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Tropentag, October 5 - 7, 2004 in Berlin

"Rural Poverty Reduction
through Research for Development and Transformation"

Seasonal Vulnerability to Poverty and Indigenous Fruit Use in Zimbabwe

Dagmar Mithöfer, Hermann Waibel

University of Hannover, Department of Economics and Business Administration, Germany


Transient and chronic poverty are common problems in the rural areas of Sub Saharan Africa. Rural households frequently rely on indigenous fruits (IF) and other wild food resources during times of food and income shortages in order to supplement their incomes. However, the degree to which indigenous fruits contribute towards rural incomes and thus the reduction of poverty and vulnerability to poverty has previously not been assessed due to a lack of quantitative data.
This paper assesses the contribution of indigenous fruit trees towards reduction of vulnerability to poverty by taking seasonal fluctuations of the income and expenditure flows and fruit availability into account. Monthly income and expenditure data over all income generating activities from a sample of 20 households from Takawira resettlement area, Zimbabwe, is used to model the stochastic household income in the course of the year.
Results show that vulnerability to income poverty is very high amongst rural households and is subject to seasonal fluctuations. Vulnerability is highest during the critical period of the year, i. e. between August and January when IF are available. The surplus that was carried over from the previous cropping season and also on the degree to which indigenous fruits are used / are available for income smoothing determine vulnerability to poverty. As expected, the higher the availability of IF, the lower vulnerability to income poverty. Although indigenous fruits contribute towards reduction of vulnerability, other sources of income show higher influence on the household income. The highest influence stems from production of agricultural crops, which contribute a major share towards rural incomes. We conclude that collection of IF constitutes an income source that can easily be accessed in times of need in order to bridge income and food shortages but not a major source of income in the long run.

Keywords: Indigenous fruits, poverty, seasonal income fluctuations, vulnerability to poverty, Zimbabwe

Contact Address: Dagmar Mithöfer, University of Hannover, Department of Economics and Business Administration, Königsworther Platz 1, 30167 Hannover, Germany, e-mail: mithoefer@ifgb.uni-hannover.de

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