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Extraction of non-timber forest products as a coping strategy for HIV/AIDS-afflicted rural households in south-eastern Zimbabwe

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This article examines the role of the extraction of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) as a coping strategy in response to HIV/AIDS-related economic shocks among rural households in the semi-arid Sengwe communal lands in south-eastern Zimbabwe. Using panel data for 200 households in 2008 and 2009, an econometric analysis revealed NTFP extraction as an important ex-post coping mechanism for the HIV/AIDS-afflicted households. Many of the households responded to HIV-related economic crises by increasing NTFP extraction to smooth both consumption and income. On average, the additional income from NTFPs offset about 48% of a household's income shortfalls due to the impact of HIV or AIDS. The importance of NTFPs as an economic safety-net for households depends more on the timing of extraction than on the magnitude (i.e. as a share of total household contribution). Hence, sustainable forest management is of great value for semi-arid tropical areas, such as the Sengwe communal lands, which are hard hit by the HIV epidemic. Consequently, government and other stakeholders would be well advised to implement programmes that reduce pressure on the forest resources, such as by introducing other incomegenerating enterprises like raising small livestock, while improvements in access to education and healthcare will further help the rural poor cope with HIV/AIDS-induced economic crises.
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Keywords: Africa; HIV/AIDS; coping strategies; household behaviour; livelihoods; non-timber forest products; rural communities

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of Agricultural Sciences and Agribusiness,University of KwaZulu-Natal, Private Bag X01ScottsvillePietermaritzburg3209, South Africa

Publication date: 2011-09-01

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