The significance of the safety-net role of NTFPs in rural livelihoods, South Africa

by Paumgarten, F.

Abstract (Summary)
This study was conducted in two rural villages in South Africa with the purpose of investigating the safety-net role of non-timber forest products (NTFPs). The use of NTFPs as a safety-net is reported as a common feature of rural livelihoods however empirical data supporting this function is limited. Therefore, policy makers and land-use planners underappreciate the probable role and consequent value of the safety-net function. The findings show that poor, rural households are vulnerable to a range of risks. Over a two year period 100 % of households reported experiencing crises including unexpected idiosyncratic risks(e.g. illness, retrenchment, crop failure and death) as well as expected expenses and periods of vulnerability (e.g. the payment of school fees and seasonal crop shortfalls). Households are prone to these risks irrespective of wealth or gender of the de jure household head. To secure their livelihoods households in both villages rely on a variety of livelihood strategies including waged labour (53 %), self-employment (30 %), government grants (60 %), arable agriculture (56 %), animal husbandry (64 %) and the use (100 %) and sale (22 %) of NTFPs. In terms of the proportion of households involved, the findings suggest land-based strategies make an important contribution. Formal employment and old-age pensions distinguish wealthy households from poor and allow for investments in assets and saving schemes (62 %). In response to the risks experienced households employed a variety of coping strategies. Generally the most commonly used strategies were kinship (85 %), reduced household spending (72 %), changes to food consumption and saving (72 %) and relying on NTFPs (70 %). Kinship and NTFPs show no differences for wealth or gender of the de jure household head. The remaining strategies are influenced by wealth. The use of NTFPs as a safety-net manifested predominantly through the increased use of products, then the substitution of commercial goods by NTFPs and lastly through the sale. Of those using NTFPs as a rural safety-net 41.4 % used of wild foods, 40 % used medicinal plants, 25.7 % substituted paraffin with fuelwood, 10 % sold fuelwood and 8.6 % sold other products.
Bibliographical Information:


School:Rhodes University

School Location:South Africa

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:environmental science


Date of Publication:01/01/2007

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