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Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau (2021)

Small-scale farmers’ strategies in dealing with crises : an analysis of household responses to crisis in four villages in rural Zimbabwe

Shayamunda, Locardia

Titre : Small-scale farmers’ strategies in dealing with crises : an analysis of household responses to crisis in four villages in rural Zimbabwe

Auteur : Shayamunda, Locardia

Université de soutenance : Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

Grade : Doctor phil. 2021

Résumé partiel
Crises caused by natural and human-induced disasters have always been part of farmers’ lives, but recently they have proliferated through the emergence of new economic, political and environmental challenges. Generally, it is the ordinary poor people, many of them living in the vulnerable contexts of the rural tropics, who are bearing the brunt of these changes. This is particularly true for many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, where more than two-thirds of the population still depend on agriculture, and a large proportion of rural households suffer from poverty, food insecurity and social unrest. In such contexts, national governments and numerous NGOs, often supported by international donors, become active in supporting small farmers with training programs, the diffusion of technology, credits, social payments, subsidies and infrastructural investments. These efforts have had a remarkable success, except in stopping a general process of local marginalization and environmental degradation. In the end, the vast majority of small-scale farming families are left on their own to face the challenge of sustaining their livelihoods and guarantee food for their families under precarious conditions. More effective measures to support poor rural farmers in Africa are urgently needed that take better account of and stimulate their adaptive capacity to find responses to the manifold challenges.

The research in this thesis aimed to generate empirical insights into farmers’ responses to crises as a basis to supporting small-scale farmers more effectively, particularly those in Sub-Saharan Africa, in times of crisis. This includes three specific objectives : (1) to describe how crises changes the conditions for small-scale farmers’ activities ; (2) to learn how small-scale farmers are responding to these changes ; and (3) to find out what factors are driving farmers’ ’decisions.

To comply with these objectives, the study analyzed in depth the dynamics in four rural villages in Zimbabwe, which represent three typical agricultural contexts in Sub-Saharan Africa : (1) communal agricultural lands with traditional social configurations ; (2) agricultural landscapes formed by individualized settlers ; and (3) areas resettled in the course of land redistribution programs. Zimbabwe was chosen because it is a prime example of a crisis that brought about severe multi-layered political, economic, social and environmental challenges, especially during the presidency of Robert G. Mugabe between 2000 and 2017. Data were gathered, processed and analyzed using a mixed qualitative and quantitative approach. Household surveys were conducted with lead farmers and extension agents to gain an understanding of the factors and conditions that influence farmers’ behavior and choices and to establish categories of farmers. Households were surveyed to determine their characteristics at the personal level (family size, head, level of education, financial situation, and farm experience), the farm level (assets, size, land tenure, remoteness) and the institutional level (extension services, financial support, social organization). Besides, farmers’ households that represented the strategies typically used to cope with the situation of crisis were selected for in-depth interviews to learn about the operational details, underlying rationalities and effects of the strategies they had adopted. Expert interviews and participatory mapping exercises with local experts and leaders were conducted to gain an understanding of how the Zimbabwean crisis changed the conditions under which the farmers live and to grasp the range and spatial relevance of strategies adopted by the farmer in response to the changed conditions. Also, secondary sources were systematically explored for relevant information, including reports from international organizations, non-governmental agencies, local NGOs, public research organizations, farmers’ groups, dairy associations, Internal Savings and Lending Clubs (ISACs) and government agencies.


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Page publiée le 18 novembre 2021