Rural community livelihoods and their resilience to flooding

Emmanuel Mavhura of the Department of Geography, Bindura University of Science Education, Bindura, Zimbabwe, looked at shrinking rural livelihoods in Muzarabani, Zimbabwe, and found low human wellbeing and low community resilience to flooding.


There is a close link between livelihoods, the wellbeing of the community, and community resilience. As the community is the first to respond to any disaster, building community resilience is an effective way to cope with the changes induced by hazards and disasters. The objectives of this study are twofold: to examine how an understanding of rural livelihoods can build resilience in the presence of flood risk and to investigate socioeconomic challenges to community resilience against floods.


The data sources for this study canbe divided into three types. First, 20 interviews were conducted with key members of the community. This was a purposive sample where interviewees were selected on the basis of knowledge and experience about flooding in the area. Second, two focus group discussions were held comprising people who had been living in the area for the past five years or more. Each group had 10 people whose ages ranged from 24 to 60. Third, we had data from the 2012 Zimbabwe Population Census.


Rural livelihoods in Muzarabani, Zimbabwe, are shrinking, leading to the community’s resilience to floods being reduced. The low livelihood asset has led to low human wellbeing and hence low community resilience. Changes in assets have caused poverty traps and shifts in the river channel. Sustaining ecosystem services is problematic in the face of disturbances. The natural environment has suffered greatly from floods and human activities, leading to river channels shifting positions and a rapid decline in woodlands. Several socioeconomic challenges are faced by communities to their flood resilience. These include: low income levels and savings, poor access to water and sanitation, high food insecurity, high poverty prevalence, low infrastructural development, low institutional support, and unviable market systems for cash crops. These challenges are reinforcing the poverty traps, the river channel shifts, and woodland’s disappearance.


The low livelihood asset in Muzarabani is leading to low human wellbeing and low community resilience. The changes in assets are causing poverty traps and river channel shifts in the studied area where sustainability of ecosystem services is already problematic in the face of disturbances such as floods. There are several socioeconomic challenges in the community which are reinforcing the poverty traps and causing river channel shifts.


Christo Fabricius, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, South Africa

Reinhard Mechler, Risk, Policy and Vulnerability Program, IIASA


Emmanuel Mavhura of the Bindura University of Science Education, Bindura, Zimbabwe, is a citizen of Zimbabwe and was funded by IIASA’s South African National Member Organization during the SA-YSSP.

Please note these Proceedings have received limited or no review from supervisors and IIASA program directors, and the views and results expressed therein do not necessarily represent IIASA, its National Member Organizations, or other organizations supporting the work.

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Last edited: 18 March 2015

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