Reconfiguring Livelihoods, Re-Imagining Spaces of Transboundary Resource Management: A Study of Mining and Agency along the Zimbabwe-Mozambique Border

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: Sch of Social and Political Science


In many parts of Africa, changing patterns of cross-border migration are transforming the importance of borders for marginalised populations. Recent literature cautions that simplified narratives about illegality in border zones are complicating efforts at addressing social inequities. This research examines social and political dimensions of rural livelihoods along the Zimbabwe-Mozambique border in conjunction with current debates about transboundary resource management in the region, focusing on perspectives in artisanal gold mining communities in Manica, Mozambique, where Zimbabwean artisanal miners live and work side-by-side with Mozambicans. The study explores what displacement means to different rural actors and how challenges are negotiated in pursuing resource-dependent livelihoods, with the ultimate goal of enhancing policies for addressing livelihood insecurity on both sides of the border.

The Zimbabwe-Mozambique border is a high priority for research, as large numbers of Zimbabweans have crossed into Mozambique as Zimbabwe's economic and political crisis deepened and are engaging in artisanal mining. Empirically, the study addresses three interlinked research questions: 1) How does mobility across the border represent new opportunities or, conversely, new challenges, for reconfigured livelihoods in artisanal mining communities near/along the border?; 2) To what extent are global and national institutions taking these challenges and opportunities into consideration in their approach to transboundary resource management policies?; 3) How are formal artisanal miners associations and informal groups of artisanal miners (on both sides of the border) socially engaged in processes of contesting land near/at the border?

Through in-depth life history interviews, focus groups, field diaries, visual methods and participant observation with artisanal mining associations, the study will explore how women and men in mining communities negotiate livelihood struggles, analysing social and economic ties that transcend the border. Analysing perspectives on mining, displacement and migration in relation to transboundary resource governance, policy documents will be reviewed and interviews conducted with national and district government authorities, companies and civil society organizations.

This study will generate original data and contribute new insights to engage conceptual and policy debates as well as associated methodological and ethical debates in borderlands research. The analysis aims to inform researchers in geography, development studies, African studies and the growing field of borderlands research, as well as policymakers. In 2011, the African Union signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the African Borderlands Research Network, based at the University of Edinburgh, highlighting the need for research to support policymaking that enhances livelihoods in border regions. This project is especially timely in light of a global environmental treaty signed by more than 120 countries recently, including Zimbabwe and Mozambique, requiring governments to take new steps to manage artisanal gold mining. Government officials have expressed the need for research to inform National Action Plans for implementing the treaty in the 2015-2020 period.

The project's regional workshops will co-produce knowledge while building local capacity of artisanal mining associations, government agencies, civil society and universities in Zimbabwe, Mozambique and the UK. Theoretical, ethical and methodological insights will be disseminated through books, articles, briefs, lectures and courses, to inform crosscutting debates at the intersection of borderlands research and extractive sector research. Building on past experiences working with United Nations agencies, this project will be transformative in cultivating new skills to lead North-South-South collaborative research that informs policymakers at regional, national and global levels.

Planned Impact

This project will benefit the African Union (AU) in pursuing its goal of "uniting and integrating Africa through peaceful, open and prosperous borders," specifically assisting the AU Border Programme to promote evidence-based equity-sensitive policies for transboundary resource management.

The research will also benefit UK aid agencies and governments globally, informing debates at United Nations forums related to implementing the new international treaty on mercury signed by >120 countries, which includes special clauses on artisanal mining. Based on my past work, United Nations Environment Program officials invited me to share future research, creating opportunities over the next 10 years for influencing policies on mining and resource management that respect migrant rights and promote sustainable livelihoods. Donors and NGOs interested in promoting the treaty will also benefit from an enhanced understanding of cross-border livelihood issues to help orient their funding, education, training and service efforts. The project will particularly benefit the Southern African Development Community, as artisanal mining in the Zambezi River Basin alone affects 14 countries.

