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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2012

The spatial construction of young people's livelihoods in rural southern Africa

Ansell, Nicola; van Blerk, Lorraine; Robson, Elsbeth; Hajdu, Flora


Young people in southern Africa, in common with young people around the world, are social agents, constructing their own lives, albeit within significant structural constraints. Unlike young people in some regions, for most the need to generate a livelihood is a key consideration. Livelihood construction is a profoundly spatial activity, yet while there have been a number of studies of the spatial construction of young people's livelihoods in African cities, the spatiality of rural livelihoods has received less attention. Rural environments pose particular challenges for livelihood construction, and require particular spatial strategies. Four are discussed here: accessing education and training; migration for work; developing extensive social networks; and producing for markets. There are, however, aspects of the spatial structuring of rural southern African societies that seriously constrain the pursuit of productive livelihoods by young people. Two are considered: migration (for reasons unconnected with young people's livelihoods) and marriage practices.

Published in

2012, Volume: 9, number: 53, pages: 135-140