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Library Economic and social components of migration in two regions of Southern Province, Zambia

Economic and social components of migration in two regions of Southern Province, Zambia

Economic and social components of migration in two regions of Southern Province, Zambia

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Date of publication
December 1996
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Paper addresses the migration process in the Zambia's Southern Province. Until recently when droughts and cattle diseases have begun to plague the area, Southern Province was known for its ideal farming conditions. Monze district has been home to vast expanses of commercial farming, as well as smaller "emergent farms" and subsistence farmers, all of whom have benefitted from good soils and climate, and easy access to markets on the line of rail. The Gwembe Valley, which lies south east and 2000 feet below Monze district, is also part of Southern Province. However, environmental and geographical conditions have limited the Gwembe people's ability to feed themselves consistently, let alone engage in regular cash cropping. In both places, migration to frontier farming areas where soils are fertile and rain is plentiful is one option for improving a person's ability to farm successfully. This is not to say that migration is a recent phenomenon. As the section on Zambia's internal migration patterns demonstrates, mobile populations are part of Zambia's history. However, as populations in a given area grow and soil fertility declines over time through repeated use, access to suitable farming lands becomes limited. Migration becomes an outlet for those people lacking land of sufficient size and fertility. While the economic incentive to migrate seems apparent, there are many other issues to consider. In this article I raise the issue of social networks in home villages as they relate to resource access. What makes one man migrate and another in the same village remain at home? Through data collected in two different studies, we see the importance of social links and local power relations in determining who has access to which resources, including land and farming implements. The social dynamic between father and son often causes a son to loose access to his father's cattle and plow, with no local alternative for farming his own field. Scrambling for land upon the death of an elder often leaves at least one relative landless. Both of these situations can lead to an individual migrating to a frontier farming area where he has relatives and perhaps better access to farming resources. Following the methodology section introducing the two migration studies on which this article is based, I give a brief history of internal migration in Zambia as background to the current movement patterns found in Southern Province. In discussing migration patterns from the Gwembe Valley and Monze area specifically, I highlight the fluidity of the migration process as well as demographic characteristics of migrant populations. Each region has unique characteristics which influence migrants' decisions. In the section on causes for migration I highlight the social component of many migrants' moves. Problems of drought and poor economy are often the final straw for a young man who has struggled to gain enough land or cattle to farm in his parents village. This last straw is then simply a kick to force a decision which has been brewing for years. In the final section I discuss the link between migrants and their relatives at home. Rarely is this link based on altruistic notions of family support and cooperation; instead it is a dynamic relationship negotiated at each end by individuals struggling to have their needs met. [author]

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L Cliggett

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Geographical focus