What next for young people in Zimbabwe’s land reform areas?

Tony Gosling tony at cultureshop.org.uk
Thu Nov 9 20:27:48 GMT 2017

next for young people in Zimbabwe’s land reform areas?



As discussed in the 
series earlier this year, we have been 
investigating inter-generational questions in 
land reform areas. 17 years on, young people born 
after the land reform are leaving school, and 
thinking about what next? Will this be farming, 
or other occupations? In the context of a 
declining economy what prospects are there?

We wanted to hear from those currently in 
secondary school (Form IV, mostly aged between 16 
and 18) and undertook an exercise with school 
students asking two questions in sequence: What 
do you think you will be doing in 20 years’ time? 
And, what are the constraints to getting there?

It was a fascinating set of interactions held in 
three schools in our study areas – in high 
potential Mvurwi, in dryland Wondedzo near 
Masvingo and in the deep Lowveld in Chikombedzi. 
We used 
Q sort methodology, which analyses subjective 
viewpoints using both qualitative and 
quantitative methods. A first step is to decide 
on the statements that are going to be sorted. We 
did this in a separate exercise with a number of 
young people and ended up with 49 statements (a 
list of envisaged occupations) related to the 
first question and 36 statements (on constraints) 
for the second question. You can have a look at 
what young people chose as the full set for 

In the Q sort sessions,  participants are asked 
to rank their opinions along a continuum from 
agree to disagree against a set of statements 
about a subject. In the end we had 61 valid 
responses across the sites, with 39 males and 22 
females. The Q sort method has been used in 
several other studies on youth and agriculture in 
Ghana, including exploring perspectives on 
work and on 
people’s perspectives on farming. We wanted to 
see if the setting of land reform areas in Zimbabwe threw up different results.

The statistical analysis of the sorts (using the 
software – thanks to Jim Sumberg for helping 
navigate this) revealed a number of factors for 
both questions, differentiated by gender but 
combining all the schools. The qualitative 
interpretation exploring what these factors mean 
is the interesting part of the analysis, and is 
hugely revealing on how young people imagine 
their futures, and what constraints they perceive 
as being in the way. This blog focuses on the 
question: “what do you think you’ll be doing in 
20 years’ time?”, preliminary results of which 
before. The next blog focuses on the constraints.

Imagined futures

The analysis of the statements linked to the 
factors highlighted some potential narratives 
around each, including the role of agriculture. 
Some very brief summaries of these narratives are 
presented below. For male students, three factors 
emerge from the statistical analysis:
    * Factor 1 focuses on a future life in 
professional jobs, with mentions of being a 
lawyer, doctor, teacher, solider and nurse 
characterising this group. Some saw this 
happening outside Zimbabwe, including ‘working in 
the UK’. Imagined futures focused on agriculture 
were in management and business roles, such as 
being an irrigation dealer or an owner of an 
agricultural-related business, with less emphasis on actually producing.
    * Factor 2 focuses on being self-employed and 
owning a business. Being a bottle store owner was 
characteristic of this clustering. Commercial 
farming and agricultural marketing/input supply 
jobs were identified as important.
    * Factor 3 relates to wage work, and a number 
relatively low-skilled jobs, including being a 
conductor, driver, working in a factory. Given 
the employment situation in Zimbabwe currently, 
some in this group envisaged themselves working 
in South Africa. Agriculture was more prominent 
in characterising this factor, and involved a 
number of business ‘projects’, including 
vegetable gardening, poultry production, combining with off-farm wage work.

A rather different set of factors emerged amongst 
female students. Again, three are identified. These are:
    * Factor 1 highlights business ownership and 
entrepreneurship. The factor included mention of 
butchery, grocery, grinding mill ownership for 
example. This factor was also associated with 
professional jobs (but few cases), including 
mention of careers as lawyers and in the police 
service. Where agriculture was mentioned, if 
focused on a job, as an input supply dealer or an 
irrigation dealer, but also production for the 
market, with agriculture as a business, including 
commercial vegetable and tobacco production.
    * Factor 2 focuses on piecework – the casual 
sale of labour – as well as the trading of 
vegetables, food and clothes. By contrast to 
Factor 1, these are very low income options, but 
maybe a realistic vision for many. Some in this 
cluster combined these choices with a hope of 
escape, where fortunes would be made, and there 
were mentions of ‘working in the UK’ and 
‘politician’ (in the Zimbabwe context perhaps 
seen as a route to patronage and the spoils of 
corruption). Engagement in agriculture was 
through markets and trading, selling vegetables 
and food, for example, but less focused on direct production.
    * Factor 3 by contrast emphasised service 
jobs (including hairdressing and tourism) and 
care (nurse, being a preacher, looking after 
kids). For this factor, agriculture was not part 
of an imagined future at all it seemed.

