In less than a generation, life in Zimbabwe went gone from being a success story to one of grinding poverty for many of its population. Health care and educational systems, once the pride of Africa, were in tatters and led to the eventual downfall of long-serving president Robert Mugabe in a military coup to be replaced by his vice-president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who vowed a new begnning for the beleagured country ... before quickly consolidating his own power and turning the clock back to the Mugabe days of using violence at protests and shutting down opposition. Today Zimbabwe in 150th place out of 189 countries and territories in 2019 when ranked in terms of life expectancy, literacy, access to knowledge and the living standards of a country with a life expectancy of 61.49 years (2019). Of Zimbabwe's population of 14.86 million (2020), around half live below the food poverty line and about 3.5 million children are chronically hungry with the percentage of children receiving the minimum acceptable diet necessary for growth and development declining from 6.9% in 2019 to just 2.1% in 2020 with the current infant mortality rate registering at 35.025 deaths per 1000 live births.
The population comprises two main ethnic groups, the majority Shona and the Ndebele of the south-east. The Shona have their own language which is spoken by an estimated 75% of Zimbabwe's population and they are perhaps best known for their finely carved wooden headrests and stone sculptures. Traditionally, the Shona people operate a patrilineal family structure where the father is both the decision maker and breadwinner for the entire household with the oldest brother or oldest male child assuming the role of the second father with women being expected to honour and obey their husbands. Literally. On marriage, a woman will move into their husband's home and from thereonin descent and leadership will be passed down his side of the family although, within the Shangani people, the husband will move into the wife's home on marriage.
Collective family upbringing of children in Zimbabwe runs deeps with a Shona proverb relating, "you do not educate your child for yourself alone; education is for society, by society". In other words, children's development is seen as a community responsibility. On average there are 3.53 births per woman (2019) in Zimbabwe and there is incomprehension at people who don't wish to have children, not least because the question of exactly who else will then do chores around the home! In rural areas, families in Zimbabwe live in villages and on farms in homes traditionally made from brick or mud (above) using a pole construction to support thatch or more commonly nowadays, tin roofs. Most villages communities have around one hundred inhabitants.
For most life in Zimbabwe, especially in rural areas, involves working in the agriculture sector which provides work and income for 60-70% of the overall population and contributes an estimated 17% of Zimbabwe's GDP. As across much of Africa, this work and food supply is becoming more unstable with low and erratic rainfall and periodic droughts made worse by a deteriorating soil fertility, low investment, and poor infrastructure. Most involved in agriculture grow staple foods such as maize, millets, and groundnuts however these subsistence farms have less than 5% of national irrigation facilities.The video (below) gives some insights into daily village life in Zimbabwe.
Life in Zimbabwe: Volunteer in Zimbabwe
Life in Zimbabwe: Children in Zimbabwe
Life in Zimbabwe: Sponsor Children in Zimbabwe
Life in Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe Country Profile
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