Source: Field interviews, October-November, 2002
A few households (between two and five in each province) reported that they had under-15s working to supplement their income. This was mainly through farm work, piece-work and informal vending. If there is no under-reporting by respondents, then child labour is not widespread.
In sum, there are few opportunities for supplementary income-generating activities for farm workers. However, focus group discussions in October 2002 identified more means for survival: selling second-hand clothes, moulding bricks, making mats and selling vegetables. Unfortunately, the survey could not establish the scale of these activities. Some coping strategies are quite basic. Several groups in Masvingo and Mashonaland Central stated that gathering wild fruit (such as matamba and hacha) was an important food supplementing activity.
One other way in which farmworkers have sought to cope with the changing situation has been to construct or join informal settlements. The number of such settlements, also known as ’squatter camps’, is growing. In addition to Chihwiti and Gambuli, there are others at Concession, Macheke and Porta farm near Norton. These settlements are a last resort for the farm workers who gravitate towards them. About 51 per cent of occupants at Gambuli and Chihwiti settlements, 38 per cent at Concession and 63 per cent at Macheke had come from commercial farms.
What is the profile of these settlements and how do the occupants cope? Most of them were founded almost spontaneously in the late 1990s and after the start of the fast-track reform. They are home to landless and jobless people, including a significant number of former farm and mine workers. In 1998, a study in Mashonaland West observed that the ‘squatters’ were seasonal tobacco workers, gold panners, destitute people and others displaced from different parts of the province (Zishiri, 1998). The later phase of the creation of informal settlements included the founding of the Concession settlement known as Maratos, about 50km southwest of Bindura in Mashonaland Central. One report observed:
influx of settlers into the settlement began in May 2000 amid occupation of commercial farms. The settlers are mostly made up of people who moved from rented accommodation in an undeveloped section of Dandamera township. They joined former employees on the farm that was previously leased as well as those who moved from commercial farming areas … (FCTZ, 2002a)
The Chihwiti and Gambuli settlements were originally state farms that had been leased out. At these two settlements, farm workers were the most vulnerable group seeking sanctuary. They were the ‘poorest group’; they sold their labour for food and about 30 per cent of their children had dropped out of school (FCTZ, 2002c). At the Macheke settlement, about 50 per cent of households consisted of migrant workers, and more than 70 per cent of occupants who had arrived in the previous 12 months had come from commercial farms (FCTZ, 2002d). At Porta farm near Norton, there was also a growing number of displaced farm worker households (field interviews, October 2002). They had settled there as ‘squatters’ and were engaged in informal trade and sometimes fishing (Standard, 25 June 2002). Clearly, although conditions were poor, the settlements provided a sanctuary for a growing number of former farm workers. There was, at least, one advantage in belonging to an informal settlement: they were within the reach of local donor organisations and the authorities were aware of their desperate conditions (see Chapter 5). There exists a prospect for some kind of collective solidarity for survival emerging in those settlements. However, it is not yet quite clear what their future will be.
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