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The Role of NTFPs in Coping with Crop Shortfalls and Loss in Two Villages in South Africa

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Paumgarten, F.; Shackleton, Charlie
Conference: Sustaining Commons: Sustaining Our Future, the Thirteenth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of the Commons
Location: Hyderabad, India
Conf. Date: January 10-14
Date: 2011
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/7385
Sector: Agriculture
Region: Africa
Subject(s): livelihoods
Abstract: "Rural households in the developing world are subjected to a range of risks, shocks and trends that impact on the bio-physical, social and economic environments in which they exist and that together constitute their vulnerability context. For many households living in South Africa’s rural areas, extreme livelihood insecurity and vulnerability persist in response to which households may employ a range of coping strategies. This study forms a part of a broader one, which considered the range of risks to which rural households in two South Africa villages are vulnerable. The study considered the manner in which households respond to such risks. The results presented here focus specifically on land-based crises, namely seasonal crop shortfalls and loss of or damage to crops. Household wealth and gender of the de jure household head were selected as characteristics for comparison. Although a range of coping strategies is considered, the emphasis is on the safety-net function of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) as there is limited empirical evidence of this. The research included participatory rural appraisal as well as semi-structure interviews. The research considered a two year period. Forty-five percent of households reported seasonal crop shortfalls during the previous two years, while 43% reported crop loss or damage. Households turned to NTFPs in response to both however this was not the most prevalent strategy. During discussions respondents noted a range of advantages and disadvantages to the safety-net function of NTFPs which manifested predominantly in the sale and use of fuelwood and wild edible herbs. The more anticipated nature of seasonal crop shortfalls as opposed to incidences that resulted in complete crop loss, allowed for more adaptive strategies. In light of evidence that NTFPs contribute to livelihood security, access to and maintenance of this resource base must not be undermined unless alternatives are provided."

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