Income status of selected rural households in Zimbabwe: Through the lance of the current socio-economic crisis
The study sought to comparatively assess the sources and levels of income in two rural communities (communal and resettlement) in south-eastern Zimbabwe, in light of the current economic challenges facing the country. A questionnaire was self-administered with the help of research assistants through simple random sampling, with households used as sampling units. The study highlighted agriculture to be the main economic activity and income earner among the households in both study areas which, however, was being practiced on a purely subsistence basis due to various attendant challenges including unsuitability of agro-ecological conditions and resource constraints. The current economic environment in the country has further constrained farming through the unavailability or unaffordability of modern agricultural inputs, as most input manufacturing companies have either downsized or closed business. The inefficiency of agriculture has forced the majority of households to resort to other income sources for survival, with the major ones in both study sites including fishing, selling of crafts, selling of non-timber forest products, selling of firewood and brick moulding. However, the alternative income sources are based on the natural environment, which poses a serious threat to environmental sustainability in the study areas. With the loss of remittances from urban areas due to the current economic decline in the country, which had become an important income source for most rural households in Zimbabwe, it is not surprising to see many households resorting to the natural environment as a source of income. The study recommends that government, in partnership with other rural development agencies, should take measures to strengthen agriculture, as it appears to be the major livelihood activity in both study areas. A transformed and revitalized agriculture would remove the precarious dependence upon natural resources for livelihood among households in the study areas, thereby guaranteeing environmental sustainability in these areas.