A migrant sending household
By Vupenyu Dzingirai, Kefasi Nyikahadzoi, Byron Zamasiya, Providence Warinda and Julie Litchifield
Especially after the collapse of the economy in the early 2000s, migration has become big in Zimbabwe. The cash strapped government continues to craft policies - the Zimbabwe Diaspora Policy comes to mind - that facilitate migration which it views as a source of national development. For their part, non-migrant households in rural areas do all they can – from kukwereta (borrowing) to selling goats and chickens – to get at least one young person out of the country. There is a silent hope that migration is a route to yekusasarira – ensuring one is not left behind in poverty.
But there is a different sentiment, at least among those rural households that send children.“Migration is all useless,” remarked Mildred, a poor widow in Chivi District during an Income and Remittances’ Survey in Masvingo Province in the first half of 2018. She added that she, “Had nothing to show for children in the diaspora.”
Mildred’s pessimistic sentiments are supported by Mereki Chisauka in Hurungwe District, 600 km away in northern Zimbabwe. He too complained that migration inguva yekurasha (wasted time). Both parents have at least one son or daughter in South Africa, the most popular destination for Zimbabwean migrants. Among this group, there is undoubted pessimism around migration.
Preliminary evidence from the University of Zimbabwe researchers seems to lend credence to this growing pessimism. Migrant-sending households - whether their member is overseas, local or in the region - have roughly the same number of assets and the same consumption score as non-migrant sending households.
Migrant-sending households have no better access to health and education than their non migrant-sending counterparts. When the puzzled team asked for a general comment about migration and household improvement, survey results were also shocking: Only 39% of the households reported an improvement (kushanduka koupenyu) now, compared to before their household member migrated. 47% of the respondents denied any sort of improvement in their daily life; and, the remaining 16% of the respondents even said migration had worsened their lives.
If these findings are true, and complementary work by the Gender and Generation study also suggests this could be so, then questions present themselves. For example, is it the scale of remittances or their management by migrants and sending household that might explain continuing poverty among those left behind? With an eye to advise government and households who are interested in migration, we will hold several research indaba (community learning workshops), to figure out why migration is not moving, at least some people, out of poverty.