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The miombo woodlands at the cross roads: Potential threats, sustainable livelihoods, policy gaps and challenges

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The Miombo, the most extensive tropical woodland formation of Africa directly supports the livelihoods of over 100 million people through the provision of many tree products and ecosystem services essential to both the rural and urban communities. While the destruction of the Miombo has often been blamed on the rural communities dwelling near the forest resources, many urban dwellers depend heavily on the various products derived from the woodlands. This paper highlights the importance of the Miombo in the livelihoods of rural people, the potential threats to this ecosystem and opportunities for its sustainable management. About 70% of energy consumed in southern Africa is in the form of fuelwood or charcoal. The economic importance of the Miombo especially from non-timber forest products (NTFPs) is usually understated due to their perceived non-economic value yet they play an important role in sustaining livelihoods of forest dependent people in the miombo ecoregion. The Miombo also contributes to health services through the use of medicinal plant and products, in some cases, contributing up to 80% to rural health, including helping in coping with effects of HIV/AIDS, malaria and several diseases. The possibility of developing payment for environmental services schemes through public–private partnerships, and community-based sustainable management models are proposed. Through conservation and commercialization of some of the products and services, there is a potential to provide income and improve the livelihood of people involved in the trade along the value chain.
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Keywords: Charcoal; Commercialization; Developmentā€“conservation trade-off; NTFPs; Natural resource conflicts; Policy gaps; Sustainable livelihoods

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Stellenbosch University, Department of Forest and Wood Science, Stellenbosch, South Africa 2: World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) Southern Africa Regional Programme, Lilongwe, Malawi

Publication date: 2009-05-01

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