Home » Business » Vending, Chicken Bans Worsen Poverty

Most Zimbabweans are still trying to come to terms with Harare City Council’s decision to ban the rearing of chickens in the backyard, arguing that this destroys the comfort of neighbourhoods.

Announcing the decision based on the 1962 by-law, Harare Mayor Councillor Bernard Manyenyeni said the city fathers had an obligation to protect residents, hence the decision to ban backyard fowl runs.

Council’s decision came hard on the heels of another similar pronouncement from the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and Urban Development to ban vendors in the central business district with immediate effect.

While it is not clear whether council consulted residents before tabling the recommendations in front of full council for debate, subsequent adoption and implementation, the decision will impact negatively on a number of households.

Both decisions would be met with trepidation by residents, particularly those in the informal sector, who survive on vending, chicken-rearing and other activities of a similar nature.

But the tragedy of these decisions would be the effect it will have on the majority of people who have been surviving on vending, poultry-rearing and other side projects, to put food on the table for their families following the shrinking of the formal sector in the last few years.

With the job market shrinking for many people, particularly women, vending had become a source of livelihood, with families and individuals now dividing their time between sourcing the goods and selling the wares throughout the week, in anticipation of a constant income.

The CBD and its environs had become a haven for vendors, selling their wares at nearly every street corner and pavement, making the city roads impassable at any given time during the day.

Although municipal authorities allocated designated vending places, they were not enough for the growing vending populace, resulting in some of the vendors going back into the streets to sell their wares.

Others argued that the vending places were not strategic and conducive for business, something that council would need to address.

With household consumption and expenditure surveys showing high incidences of female-headed households, whose incomes fall below the poverty datum line — women were the majority of vendors who went back into the streets. They are the very same group that will face the wrath of the law once municipal authorities decide to arrest and prosecute them for violating city by-laws.

They are the same group that will sink further into the doldrums of poverty once they fail to vend or run backyard fowl runs, for one reason or the other.

Although it may appear far-fetched, the above scenario reads no less into my colleague, Tendai Garwe’s, favourite subject “feminisation of poverty”.

Feminisation of poverty merely looks into three distinct things: that women compared to men have a higher incidence of poverty: that women’s poverty is more severe than men’s and: that incidences of poverty among women are increasing compared to that of men.

In Zimbabwe that women are poorer than men is an undeniable fact that the Government and local authorities have to deal with and come up with workable solutions.

The removal of vendors from our streets should be tied to workable and alternative solutions to ensure that the interests of the affected people are taken care of.

Local authorities should come up with effective, balanced regulation that captures the economic and community benefits of vending, while also addressing applicable concerns.

Vendors can form co-operatives, based on the type of goods they sell, their target market and areas they come from.

The same should be done for poultry farming, a crucial aspect of urban farming. If anything, urban farming has been proven all over the world to be an instrument of enhancing food security, especially among the urban poor.

Big cities in the developed world like Vancouver in Canada and Chicago in the United States have institutionalised urban farming because of its ability to avail cheap and fresh food to the urban poor at a low cost.

Zimbabwe is the AU chair, which has since declared 2015 as the year of women empowerment.

The local government’s actions and policies on the ground should reflect Africa’s aspirations, so that Zimbabwe can become part of the continent’s dream.

Source : The Herald

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