Government ministries (especially mining, environment, economic development and women/ empowerment) in both Mozambique and Zimbabwe will directly benefit from the study through deepened appreciation of the concerns of involved parties (see support letters). Incorporating findings into policy recommendations will further enhance their abilities to implement fair and sustainable policies, including those related to the above-mentioned treaty to which they are accountable over the 2015-2020 period. Both countries are explicitly seeking research to assist them in formulating their strategies.

Small-scale mining associations in both Zimbabwe (ZAMSC -Zimbabwe Artisanal and Small-Scale for Sustainable Development Mining Council) and Mozambique (UNIMA- Union of Mining Associations in Manica) will particularly benefit from this project. The data and more nuanced conceptualizations generated regarding livelihoods and migrant rights in border areas will enhance their abilities to work with diverse local communities, men and women; be they members or nonmembers; licensed or unlicensed; or other parties affected by the economics and social ties generated by borderlands small scale mining. As noted from my previous work (see letters), such research can contribute to valuable direct services (including health, environment, safety and livelihood security) through effective lobbying for improved government services and equitable policies.

Artisanal mining communities in border regions in other African countries will benefit, as the research informs debates on legalization of informal mining, risk mitigation, migrant rights, resettlement challenges and livelihood social and economic supports. With the head of ZAMSC being the president of the Africa-wide federation of artisanal miners, communities not only on both sides of the Mozambique-Zimbabwe border but in other countries as well will benefit from the data and insights generated to improve transboundary resource management, as associations across Africa will incorporate this evidence in their work.

Local governments, local training programmes and NGOs in Manica will benefit from the data, as well as network-building activities, enhancing their effectiveness in promoting social and economic benefits especially for communities in the Chimanimani Highlands. The most direct beneficiaries will ultimately be the migrant Zimbabwean artisanal miners and the communities where they resettled in Manica province. This benefit will be fostered through producing new conceptualisation and new evidence on migration-associated issues - including social, kinship and economic ties as well as challenges faced - that will stimulate new understandings and new approaches to harnessing opportunities and addressing migrant concerns.


10 25 50
Title visual methods and cartoon development on small-scale mining themes 
Description I commissioned artwork from a cartoonist in Zimbabwe to develop images related to research themes on small-scale mining, for discussion. This related to specific challenges that small-scale miners face in terms of licensing, managing the environmental risks and safety risks associated with mining, gaining trust from 'outsiders', and paying fees to government officials. The images are in some cases humorous and invite light-hearted responses, thus providing excellent foundations for discussion and reflection on the themes of the research. 
Type Of Art Artwork 
Year Produced 2016 
Impact This collaboration with a cartoonist built on a much smaller knowledge exchange grant that I was awarded and the images have since been used by my research collaborators in Zimbabwe at important policy meetings with national policymakers, including a recent March 2017 workshop to prepare the Zimbabwe Government for implementing the Minamata Convention on Mercury. 
Description The findings have highlighted significant challenges that small-scale miners face in meeting regulatory and legal requirements in order to legalise their livelihoods. Also, the findings have highlighted key advocacy processes initiated by small-scale miners associations in efforts to lobby for national reforms. Furthermore, the findings have highlighted key gaps and opportunities in terms of strategies for implementing the Minamata Convention on Mercury; my research has fed into one of the main national association of small-scale miners' efforts to build capacity in the government to better integrate social and economic understandings of small-scale mining into national strategies for pollution phase-out.
Exploitation Route Already the findings have highlighted key gaps and opportunities in terms of strategies for implementing the Minamata Convention on Mercury; very recently, my research has fed into one of the main national association of small-scale miners' efforts to build capacity in the government to better integrate social and economic understandings of small-scale mining into national strategies for pollution phase-out. There are further meetings that are planned in the months and years ahead - to link government actors, small-scale miners, and others, as users of the research.
Sectors Environment

