Bridging Policy and Practice for Livelihood Resilience in Rural Africa: Lessons from the Mid-Zambezi Valley, Zimbabwe

Admire Mutsa Nyamwanza

Abstract


Building and enhancing livelihood resilience in most rural African communities is becoming a complex policy issue since the principal characteristics of most of these communities in contemporary times have become their increasingly differentiated nature and high socio-economic and environmental uncertainty due to multiple and reinforcing stresses and shocks. A major problem has been the glaring gulf between national policies and realities on the ground with a uniform approach being taken in the interpretation and implementation of general development and livelihoods policies on the ground in most countries. Yet the standard one-size fits-all policy approach is not possible as situations have become increasingly dynamic and conditions continue to differ from community to community. Utilising examples from the mid Zambezi Valley area of Mbire district in Zimbabwe, this paper argues that national policy frameworks should allow ample room for innovation, experimentation and knowledge exchange in local livelihoods. In the same vein, policies and policymakers should exhibit a profound appreciation of the complexity of contemporary, dynamically vulnerable environments and livelihoods therein through increased local stakeholder participation in policy interpretation and implementation as well as in reconceptualising 'sustainability' and viewing it through local lenses.

Keywords: livelihood resilience, policy, practice, stresses, shocks

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The Journal of Rural and Community Development is supported by SSHRC.

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