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Small farmers’ strategies in dealing with crisis: Responses of rural socio-ecological systems to political crises in Zimbabwe


Crises caused by natural and human induced disasters have been the order of life in many parts of the world. Due to flaws in the global economic system, political and religious unrest, and the effects of climate warming, these crises may accelerate in the future with serious consequences at a global scale. Generally, it is the poor people located in the vulnerable contexts of the global south, who bear the brand. Particularly in many African countries, poor families and communities live in marginalised contexts where the state have limited capacity or willingness to respond and mitigate the threats to the local population, or to provide adequate levels of protection. Despite numerous attempts to support small farmers with training programs, diffusion of technology, small credits, social payments, subsidies, construction and improvement of infrastructure and logistics, the vast majority of families living in the rural areas continues being highly vulnerable. More effective development measures are urgently needed to stabilize these vulnerable regions and to enhance the adaptive capacity of the here living rural poor.  In view of the fairly limited success of the classic interventionist approach to address the needs of the rural poor, this study emphasizes the perspective and potential of local actors to adapt to crises. This approach is grounded on the observation that different socio-ecological systems show varying degrees of resistance and capacity to respond to threats and eventually related opportunities.  To better understand the dynamic, processes and eventually existing potentials of local socio-ecological systems to respond to crises to generate lessons on what measures may help to effectively stimulate eventually existing capacities of marginalised people in difficult circumstances; this research analyses the responses of the socio-ecological systems in three typical rural contexts located in the Chimanimani and Mt. Darwin districts of Manicaland and Mashonaland Central provinces in Zimbabwe, which has been distracted by a massive political and economic crisis since the year 2000. In partnership with local institutions, NGOs, international development agencies and representatives of local actor groups, the doctoral student will initiate reflective processes at local level allowing for collaborative learning on more effective measures for supporting poor families. In each context, relevant actors and their relationships will be identified. In a second step, a historical analysis will reveal how the actor-systems has responded since the crisis began, and who have been the winners and losers and why. Special attention will be given to capture and quantify the social and environmental effects of this dynamic at the landscape level by using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and remote sensing techniques. Workshop with representatives of relevant actor groups will be conducted to present the findings and to discuss influencing factors.


Prof. Dr. Benno Pokorny, Prof. Dr. Heribert Weiland


Locardia Shayamunda


Katholischer Akademischer Auslaender-Dienst (KAAD)

Laufzeit:01. Oktober 2015 – 30. June 2021
PartnerBischoefliches Hilfswerk Misereor e.V.; Arnold Bergstraesser Institute for socio-cultural research; Caritas Mutare and Caritas Chinhoyi.




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