Forest products mean cash in hand to Tanzanian villagers

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Honey, charcoal, fuel wood, and wild fruits contribute an astonishing 58% of farmers’ cash incomes in six Tanzanian villages surveyed by researchers from the Sokoine University of Agriculture. ’Household Livelihood Strategies in the Miombo Woodlands, Emerging Trends’ by G.C. Monela, G.C. Kajembe, A.R.S. Kaoneka, and G. Kowero presents the results of that survey, along with findings from a rapid rural appraisal conducted in the same location.

The survey included two villages each from the remote Dodoma region, the peri-urban area near Morogoro, and the Kilosa District. Honey alone accounted for one third of all cash income in these villages. Traditionally, Tanzania’s bee keepers make their bee hives from tree bark. Farmers in the peri-urban area, which had greater access to markets, produced more charcoal. On average, charcoal production provided US $445 in cash to each family in that area, which was 38% of their total cash income. Women have gotten increasingly involved in many of these activities, particularly, in the peri-urban area, where two-fifths of the women interviewed participated in commercial forest product extraction.

One reason farmers have taken up selling forest products is that agriculture has become less profitable. At the same time, improvements in transportation infrastructure have made it easier for them to bring their forest products to the towns.

The results from this study confirm the findings from a previous survey of seven administrative regions by Munishi et al. that found that two thirds of all Tanzanian households obtained at least 15% of their incomes from forest products. Both studies also show, however, that how important products are to villagers varies a great deal between households and from one region to the next.

If you would like to receive a free electronic copy of the Monela et al. paper or would like to send comments to the authors, please write Godwin Kowero.

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