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.
Title photovoice and related creative work in Chimanimani, Eastern Zimbabwe 
Description Community artworks and photovoice stories in communities in Chimanimani, Eastern Zimbabwe, were developed through this project, discussing community challenges, issues of local culture and livelihood struggles, and dimensions of community identity. 
Type Of Art Artwork 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact There is ongoing discussion now on how to continue to further develop the collection of community artworks and plan some future exhibitions. 
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 people face in relation to the extractive sector and broader economic challenges. Two main areas have been important in this regard:

1) It has highlighted challenges facing small-scale miners 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.

2) It has also highlighted challenges facing communities experiencing the impacts of large-scale mining, including displacement and various other impacts. Moreover, the findings have highlighted the creativity of people in expressing their daily struggles and their community identities and needs, and various different gendered dimensions of current challenges. The work has helped to deepen understandings of the ways in which creative methods can be used to build collective solidarity and develop strategies for helping to address major challenges, communicating with different stakeholders in the community contexts themselves as well as beyond.
Exploitation Route Already 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. 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.

The findings have also highlighted key needs for follow-up in regards to supporting communities affected by large-scale mining - also key in order to understand "Transboundary Natural Resource Management" in its complexity. Further work in 2019 and 2020 is expected to help significantly to support active strategies for taking up research to improve social services and access to key amenities of life.
Sectors Environment

Description 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. 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. Notably, I also helped the Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association in 2018 to develop new strategies for using visual methodologies of community engagement and also new strategies for particularly supporting settlements affected by diamond mining in Eastern Zimbabwe. Moreover, three of my team members have been leading a project to support clean water access in the two main communities where my project is based, in Eastern Zimbabwe, and have particularly used the findings from the research to create a new set of support measures through an Australian Embassy grant - this will be monitored further throughout 2019 and in early 2020, during the course of this project.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Societal,Economic

