Three or so decades ago, Zimbabweans were proud of their rural homes. Most of our parents invested in building modest houses in their rural areas. I remember my father used most of his pension pay out to extend his rural home. Times have changed now. Some people have abandoned their rural homes in favour of the hustle and bustle of the city. However, not everyone wants to limit their life to the city. There are still some who feel that a rural home will suit their needs just fine. Let us explore the pros and cons of building at your rural homestead.

Why you should build in rural areas

1.      Cost effective

One reason why people prefer to build at their rural homestead is that it is cheaper to do so. Rural buildings are not subjected to rigorous inspections and are not expected to conform to strict standards as is the case in the city. Land is also not hard to come by in the rural areas. For most people, land to build around your family costs nothing because the family already owns the place. This is unlike in the city where the smallest residential stand can costs more than US$2 000. Building material in the rural areas is far much cheaper. The bricks are made on site, from just soil and water. Not much cement is required. Roofing material in the form of thatching is readily available at much cheaper rates as well. Without a fat bank account, building at your rural homestead is the way to go.

2.      Farming and other rural businesses

Just recently, a lot of people are realising that farming is capable of providing the huge returns that we always seek in business. Those with access to land are investing in tobacco farming, horticulture and poultry. Tobacco is one of the country’s biggest foreign currency earners. Increased investment in rural areas in recent times will prove to be a contributing factor. Rural entrepreneurship funding spearheaded by Econet founder Strive Masiyiwa is likely to accelerate focus on rural businesses. Investment in rural solar energy by companies like Ugesi Energy and others will also increase interest in rural areas. People who are into farming or other rural based businesses will find that its better to build there, closer to their business ventures. Even competition in business is still limited in rural areas as compared to the city where every street corner has someone doing exactly the same business that you are into.

3.      Cultural considerations

Culturally, your children need to be connected or at least to know their roots. This means that if you do not build at your rural home, there won’t be an incentive to go there and that connection will fade away. In addition, building at your rural home also fosters extended family unity. Ultimately, the rural area becomes a place of retirement for someone who does not enjoy the hectic city life. For some, it is even prestigious to build a large rural homestead. It can be your place of burial at death and that is culturally the right thing to do for most people.

Maybe the city is better

Let us not forget that there are reasons why someone may not build in the rural areas. Lets look at these;

1.      Business and employment interests

For some, everything happens in the city. This is how this country and many others are set up. Those looking for employment will most likely find it in the city because that is where many companies are located. The more people have realised this, the more they have abandoned their rural homestead. An entrepreneur may also find that their business is best suited for the city. Historically, the city is known to have better roads, a lot of business contacts and opportunities, faster internet speed, the best mobile network connectivity and more. These happen to be drivers of business efficiency, convenience and growth. As a result, if your business or employment interests are in the city, chances are that you will build and settle there, funds permitting. It is the most reasonable thing to do.

2.      Property prices

Those who have access to land in the city would prefer to build there for a number of reasons. A four bedroomed house in rural Mwenezi is valued much less than the same one in Harare. Location is the deciding factor. This leads many to rather invest in towns than in rural areas. If they want to rent out the property, they will get a tenant willing to pay more in the city than in rural areas. In fact, they may not even find a tenant for their rural home. If you decide to sell your property, it definitely fetches more if it is in the city. These factors have led to increased preference to build in towns over the years.

3.      Those in the diaspora

It must be noted that many Zimbabweans leave the country to go and work or seek refuge in other countries around the world. This is a result of our slow and sometimes non-performing economy. Estimates are that well over 4 million Zimbabweans are currently living in South Africa, Botswana, the United Kingdom and other countries. Even if these people wish to invest in property back home, the preference is towns and cities. Rural areas are therefore increasingly being left underdeveloped. It is even scary that you will not find many youths in the rural areas nowadays. Most have gone to other countries where conditions are perceived to be better. As such, the infrastructure in the rural areas is increasingly becoming dilapidated. Imagine, if you live in the diaspora and only visit Zimbabwe once every 2 years spending perhaps less than a week at the rural homestead. You will not worry about building anything meaningful at your rural homestead because you will not need it.

The decision on whether or not to build at your rural homestead will strongly depend on your circumstances and your financial situation. Or, you can even have your cake and eat it too, building both in the city and at your rural home. It cannot be a one-size-fits-all kind of decision. The choice is yours.