Livelihoods

Discovery of minerals, especially high value ores is often received with optimism by the host communities. However, the prospects of improved quality of life from the mining activities are quick to vanish as families in mining communities begin to experience the high price of living in areas where precious mineral resources are located. Regardless of the geographical area there is a similar pattern within mining communities where host families have been forcibly evacuated from their homes to pave way for extractive activities. In many cases this happens with very little compensation, the social and economic costs of extraction are mortgaged to the local communities.

A recent case in point, is what happened in Chiadzwa, where over 800 families where relocated to Arda Transau following the proliferation of alluvial diamond mining in Marange area. The loss of family assets which entail tangible and intangible stores of value that have been accrued over the years of their existence in these areas is a typical feature in mineral rich regions. In Zimbabwe, this is happening to people who are already overstretched and hardly coping with the current political, social and economic situation that is prevailing in the country. The more obvious losses are the material assets that include but not limited to farming land, livestock, labour, natural resources like forests and water.

Displacement of communities also has other attendant effects of robbing communities of current and future intangibles like productive advantages, social networks and social capital, all of these assets are intricately related to people’s livelihood capabilities. Rural subsistence farming thrives very much on neighbours, kith and kin for draught power, labour, seed for traditionally grown crops, indigenous knowledge and the irreplaceable sense of community identity. Mining does not only deplete local resources, it also rearranges people’s lives in many ways with minimum benefits cascading to the host communities.

In view of these disruptions to economic and social lives in mineral rich communities, it is imperative to suggest ways to strengthen and broaden the livelihood options of the affected families. At a micro level, this entails

a) improving the community’s resilience to shocks, stresses and threats to their livelihoods;

b) enhance pursuit of economic activities;

c) ensure the sustainable utilisation of natural resources and,

d) promote livelihood options that do not threaten generational wealth transfer.