Description Influence on lawyers network and legal practices to support local rights in rural communities affected by large-scale mining
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact I was invited to presentation to a group of leading lawyers in Zimbabwe and other countries in Africa who attended the annual strategic planning meeting of the Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association (ZELA) in July 2018. I presented on two dimensions. The first dimension was sharing insights from my use of visual methods to support in-depth community engagement in driving local knowledge production - particularly the use of photovoice, a methodology that I have been using my ESRC Future Research Leader Project and that the ZELA group was interested in replicating in their campaigns. Subsequent to my presentation, I also helped the ZELA group to devise strategies for this too. The second dimension was sharing insights from my project's fieldwork in Chimanimani, where two communities have been affected by diamond mining-related displacement and other negative impacts from mining, in a part of the country that has not been reported on to date; this was particularly important as ZELA had lawyers active in supporting communities affected by mining elsewhere in the country and we discussed details for how a lawyer from ZELA might travel to my ESRC project community field site and engage in supporting advice to community members. Also, in attendance at the meeting was the coordinator of the Kimberley Process Civil Society Coalition, who was able to learn about this particular context of community displacement related to diamond mining, and engage in discussion on planning to support future improvements to national policies related to displacement and resettlement. After the activity, one of the most notable impacts emerged through having a lawyer from ZELA travel with me in Chimanimani, in my project site, and subsequently learn about the issues for himself while I was there. The research project that I was leading enabled him to quickly identify key needs and quickly meet key actors - and help support efforts to avoid wrongful eviction practices and ensure that proper Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) mechanisms are followed by the mining company.
Description influencing government authorities in the implementation of the Minamata Convention on Mercury
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
Impact This project is supporting ongoing dialogue on the implementation of the Minamata Convention on Mercury - a global treaty signed by more than 120 countries that was formally ratified in 2017. This treaty has implications for artisanal and small-scale gold mining - one of the largest sources of mercury pollution globally, but a sector that has been poorly regulated in the past. My research is teaming up with institutions such as the Zimbabwe Miners Federation to build the capacity of local associations of artisanal and small-scale miners to pursue measures that will help to implement the Minamata Convention, reducing negative social, economic and environmental risks associated with pollution, and supporting the recognition of livelihoods. The research is also working to inform policymakers on implementation strategies - and has supported, for example, dialogue with policymakers in Geneva and in Harare on key issues of tackling social marginalisation linked to both "artisanal" and "small-scale" mining. The research is specifically feeding into the development of Zimbabwe's National Action Plan for the implementation of the Minamata Convention (currently in progress) and also targeting global stakeholders convening international implementation strategies (some of whom have asked me for advice).
Description University of Edinburgh Strategic Impact Grant
Amount £5,000 (GBP)
Organisation University of Edinburgh 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
End 01/2018
Title photovoice methods 
Description participatory photography (photovoice) methods were developed to support community-led narration about key concerns, challenges, experiences and interests, used to guide the research process and help deepen understanding of local cultural, economic and gendered dimensions of life in rural communities. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact I have developed this method and am currently working on publications in the context of eastern Zimbabwe. I have also helped other teams elsewhere to use this method. One paper that is now forthcoming is called "Visual storytelling and socio-environmental change: images, photographic encounters, and knowledge construction in resource frontiers" (forthcoming - to be published in Annals of the Association of American Geographers). This methodology has helped to inform people in government about challenges in rural communities and actively facilitate creative dialogue between different stakeholders. 
Description Collaboration with researcher based at University of Zimbabwe Centre for Applied Social Science, focused on experiences on both sides of Zimbabwe-Mozambique border 
Organisation University of Zimbabwe
Department Centre for Applied Social Sciences
Country Zimbabwe 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Within my Future Research Leader project, I recruited a researcher at the University of Zimbabwe to assist with conducting fieldwork in the Zimbabwe-Mozambique border region, including logistical planning, conducting interviews and focus groups and writing up, particularly in gaining insights from park authorities, chiefs, artisanal miners and other stakeholders on both sides of the border. The person I recruited is a junior researcher young in his career and very bright, and my role in this has involved a lot of mentoring to build his research skills as well as to learn from him; rather than seeing him as a 'research assistant' I have nurtured the idea of seeing him as a research collaborator, and have spent a lot of time on sharing literature, sharing suggestions on how to strengthen writing, and sharing critical ideas about what it could mean to build a highly internationally influential research agenda on the themes of this project - we have thus had a lot of detailed conversation on both the research project itself and the region of focus (along the border) as well as its wider academic context.
Collaborator Contribution The researcher recruited in this role (Lameck Kachena, who holds an MSc in Social Ecology) has successfully contributed to the project, over multiple phases of fieldwork and detailed collaboration. Thus far, this work has included more than 50 interviews and a handful of focus groups - and the work has led to a co-authored paper with me that is currently under peer review with an academic journal, particularly looking at the issue of how notions of belonging and different identities are contested vis-a-vis the tranfrontier conservation discourse on both sides of the Zimbabwe-Mozambique border. His contributions also involve introducing me to the senior academic staff at the University of Zimbabwe's Centre for Applied Social Science and we plan to present our findings to the academic community at the University of Zimbabwe later in the project.
Impact So far one co-authored paper has been published based on this collaboration. The title is: Borderland Migration, Mining and Transfrontier Conservation: Questions of Belonging Along the Zimbabwe-Mozambique Border
Start Year 2017
Description collaboration for research on small-scale mining, land and migration 
Organisation Sam Moyo African Institute for Agrarian Studies
Country Zimbabwe 
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 conducted research and co-wrote an article together that has been published and a second one that is currently under review, focusing on empirical findings and a conceptual approach that closely attends to multiple kinds of artisanal mining/farming linkages and issues of migration and mobility.
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 under review in a leading journal
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
Description Presentation of research findings on environmental governance dimensions of small-scale mining, as invited speaker at University of Oxford conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact This event brought together academics from several countries globally, focusing on different anthropological, geographical and sociological dimensions in the researching of mining and resource extraction, looking at the theme of "exclusion." I was invited to present my work and also to ask as a discussant and chair for other talks - and the event was highly successful in stimulating rich debate and fostering new connections.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
Description Support for key project collaborator to share findings and participate in Geneva at First International Conference of Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury (officially invited as part of Zimbabwe delegation) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact A key collaborator in my Future Research Leader project is Wellington Takavarasha, the leader of the Zimbabwe Miners Federation, which represents artisanal and small-scale miners associations across Zimbabwe. He has participated extensively in fieldwork (and knowledge exchange activities) with me in the past and in 2017, he asked me if I could assist him with finding funding to help travel to Geneva to share findings from our research with policymakers, including the Zimbabwe government delegation and other government delegations and UN authorities participating in the first meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury (COP1), 24 to 29 September 2017 at the International Conference Centre in Geneva, Switzerland. I was able to secure knowledge exchange grant from my University (University of Edinburgh) to support this - which complements the work in the ESRC Future Research Leader project - and his presence and participation at this event proved to be very important. He was subsequently invited to formally advise the Government of Zimbabwe in developing its National Action Plan for the implementation of the Minamata Convention on Mercury and to be a member of its standing working group to support this treaty's implementation in Zimbabwe. Several follow-up meetings with government officials have occurred afterwards.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
Description invited speaker, presenting findings at international conference in Montreal 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact I was an invited speaker at the conference called "Normative orderings, contested resource claims and emergent politics in the EI sector in Africa, Asia and Latin America" held in Montreal in September 2017. The conference was largely composed of academics but some practitioners also attended. My research findings on environmental governance dimensions of small-scale mining were presented.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
Description workshop on policy implications of new data on artisanal mining (at Surrey Business School, UK) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact This event provided me with an opportunity to share my research and disseminate key knowledge with non-governmental organisations (such as PACT - which has DFID-funded development programmes to assist artisanal miners in capacity-building projects in Zimbabwe and other countries) and representatives of the United Nations Environment Programme who are working on the global mercury strategies related to small-scale gold mining. Through workshop discussions structured to create deepened understanding of key knowledge and policy implications, I shared results from my work and suggested how practitioner projects seeking to improve livelihoods, safety and environmental governance in mining areas could be improved. After the workshop, I continued to dialogue with people working at the United Nations Environment Programme, to share findings with the goal of shaping strategies to implement the Minamata Convention on Mercury.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017