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Research Report

Miombo Woodlands and Rural Livelihoods in Malawi

Janet Lowore
Copyright Date: Jan. 1, 2006
Pages: 26
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 1-2)

    Farmers in Malawi remove woodlands to plant crops but they also derive a vast range of other basic needs from the surrounding forests. These miombo woodlands have until relatively recently always been vast in comparison to the human population and their needs. Over the years the woodlands and the way they have been used have changed, but their contribution for maintaining well being and providing peoples’ basic needs appears to have remained important. The main changes in the woodlands are a decrease in the area of woody plants remaining and the nature of the interface between woodlands and people. Forest...

  2. (pp. 3-10)

    How important is this dimension for household well being? What are the implications of the unavailability of certain species or tree sizes? Criteria based ranking exercises (Simons, 1997) reveal that firewood, construction materials, thatching and medicines are considered the most basic domestic needs which are met from miombo woodlands. These products are essential, used on a daily basis and appropriate substitutes are hard to find. However, increasingly these basic products and other less essential goods are becoming scarce. The consequences of this reduced availability can be categorised as follows:

    Longer walking distances – As firewood becomes scarce, women must walk...

  3. (pp. 11-12)

    For the rural poor in Malawi, making a living is a matter of daily struggle. Sale of forest produce is often a supplementary activity in an attempt to make ends meet and the motive is rarely to make a profit. Studies on micro-enterprises in Malawi have shown that most people who sell forest produce do so as individuals or as small family operations, start off with little, if any, capital outlay, produce small quantities of mainly unprocessed or crudely processed goods and make little profit (NSO 2000). The money earned is used almost entirely to meet immediate domestic needs and...

  4. (pp. 13-16)

    These insights into the four dimensions of the miombo woodland/rural people interface in Malawi help us to consider future forestry policies and development efforts in the following ways;

    Can forest product based enterprises be boosted so that incomes for the rural poor can increase?

    Can woodlands be maintained so that those with little disposable income can still obtain the products they need to sustain themselves and their way of life?

    Can woodlands be maintained so that access to essential services, such as year long supplies of clean water, can be assured?

    Recently there has been a growing interest in natural...