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Non-timber Forest Product Use and Market Chains Along a Deforestation Gradient in Southwest Malawi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Sophie Mahonya, Charlie M. Shackleton, Kate Schreckenberg

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-12
JournalFrontiers in Forests and Global Change
Volume2
Issue number71
Early online date8 Nov 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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Abstract

The importance of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) to rural livelihoods is widelyacknowledged globally, as is the income generated from casual or fulltime trade onvillage and urban markets. However, there is less understanding of how the conditionor status of the neighboring landscapes influence the use of and trade in NTFPs. Herewe report on the use and trade in NTFPs in four villages situated along a gradient ofdecreasing forest cover in southwest Malawi using a mixed-methods approach. Datawere sourced via a survey of 286 households, value chain analysis of the four mostcommonly traded NTFPs (thatch grass, edible orchids, mushrooms, and wild fruits), keyinformant interviews with NTFP traders and direct observations. All households used atleast one NTFP, with the most widely used being firewood (100% of households), bamboo(96%), thatch grass (94%), and timber for construction (92%). Overall, 15% of householdssold at least one NTFP and the prevalence of selling within a village was correlated withforest cover, whereas buying of NTFPs was inversely correlated with forest cover. Therewas a wide range in mean annual income (US$20–456) from selling NTFPs based onthe product, whether the trader sold on a casual or full-time basis and the market. Ofthose households selling NTFPs, approximately two-thirds sold more than one NTFPproduct, which is rarely recognized in income studies of individual market chains. Thereturns to labor were variable between villages and products, but were generally doubleor more than the national minimum hourly wage. The NTFP value chains were short,dominated by traders and some intermediaries. Most of the products were sold in localmarkets with little value addition. Overall, NTFPs were an integral part of the householdeconomy, with multiple participants and users, partly shaped by the forest cover of thesurrounding landscapes

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