwillingness by some key informants to release information because of their fear of the volatile political situation.
Key Findings and Conclusions
Commercial farm workers' core source of livelihood has been shaken by the current land distribution programme being spearheaded by the government. The fast track land resettlement programme, in its current format, has threatened the livelihoods of the commercial farm workers through loss of jobs, reduced working week due to a decline in operations, and displacement without alternative areas to settle on.
In this study, less than 5% of the workers on designated farms were resettled and the rest, though still staying at the two farms, were not settled and unemployed. Nearly half of the farm workers (48.5%) reported severe food shortages in the last twelve months. 35.5% are meeting their food requirements by working in neighbouring communal areas and farms, 32.3% are buying their food while 16.1% are relying on remittances from children and relatives. 6.5% of the households had access to arable land and the rest have only small patches on which to grow vegetables.
On both farms, the workers no longer have reliable piped water supply and, in the event of water cuts, the workers had to fetch water from unprotected sources some 2.5 km away.
The two farms were serviced by mobile health clinic but they are now asked to buy drugs that they say they could hardly afford. 45% had an ill family member but did not seek treatment. 12% of children under age 5 years were severely undernourished and 24% were moderately undernourished, bringing the total number of undernourished children to 36%. This is far above the national average of 14% in 1999.
The priority needs mentioned by all farm workers were food and health in the immediate term, and consideration in the resettlement exercise in the longer term.
The most likely scenario in the commercial farm sector is that there will be massive displacement of farm workers who are likely to form new squatter settlements around provincial urban centres rather than Harare because of the transport costs of travelling to peri-urban areas around the capital city.
Emergency needs of displaced commercial farm workers include shelter, water and sanitation, food and health facilities. There is a need to start mobilising for such resources because there is evidence that this group is already in a stressful situation and there is also evidence that massive displacements will take place soon.
The decline in world mineral prices and a decline in investment in the mining sector as a result of the prevailing socio-economic and political situation is likely to witness a further deterioration in the mining sector, culminating in more job losses. What makes the mineworker critically vulnerable is that he depends entirely on wage labour, does not have access to land and the majority does not have communal homes. Any loss of income therefore immediately threatens food security.
At Mhanguar, the closure of the mine in November 2000 retrenched 1,200 workers and affected a total population of around 15,000 people who relied directly or indirectly on the mine for their livelihoods. Of the 56 households interviewed, only 5 of the household heads were in some form of formal employment; 3 as permanent workers and 2 as contract workers, all at non-mine establishments. The rest, 91%, were not formally employed. The majority of the households (57%) have no alternative sources of income and rely on borrowing, 10% rely on remittances from working children and friends, 7% rely on informal trading and another 7% are engaged in the sale of vegetables. Those who had received packages were involved in usury as a way of generating income. Child prostitution, drug peddling and poaching were mentioned as some of the survival strategies being embarked upon by some of the community members.
82.1% of the households reported food shortages in the past twelve months. At the time of the research, the households no longer had access to chlorinated water, the water supply was erratic, the toilets were hardly cleaned, sewage was overflowing, garbage was uncollected and grass was uncut, services which used to be provided by the mine. Many worms, flies and mosquitoes could be seen roaming in the toilets.
Mine workers and their dependents used to be afforded free medical treatment by the mine but after they were given their retrenchment packages, they were supposed to pay for health services at the hospital. 53% of the respondents said that members of their household had fallen sick but did not seek medical treatment because they could not afford the drugs. 50% of children below the age of two had diarrhoea in the two weeks preceding the survey. 2.5% of children 5 years and younger were severely under-nourished and 5.8% were moderately undernourished.
Main needs in terms of priorities were food 100%, education 92.8%, and health 85.7% in the immediate term. In the long term, the majority 82.1% wanted to be allocated land and the second priority was income-generating projects 67.9%.
Given the above situation, there is a need to provide emergency assistance to families at affected mines in the form of food aid, supplementary feeding, water and sanitation, health and education. The findings of this study on the mining sector show consistency with results of other studies and confirms the need for immediate relief to affected communities.
At Porta Farm, 61 families have moved in since December 2000, mainly from the surrounding commercial farms. The increase in the population has strained the little and overstretched available resources, namely water and sanitation, shelter, health and education facilities. The most likely scenario is that there is going to be a continued influx of people to peri-urban settlements as the economic situation continues to deteriorate.
The local development committee noted that on average, five families were coming to the Porta Farm informal settlements every month. 23.4% of the household heads were employed permanent workers, 62,5% were unemployed, 10.9% were self employed and 3.1% were still in school. 56 children of primary school age and 73 children of secondary school age were not attending school. The main reasons cited were need to work to look after families 50.4%, lack of school fees 31%, and dropping out of their own will 18.6%.
Out of 64 households interviewed, only one household had access to land and the rest had very small patches of land, which they used to grow vegetables. 87.5% had experienced food shortages in the twelve months preceding the research and the same households reported that there are days that they have gone without having a meal.
All the households have access to communal taps from which they draw water for domestic consumption. 67.2% of the households had their own individual latrines. The majority of the houses are made of plastic, pole and dagga and thatch with earth hardened floors.
Porta Farm is serviced by a mobile health clinic and 62.5% said the clinic does not have enough drugs. 75% of the households reported that a member had fallen ill but failed to seek medical treatment because they could not afford the medical fees. 5.2% of children under five were severely undernourished and 11.5% were moderately undernourished.
The main needs of the community were child supplementary feeding, shelter consideration in the resettlement programme and setting up of income-generating projects.
Rapid vulnerability assessments must be commenced as soon as possible to get a national picture of what is happening on the ground. Results of this study indicate that the food security situation on the farms and mines might reach catastrophic levels in the not too distant future. The number of people who have flocked to peri-urban areas is not known and it is imperative that other peri-urban areas in other towns be assessed because it seems there is a movement to these areas. There is a need to put in place a monitoring system to enable quick identification and response to emergency situations of vulnerable groups.
There is a need to identify the adaptive and coping mechanisms of the people in these areas so that those that are viable can be encouraged through training and funding, e.g. vending at Porta Farm and mushroom collecting at Rhodesdale Farm. The situation in these three areas is more precarious than other vulnerable groups facing the same socio-economic climate in that they have very limited coping mechanisms at their disposal.
The current land redistribution exercise has to take into account farm and mine workers as well as those in peri-urban areas. Lobbying of government to bring its attention to the plight of these vulnerable groups has to be a continuous process so that they do not escape the attention of the government.
NGOs and UN agencies have to closely co-ordinate to have a systematic response. What is currently happening is that different organizations are carrying out their own independent assumptions, resulting in a duplication of research. An inter-organisational disaster-preparedness team needs to have an inventory on what each stakeholder organization is doing.
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