Future trajectories

previous blogs have shown, young people’s 
imagined futures do not always pan out. The 
option of becoming a lawyer or doctor or 
migrating to the UK, for example, are available 
to very few. The conditions of 
in the land reform areas are poor, and the 
opportunities for upward mobility constrained, 
perhaps especially so given the declining 
economic conditions in Zimbabwe more generally. 
Escape is an option, and 
to South Africa, the UK and elsewhere have been 
significant in the past, but again options are 
limited, and 
and violence a concern in South Africa.

So it is not surprising that many young people 
imagine getting on through self-employment, 
piecework and small-scale businesses at home. 
Where agriculture is seen as central to future 
livelihoods, it is as a business, or through 
engagement with markets. Some saw themselves as 
focused commercial producers (vegetables and 
tobacco, mostly), but this was not a dominant 
theme in any factor. While in practice many young 
people end up focusing on 
‘projects’ at home, on their parents’ or in-laws’ 
fields, this is not central to their future imaginaries.

The factors also differed by gender. While both 
male and female students mentioned professional 
careers, owning businesses and so on, it was 
noticeable that the male sorters were more 
aspirational, imagining futures in the 
professions or owning lucrative businesses. The 
female students by contrast had generally set 
lower targets, with self-employment and 
entrepreneurship being associated with piecework 
and trading, as well as owning a stores or 
grinding mills. Engaging with agriculture is also 
much less emphasised among women compared to men, 
who saw some options of commercial agricultural 
production, as well as engaging in 
agriculture-related businesses. Significantly 
both male and female sorters highlighted what 
Henry Bernstein would call the ‘fragmented 
classes of labour’, the array of informal, 
fragile and low paid jobs, some including wage 
work, but many simply casual piecework, perhaps 
combined with some part-time agriculture. For 
many this is, even now, envisaged as the future.

In the discussions that followed the sorts, the 
participants were very sanguine about the 
constraints, and these certainly affected their 
choices. The question was purposely focused on an 
self’ – what do you think you will doing in 20 
years? – rather than simply open-ended 
aspirations, where the usual list of footballers, 
pop stars, astronauts and so on get added.

Constraints impinging on futures are very real 
for young people in Zimbabwe, creating 
and anxiety and a resort to drink and drugs for 
some. The 
reform intergenerational question is simply not 
being addressed by policy, development 
programming or government services. The next 
blog, focuses on the array of constraints young 
people identified, and explores the implications.

This post was written by 
Scoones and first appeared on 
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 From South America, where payment must be made with subtlety, the 
Bormann organization has made a substantial contribution. It has 
drawn many of the brightest Jewish businessmen into a participatory 
role in the development of many of its corporations, and many of 
these Jews share their prosperity most generously with Israel. If 
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in Hartford, Connecticut. He had arrived there quite unknown several 
years before our conversation, but with Bormann money as his 
leverage. Today he is more than a millionaire, a quiet leader in the 
community with a certain share of his profits earmarked as always for 
his venture capital benefactors. This has taken place in many other 
instances across America and demonstrates how Bormann's people 
operate in the contemporary commercial world, in contrast to the 
fanciful nonsense with which Nazis are described in so much "literature."

So much emphasis is placed on select Jewish participation in Bormann 
companies that when Adolf Eichmann was seized and taken to Tel Aviv 
to stand trial, it produced a shock wave in the Jewish and German 
communities of Buenos Aires. Jewish leaders informed the Israeli 
authorities in no uncertain terms that this must never happen again 
because a repetition would permanently rupture relations with the 
Germans of Latin America, as well as with the Bormann organization, 
and cut off the flow of Jewish money to Israel. It never happened 
again, and the pursuit of Bormann quieted down at the request of 
these Jewish leaders. He is residing in an Argentinian safe haven, 
protected by the most efficient German infrastructure in history as 
well as by all those whose prosperity depends on his well-being.
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