One winter morning in 2006, conflict ensued between firewood vendors (selling wood to passing motorists and also supplying bulk quantities to cities), on the one hand, and a group of predominantly women (and others sympathetic to their grievances), from villages on the southern fringes of the former Shangani Reserves in western Zimbabwe, on the other hand. The latter group confiscated firewood displayed for sale and stockpiles waiting for transportation. Any attempt to explain these acts is often marred by the appeal of ecofeminist discourses on women and the environment and the neo-Malthusian environment, population and conflict thesis. This article seeks to provide an alternative explanation by focusing, rather, on the complex dynamics of a worker-peasantry and the circumstances of women in migrant labour societies. An ethnographic research on villages that participated in the demonstration revealed how male labour migrancy created a social arena where women assumed key roles at both the household and society levels on behalf of the absent men. It highlighted how the women’s circumstances intersected with the particular socio-cultural and natural environment of a migrant labour reserve, resulting in responsibilities and agency through which certain practices that threatened societal interests were challenged.