Table 1. General description of livelihood types in southeastern Zimbabwe.


Livelihood type General attributes Coping strategies during drought
Cattle based
• Large kraal
• At least 20 cattle (median 30)
• At least one granary
• At least two ploughs and a Scotch cart
• Household head usually > 50 yr old and present
• Household head has primary education level
• Big homestead with at least one brick four-bedroom house
• Family size average 15
• Cropping
• No problems sourcing inputs


• Sell cattle (usually in Mozambique) or exchange cattle for food
• Keep medicines for common diseases of cattle
• Usually rent grazing land from commercial farms of Gonakudzingwa or migrate with the livestock to specific distant areas with better grazing and water points
• Loan some cattle to those in need to save on labour demands for watering cattle using buckets
• Use Zhombwe† tubers for cattle most affected by drought
• Ferry relief food (for a fee) for those benefitting from donors
• Hire labor in times of labor constraints

Crop-cattle based
• Average size kraal
• < 20 cattle (median 10)
• At least one granary
• One or two ploughs and a Scotch cart
• Household head 40–50 yr old and present
• Household head has infant to junior primary education level
• Average to small size homestead in poor households
• Family size average 10
• Balance land size for cropping between dry land and vlei areas
• Cash for inputs and how to get inputs to farm are problems


• Sell other livestock species besides cattle in drought years
• Exchange food for cattle in good years
• Buy cattle with extra cash
• Value wetter areas like the Banyeni (fertile, low-lying flat areas that can retain moisture longer than surrounding areas) and the Gumbini (river banks) for cropping
• Borrow cattle from some cattle farmers in times of need
• Harvest wild fruits (especially around Pfungwe, an area with fruit trees along the Limpopo river)
• Dig Zhombwe tubers to feed cattle; rent grazing areas or graze cattle inside park illegally
• Get donor assistance, plant more sorghum, use traditional seeds

Non-farm based
• Small or no kraal
• Small thatched round huts to four-bedroom houses with corrugated iron roof, in most cases they have aerials for access to the phone network
• 0 to 10 cattle (median 1)
• No granary
• Receive remittances
• Crop in wetter areas and have a permanent garden
• Usually no farming equipment (but may own a bicycle)
• Household head < 40 yr old and away most of the time
• Household head has infant education level
• Average to small size homestead in poor households
• Family size average 5


• Rent cattle from those with many
• Brew beer or make traditional dishes and invite others neighbours to plough, plant, and eat together at one function
• Increase off-farm activities
• Receive steady remittances
• Hire out labor within and outside Zimbabwe
• Get food aid (only if on the perceived poorer side of this livelihood type

†Zhombwe (Neorautanenia amboensis Schinz) is a perennial, leguminous, mostly erect herb or shrublet producing purple flowers on often trailing stems averaging 0.82 m in height. It forms an underground tuber of up to 35 kg (70% water) that has been given to cattle as feed and medicine during droughts in southeastern Zimbabwe since the 1991–1992 drought.