The role of labor migration to neighboring small towns in rural livelihoods: A case study in Southern Province, Zambia

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Securing a livelihood in rural Africa is a distinctly complex process involving interactions between the agricultural and non-agricultural sectors and between urban and rural activities. In addition to subsistence agriculture, farmers are often engaged in non-agricultural activities that provide important income sources in both rural and urban contexts. Although migratory labor is recognized as an important source of non-agricultural income, it has not been adequately considered in terms of livelihood diversity and access to various types of activities in the areas from which workers migrate. This article analyses the role of labor migration, especially to neighboring small towns, in relation to the complexity of livelihood strategies within the village. Field research in Southern Province, Zambia, revealed a great deal of variability among households in terms of strategies to maintain and improve their livelihoods. The article proposes that labor migration to neighboring small towns is crucial for livelihoods in rural areas for two main reasons. First, labor migration functions as a coping strategy when drought occurs. Second, migration is a livelihood choice based on an interrelation between access to other livelihood strategies and other social factors within the village. © University of Florida Board of Trustees.

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  • Chihiro Ito

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