Rural livelihoods in south-eastern Zimbabwe : the impact of HIV/AIDS on the use and management of non-timber forestry products.
Mutenje, Munyaradzi Junia.
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Non-timber forest products (NTFPs) constitute an important source of livelihood for most poor rural households and communities in Zimbabwe. NTFPs also serve as a vital livelihood safety net in times of hardship. An important feature of this dependence is that almost all NTFPs are deemed to have ‘public good’ characteristics, with no exclusive property rights. Consequently, extraction is often intense and exhaustive because of lack of alternative income sources, unreliable productivity and weak enforcement of institutional arrangements governing NTFPs use. In recent years, with HIV/AIDS rampant in Zimbabwe, there are indications of a rapid increase in the extraction of NTFPs, mostly from common property resources. Appropriate natural resources policies need to be based on comprehensive research, yet to date scant attention has been paid to understanding the role of NTFPs in mitigating the predicaments of HIV/AIDS-affected households in Zimbabwe. The main objective of this study was to determine the types of and need for natural resource management interventions to help ensure the sustainability of local responses to HIV/AIDS. The research focused on five communities of Sengwe Communal in the Chiredzi district, Zimbabwe. Multistage cluster sampling was used to select ten villages and households for the survey. Two villages from each community, representing the most and the least affected by epidemic were selected for each community using stratified random sampling. A cluster analysis was used to improve understanding of the challenges of rural livelihoods and how households diversify their livelihood strategies to cope with the various constraints. Five dominant groups based on their livelihood diversification patterns were identified : (1) smallholders/unskilled workers; (2) subsistence smallholder/non-timber forestry products harvesters; (3) crop production and non-timber forestry products extraction integrators; (4) commercial smallholders with regular off-farm employment; and (5) specialised commercial livestock producers. Multinomial logit model results showed that the level of education of the household head, the value of physical assets, cattle numbers and income, remittances, NTFPs income and economic shocks were the main determinants of these livelihood choices. Empirical evidence also revealed that households that were statistically significantly affected by HIV/AIDS economic shocks practised ‘distress-push’ diversification by extracting NTFPs. These results suggest that policy makers need to advise rural households on how to improve their risk management capacities and move from geographically untargeted investments in livelihood assets to a more integrated approach adapted to the asset base of individual households. Using panel data from 200 households in 2008 and 2009, regression models revealed that NTFPs extraction is an important ex-post coping mechanism for many HIV/AIDS-afflicted households. The results also revealed that the main determinants of livelihood strategy choices were differences in asset endowment, especially education, land and livestock and the impact of the shock. Asset constraints compelled diversification into lower-return activities such as NTFPs extraction. Findings from a comparative analysis of HIV/AIDS-afflicted and non-afflicted households showed that HIV/AIDS-afflicted households were relatively young, with relatively few physical and livestock assets. A fixed-effect Tobit model indicated a positive significant relationship between HIV staging and quantity of NTFPs extracted. The relatively young, poorly educated households with low household coping capacity in terms of livestock value relied more on the natural insurance of forests in buffering HIV/AIDS economic shocks. These results have important policy implications for development planners, conservationists and non-governmental organisations working in the region. There is a need for programmes that reduce pressure on forest resources, and improved access to education and health care, thus helping the poor to cope with the HIV/AIDS economic crisis. This study also examined the extent to which forest degradation is driven by existing common property management regimes, resource and user characteristics, ecological knowledge and marketing structure. A Principal Component Analysis indicated that the existence of agreed-upon rules governing usage (including costs of usage), enforcement of these rules, sanctions for rule violations that are proportional to the severity of rule violation, social homogeneity, and strong beliefs in ancestral spirits were the most important attributes determining effectiveness of local institutions in the management of Common Pool Resources (CPRs). Empirical results from an ordinary least regression analysis showed that resource scarcity, market integration index, and infrastructural development lead to greater forest resource degradation, while livestock income, high ecological knowledge, older households, and effective local institutional management of the commons reduce forest resource degradation. The results suggest that there is a need for adaptive local management systems that enhance ecological knowledge of users and regulates market structure to favour long-term livelihood securities of these forest-fringe communities.
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