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Water and Soil in Holy Matrimony?

A smallholder farmer�s innovative agricultural practices for adapting to climate in rural Zimbabwe

Christopher Munyaradzi

Publication Year: 2017

This book is a biography based on a qualitative ethnographic study of adaptation to climate by Mr Zephaniah Phiri Maseko, an award-winning smallholder farmer from Zvishavane, rural Zimbabwe. Ethnographic data provides insight and lessons of Mr Phiri Maseko and other farmers� practices for rethinking existing strategies for adaptation to climate change. The concept of adaptation is probed in relationship to the closely related concepts of vulnerability, resilience and innovation. This study also explores the concept of conviviality and argues that Mr Phiri Maseko�s adaptation to climate hinges on mediating barriers between local and exogenous knowledge systems. The book argues that Mr Phiri Maseko offered tangible adaptive climate strategies through his innovations that �marry water and soil so that it won�t elope and run-off but raise a family� on his plot. His agricultural practices are anchored on the Shona concept of�hurudza�(an exceptionally productive farmer). This book explores the concept and practices of�uhurudza,�to suggest that the latter-day�hurudza�(commercial farmer)�as embodied by Mr Phiri Maseko offers an important set of resources for the development of climate adaptation strategies in the region. This study of smallholder farmers� adoption of innovations to climate highlights the �complex interplay� of multiple factors that act as barriers to uptake. Such interplay of multiple stressors increases the vulnerability of smallholders. The study concludes by arguing that in as much as the skewed colonial land policy impoverished the smallholder farmers, Mr Phiri Maseko nonetheless redefined himself as a latter-day�hurudza�and thus breaks free from the poverty cycle by conjuring ingenious ways of reducing vulnerability to climate. The book does not suggest that Mr Phiri Maseko�s innovations offer a silver bullet solution to the insecure rural livelihoods of smallholder farmers; nevertheless, they are a source of hope in an environment of uncertainty. His steely tenacity in the face of a multi-stressor environment is to be treasured.

Published by: African Books Collective

Cover

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Title page, Copyright page, Dedication

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pp. i-iv

Contents

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pp. v-vi

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-xii

List of acronyms

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pp. xiii-xiv

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Acknowledgements

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pp. xv-xviii

This book is a product of my PhD thesis based on an ethnographic fieldwork in rural Zimbabwe.
I am very deeply indebted to my supervisors A/Prof Lesley Green, A/Prof Gina Ziervogel and A/Prof Shadreck Chirikure for the guidance they gave me through the entire journey. Thanks for their patience and commitment that enabled me to write this story of Mr Phiri Maseko’s ‘marriage of water and soil’. Their contributions to this book are greatly appreciated. Many thanks to Prof Francis...

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Foreword

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pp. xix-xx

Rainwater harvesting for sustainable rural agriculture in tropical Africa is a rare feat, where this has happened. Dr Chris Mabeza’s book examines the success story of Mr Zephaniah Phiri Maseko who engaged in a unique rainwater harvesting system in which water from the small high area and hill atop his homestead is meticulously channelled down his land below, systematically watering land naturally via percolation at the same time without causing soil erosion. The water slowly seeps into the undulating slopes, wetting...

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Introduction

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pp. xxi-l

Old habits die hard, or is it that old dogs are hardwired not to drool at the prospect of new tricks? Or both. Whatever the case might be, interventions in rural areas have been a source of fierce debates. Nowhere is this evident than in the rural development discourse in Zimbabwe where smallholder farmers face an uncertain future as the vagaries of a changing climatic environment take root. Smallholders grapple with food insecurity. Food security has been defined as, “the success of local livelihoods to guarantee access to sufficient food at...

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Chapter 1 - Full of sound and fury? The climate change discourse

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pp. 1-38

This chapter foregrounds the study on its theoretical perspectives based on the contested perspectives in the “crowded and noisy” world of climate adaptation as O’Riordan (cited in Hulme, 2009) would say. The research grapples with the concepts of adaptation, resilience, vulnerability and innovation. The study uses the theoretical perspectives lens to try and identify barriers and enablers to a food secure pathway. Unless there is an understanding of what constitutes hurdles to adaptation, the pathway to food security will be fraught with huge challenges. Thus, this chapter begins by challenging the...

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Chapter 2 - Thou shalt not only survive but thrive, if…: Hurudza and mediator

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pp. 39-86

This chapter is a prelude to Mr Phiri Maseko’s innovations for managing climate variability. The chapter demonstrates that if water and soil are in holy matrimony, smallholders will not only survive but also thrive in the wake of increased climate variability. Ethnographic research helps to present Mr Phiri Maseko’s history of marrying water and soil and thus, yields insights into the factors that influenced his success at taming an unproductive dry piece of land into (in his own words) a “water plantation”. The road he travelled offers valuable lessons for other smallholder farmers in situations similar to...

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Chapter 3 - ‘New tricks’: Managing rainfall variability

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pp. 87-110

The Shona proverb, zvinhu zviyedzwa chembere yekwaChivi yakabika mabwe ikaseva muto (It is important to experiment, for an elderly woman in Chivi [in rural Zimbabwe] cooked stones and ate the soup) reinforces my argument that innovation is characterised by trial and error. The elderly woman from Chivi was starving and experimented with cooking stones. She was surprised by her level of creativity when she ‘ate’ ‘soup’ from stones. Mr Phiri Maseko exhibits a “rare mix of relentless tenacity and technique” (to borrow a phrase from Anwar...

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Chapter 4 - Rhyming with an audience

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pp. 111-154

“Why should we deepen our contours?” asked a despairing teenage boy to his father, a smallholder farmer in the Mapirimira Ward of Zvishavane. The teenage boy seemed oblivious to the fact that a local smallholder farmer, Mr Phiri Maseko, had deepened his contours to good effect. However, the teenage boy’s sentiments amply sum up the inescapable sense of a dystopic future in semi-arid Zvishavane as smallholder farmers lurch from one drought to the other. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to implement innovative agricultural...

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Conclusion - Good news makers stand and be counted

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pp. 155-168

The travails of smallholders open a window in the climate change discourse usually overshadowed by hegemonic narratives. This is evident in the example of Mr Phiri Maseko who assumed the role of the astute spokesperson for the ‘stifled’ constituency of rural farmers in Zimbabwe. The Phiri Maseko story - that of water and soil in holy matrimony – is a good news story, a clarion call to challenge the shibboleths of doom mongers and players in the developmental discourse. Rural developmental thinking is mainly premised on the us-versus-them chauvinistic binary, where smallholders are mostly...

Appendix 1 - A tribute to the late Mr Phiri Maseko*. For whom the bell tolls

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pp. 169-170

List of references

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pp. 171-194

Glossary

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pp. 195-197

Back cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9789956764051
E-ISBN-10: 9956764051
Print-ISBN-13: 9789956764518

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2017

OCLC Number: 975233209
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