The role of indigenous fruit trees in the rural livelihoods : a case of the Mwekera area, Copperbelt province, Zambia
Thesis (MSc (Forest and Wood Science))—University of Stellenbosch, 2007.
The utilization and commercialization of indigenous fruit trees has in the past been overlooked by extension agencies due to the misconception that they do not play a major role in contributing to the rural livelihoods. There is new and increasing emphasis on the contribution of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) on improving the livelihoods and sustainable management of forest ecosystems of the Miombo woodlands. This study was conducted around Mwekera area in the Copperbelt province, Zambia to determine the role of indigenous fruit trees in the rural livelihoods. A total of 70 households were interviewed in the survey using semi-structured questionnaires, in-depth open ended interviews and focus group meetings to collect information on the use of indigenous fruits. The study revealed that 99% of the households experience ‘hunger’ during the rainy season from November to April every year. Ninety seven percent (97%) of the households collect indigenous fruit, with the most collected fruits being Uapaca kirkiana (74%), Anisophyllea boehmii (71%) and Parinari curatellifolia (67%). Additionally, there is very little selling of indigenous fruit (31%) but that Uapaca kirkiana and Anisophyllea boehmii account for 95% of the fruits sold. Forty six percent (46%) of the households process fruits of U. kirkiana, A. boehmii and P. curatellifolia into juice and/or porridge. Furthermore IFTs are also used as traditional medicine. Sixty three percent (63%) of the households used IFTs for medicinal purposes with two-thirds of the respondents citing Anisophyllea boehmii as an important medicinal tree species. The study also showed that 85% of the respondents have seen a change in the forest cover resulting into loss of biodiversity with 70% of the respondents indicating that the change is with respect to reduction in forest size and scarcity of some species; and that charcoal production and clearance of land for cultivation are the major causes of the scarcity of indigenous fruit trees. It is concluded that the major contribution of IFTs in the study area is in filling the gap during times of hunger rather as being a source of income through selling. Charcoal production and clearance for agriculture are the main contributing agents for the loss of biodiversity and scarcity of IFTs. It is recommended that domestication of IFTs and sustainable forestry and agricultural management practices be employed to ensure that future generations continue to benefit from the forest resource.