Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Lisa Cliggett


This dissertation focuses on the lived, material realities of rural women, men, girls, and boys struggling to make a living in the context of changing national development priorities and changing environmental conditions in Southern Province, Zambia.

Over the last 20 years, Gwembe Tonga migrants living in the frontier farming area of Kulaale have witnessed significant declines in non-cultivated “bush” resources due to the conversion of forest and grassland to agricultural uses. This dissertation seeks to understand how women, men, boys, and girls differently experience these declines according to local gender- and age-based divisions of subsistence labor. Drawing on a variety of theoretical lenses—including Feminist Geography, Feminist Political Ecology, African Feminisms, the Anthropology of Childhood, and the Anthropology of the State—and utilizing a unique blend of qualitative/ethnographic and quantitative/geospatial research methods, this study finds that the “extractive workloads” (the average annual distance traveled for the collection of key bush resources) associated with women, men, girls, and boys are both unequal and contrary to recent speculations about the distinctive vulnerability of adult women to environmental change.

The unequal labor burdens associated with the extraction of bush resources in this changing frontier landscape are but one of several missing “links” that this dissertation identifies within current theorizing about the gendered dimensions of environmental change. Other “links” include the social organization and religious life of Gwembe Tonga migrants, the demographic structure of Kulaale homesteads (their organization on the landscape and their demographic composition), the interplay between agency and vulnerability in children’s daily lives, and the role of the state in shaping Kulaale residents’ perceptions of and interactions with the surrounding environment.

This story of Gwembe Tonga migrants’ gendered and aged experiences of environmental change unfolds in the context of competing national economic strategies—frontier development wildlife conservation. This dissertation concludes that women, men, girls, and boys are all physically and economically vulnerable to the changes associated with frontier development, conservation policy, and environmental change, with social, political, and economic factors prompting them to experience vulnerability in aged and gendered ways.