So far this chapter has sought to explain and describe the extent of the crisis in food security and the declining fortunes of vulnerable social groups in farm worker communities. Clearly, problems of food scarcity are not confined to farm workers but have become widespread in the wider rural and even urban society. However, the implementation of land reform in conditions of economic crisis and drought has made these social groups even more vulnerable than they would normally be. It is important to explore how they are coping now that commercial farms have scaled back or halted production, and food shortages have become more acute.
Those coping mechanisms are part of a wider process of adjusting to a fluid, still evolving situation (see Chapter 3). The situation appeared to remain fluid on most farms until Section 8 notices were issued in mid-2002, leading to the exodus of the majority of white commercial farmers. Until then there had remained a prospect, however remote, that somehow co-existence with the settlers could stabilise. Some of the strategies pursued by farm workers in that context included piece-work, informal vending, gold panning, fishing and hunting (FCTZ, 2002b). Among the farm workers interviewed, about 47 per cent in Mashonaland West, 56 per cent in Mashonaland East, 70 per cent in Mashonaland Central and 43 per cent in Manicaland said that they engaged in piece-work. This was mainly at the peak of the agricultural season, especially at planting, weeding and harvesting. In Mashonaland Central, the trend was for former farm workers to hire out their labour to the new settlers who could not cope with their increased workload. However, piece-work jobs are neither secure nor as well paid as permanent jobs. No benefits, such as leave and medical support, go with this type of employment.