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Poor prefer non-timber forest products during a crisis

According to the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), a recent study finds that the sale and use of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) is the one of the most common coping mechanisms to help vulnerable households in two of South Africa's poorest provinces cope in times of crisis.

The study found that while all of the households that were sampled relied, to some extent, on NTFPs as part of their livelihood portfolio, as many as 70 percent also reported using the safety-net function of NTFPs in response to a range of crises.

Kinship was found to be the top coping strategy chosen by both wealthy and poor households, and poorer household cited the use or sale of NTFPs as the second most commonly adopted coping strategy. "This highlights that in addition to the more regular use of NTFPs, they play an important role in helping households weather specific crises" said Fiona Paumgarten, CIFOR scientist and co-author of the CIFOR study conducted in collaboration with South Africa's Rhodes University. "The safety-net function of these NTFPs doesn't manifest specifically in the increased use of resources they already use but might manifest through using resources which are not normally used or selling NTFPs which are not normally sold," she told CIFOR.

Surveying both poor and wealthy households over a two-year period, researchers looked at a range of dynamics and drivers of use and sale of NFTPs. In both areas studied, over-utilisation of NFTPs and increasing population densities meant that these resources are becoming scarcer. This has implications on the possible safety-net option of NFTPs, Paumgarten said. "It undermines overall livelihood security, especially as alternatives are limited, a situation that is unlikely to change in the immediate future as ongoing service delivery failures and high rates of unemployment persist."

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