This article is based on a study funded by the Global Poverty Research Group (Economic and Social Research Council, UK). The authors wish to thank participants at the conference ‘Living on the Margins’ in Cape Town, March 2007, and the anonymous referees of this journal, for comments on an earlier version of the paper, as well as Lis Cordingley for advice on statistical analysis and Jenny Elliott for access to her earlier studies in Svosve.
Communal Tenure and Rural Poverty: Land Transactions in Svosve Communal Area, Zimbabwe
Version of Record online: 23 APR 2008
© Institute of Social Studies 2008
Development and Change
Volume 39, Issue 2, pages 285–308, March 2008
How to Cite
Chimhowu, A. and Woodhouse, P. (2008), Communal Tenure and Rural Poverty: Land Transactions in Svosve Communal Area, Zimbabwe. Development and Change, 39: 285–308. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-7660.2008.00480.x
- Issue online: 23 APR 2008
- Version of Record online: 23 APR 2008
The idea of communal tenure has formed a key plank in the rural governance of Zimbabwe since independence, but its retention following the Fast Track land reforms of 2000–2002 perpetuates a distinction between ‘commercial’ land governed by a land market and ‘communal’ land on which market transactions are illegal. This article draws on recent research in Svosve Communal Area to examine the dynamics of land access and their implications for rural poverty in Zimbabwe. The authors argue that, as in many other parts of Africa, access to land governed by customary authority in Svosve is increasingly commoditized via informal, or ‘vernacular’, sales or rental markets. In failing to acknowledge and address this commoditization of land, the ‘communitarian’ discourse of customary land rights that dominates the politics of land in Zimbabwe — as elsewhere in much of Africa — undermines, rather than protects, the livelihoods of the rural poor.