Human demographic situation
Zimbabwe's birth rate is one of the highest in world. Only three developing countries -- Jordan, Bangladesh, and Nepal -- had a higher crude birth rate and general fertility rate than Zimbabwe at the time of the 1982 census.
The average Zimbabwean mother has 5.6 children. Consequently, the population is increasing by just over three percent a year with an estimated doubling rate of only 18.7 years. The total population stands at about 9 million.
The majority of the people of the Limpopo valley are found in the communal lands of Zimbabwe or the homeland of South Africa. These are areas which were set aside for the indigenous populations of the two countries during the apartheid era. These areas are marginal for most agricultural activities because of the very low and erratic rainfall they receive. This case study will look specifically at one of the most neglected of the communal lands in the country, Sengwe communal land. It is also felt that this communal lands epitomizes, the land use conflicts that haunt the different stake holders of the Limpopo valley.
Sengwe communal lands; population dynamics
The 1992 census puts the population of Sengwe communal lands at 20 890 (C.S.O. 1992). Population growth rate is at 3.17%, above the national average of 3.13%. To a limited extent the population figures here have been boosted by migration of people fleeing civil strife in Mozambique. Population density is approximately 9 people per km2. There are more women than men, and in general, male absentism is close to 41% (ENDA, 1993). Most of the men either work in the sugar plantations around Chiredzi or across the border in South Africa and only come home for holidays. See table below. note the small percentage in the 18 - 50 age group.
Population by age distribution
AGE % of total household population
The socio-cultural set up makes development strategies rather difficult to implement. Male absentism has a telling effect on the development options available to the communal land. Men are the de facto household heads. They make all the important decisions affecting the household. Their absence of course is a case of economic survival. The subsistence options open to them within the communal land are far from rosy and at the moment do not compete with the external 'pull' factors, the sugar cane and citrus plantations.
As the resident household heads, women are not empowered to make decisions. Culturally, they are sub-ordinate to men. Thus women feel subjugated by their absent husbands and would hesitate or even refuse to make pertinent decisions in the absence of their husbands. Any development strategy for this area would have to take cognisance of this issue. In addition, the existing rural institutions involved in decision making have to be carefully looked at.