Zimbabwe’s land reform from 2000 radically transformed the agrarian structure, and with this small towns in rural areas. This article explores three such towns—Mvurwi, Chatsworth and Maphisa—examining changes in population, housing, transport and business activity between 2000 and 2020. Case studies highlight the importance of networks and social relationships between rural and urban areas, linked to new patterns of migration and a massive growth in the informal economy.
Despite the lack of state investment in basic infrastructure, the economies of these small towns have grown significantly, with a major shift in agrarian relations generating new economic activity and employment. This suggests the potential of a territorial focus for local economic development following land reform, encompassing both urban and rural areas.