Gender, Drought, Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD), and Resilience in Southern Rhodesia, 1947-1952

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Mathew Ruguwa


This study uses the 1947-49 drought and associated outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) outbreaks in Southern Rhodesia as a lens through which to examine African responses to colonial-era crises, both natural and manmade. It pays special attention to the gender differentiated challenges experienced by displaced people who migrated into the Zimunya and Marange ‘Native Reserves’ in the Umtali district of Manicaland Province after they were dispossessed of their land by the provisions of the Land Apportionment Act (LAA) of 1930, including those affected by the colonial government’s Ex-Servicemen Land Resettlement Scheme in the late 1940s. Guided by a combination of oral interviews, archival documents, and a wide range of secondary sources, the article argues that residents of Zimunya and Marange ‘Native Reserves’ mitigated the effects of drought and FMD by restructuring economic and social life, strengthening kinship networks, and foraging. Mothers and girls deployed various coping mechanisms, including trapping crop destroying pests that damaged crops for food and searching for local temporary employment (maricho) in return for food. Meanwhile, men migrated to urban areas and European-owned farms, where they were employed as wage labours to secure cash. Others who owned stock were forcibly displaced to madhanga (enclosures), where they attended to their livestock, which were being quarantined and vaccinated against FMD by colonial state veterinary officials. Efforts made by residents of these reserves to mitigate the disaster’s effects stimulated societal transformations, including changes in gendered division of labour.

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