Exploring changing rural livelihoods, and woodland use and management in the communal areas of Zimbabwe
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This paper explores changes in rural livelihoods in some communal areas of Zimbabwe from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, and attempts to identify the determinants of change. There were notable increases in: use of informal credit as a main income source; growing certain cash crops; gardening as a main income source; and sales of livestock, crafts, firewood and wild fruits. Decreases were noted in cropping area and percentage of households having fallow land, and there was probably a decrease in the level of remittances. Local people perceived deterioration in the quality of natural resources. Most of the changes were already evident in 1985/86. A few only became evident in the 1990s, a period of economic reforms and severe drought. The study relates the changes of the past decade to: (1) general decline in the economy and the introduction of economic reforms; (2) trends towards modernisation and commercialisation; (3) population increase within the communal areas; and (4) drought. These drivers of change need further investigation. In general, there are no changes in woodland quality that can be exclusively ascribed to recent economic reforms. Rather, loss of woodland resources can be largely attributed to increasing populations in the communal areas and to commercialisation trends.
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