Description It is still early in the project for reporting on 'impact' in broad senses. However, already my work has been used by a national association of small-scale miners in Zimbabwe in its presentations to senior government authorities who are developing Zimbabwe's National Action Plan to implement a global treaty - the Minamata Convention on Mercury. This took place in 2017. In 2016, I also directly presented my research findings to the Zimbabwe Ambassador to Canada and other international stakeholders involved in policy and donor aid work in supporting livelihoods and tackling challenges in small-scale mining communities internationally. Further updates on this and other aspects of impact are planned.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Societal,Economic

Description collaboration for research on small-scale mining, land and migration 
Organisation Sam Moyo African Institute for Agrarian Studies
Country Zimbabwe, Republic of 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution I hired a Zimbabwean post-doc based in Harare, to collaborate with me in part of the research in the Future Research Leader Project. We have mapped out research strategies and some of the interviews have already been completed, and we are currently working together to develop an article together from this work.
Collaborator Contribution My partner in this collaboration has shared in-depth knowledge of land reform/mining linkages and we have together built on our respective areas of expertise to come up with a strong collaboration strategy that is poised to add innovative insights to scholarship in this field of research in Southern Africa.
Impact currently in draft
Start Year 2016
Description Delivered keynote lecture at the 'International Conference on Community Mining in Indonesia: Minimising Harm, Maximising Benefits' 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact I was invited to give a keynote speech on community mining issues in Indonesia, sharing my research on small-scale mining to date. I was invited by the Indonesian Small-Scale Miners Association for this, and I also in fact put the Indonesian Small-Scale Miners Association with one of my main collaborators in my Future Research Leaders Project- the Zimbabwe Miners Federation, in the spirit of supporting cross-country (and cross-continent) knowledge-exchange in regards to experiences with organising miners associations, mobilising for social justice and supporting equitable systems for improving sustainability in mining communities. My speech shared critical insights from research over a ten year period and the audience included a range of people - including policymakers in Indonesia (who are responsible for managing small-scale mining), academics in Indonesia, NGO representatives, and other organisations. Having the opportunity to discuss experiences in both Asia and Africa together also opened up avenues for planning future cross-continent collaborations and knowledge exchange activities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
Description Led an event on small-scale mining and livelihoods in Zimbabwe - presented research in Ottawa for the Zimbabwean Ambassador to Canada, other Zimbabwe Embassy staff and international researchers 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The purpose of this event was to share findings from my research to date and to discuss future needs in communicating research about mining and livelihoods to policymakers. I prepared a talk that included a 1-hour review of my research to date on mining, environmental governance issues and livelihood challenges in Zimbabwe, focusing on challenges that small-scale miners have faced in complying with environmental impact assessment (EIA) policy requirements and alternative proposals for reforming the EIA system - drawing both on experiences in Zimbabwe (over a 10-year period since I initially began doing research in Zimbabwe) and a review of international experiences. I was deeply fortunate that the ZImbabwean Ambassador to Canada attended this event, as did other people who were involved in international development organisations. Following the 1-hour presentation, there was another hour of discussion with audience members, with vibrant discussion involving questions, debate and exchanges on policy ideas. The talk was critically framed around the idea of moving beyond conventionally narrow 'engineering'-oriented solutions that presuppose what community needs are, and adopting a more flexible policy approach that requires the various types of artisanal and small-scale mining, as small-scale miners associations have lobbied for reforms to the Mines and Minerals Act that take into account definitions and guidelines for different types of mining (at the moment, there is a generic policy rather than a policy for different types of small-scale mining). The Ambassador was appreciative of the talk and expressed considerable interest in following up with these ideas further, as did 2 other staff members from the Zimbabwean Embassy who accompanied the Ambassador. Other people in attendance at the event also expressed interest in following up on the talk and included people advising international development organisations as well as people involved in other major international research projects spanning other countries in Africa. This included research teams involved in work in Mozambique, thus providing an especially important connection with my Future Research Leader project. Some of the researchers in attendance in the event subsequently cited my research in their work.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016