Living on wild plants: Evaluation of the rural household economy in Nigeria
Department of Forestry, Federal Ministry of Environment, PMB 468, Garki-Abuja, Nigeria
Data were derived through a cross-sectional survey involving 288 respondents selected from three ecological zones of Nigeria to assess the role of wild plants in rural households' socio-economic security. The study revealed that wild plants were recognized by rural communities as common property and were managed through common property regimes. Wild plant products used by rural communities met a wide variety of uses and were available for sale in marketplaces within the rural areas. The study demonstrated that when compared across the three ecological zones, the volume of plant products was inversely related to the income they generated. For example, the volume of wild plant products harvested from natural forests was highest in the guinea savannah, followed by the derived savannah, and least in the rainforest; however, the annual household income generated from wild plants was highest in the rainforest and least in the guinea savannah. The wild plant products supported 11 occupations, including production of oils, soap making, gathering (of leaves, fruits, nuts, and seeds), carving, and production of chewing sticks (for oral hygiene). The most promising occupations were vegetable oil production, production of chewing sticks, soap making, production of wines, gathering, and fuel wood and charcoal production. The average annual value of harvested wild plant products from the forest (including items consumed, sold, given out to neighbors, and damaged after harvest) per household was 1,614,133 naira (N1,614,133), or US$11,956.54; the annual net income generated from the harvest of wild plant products per household was N910,252 (US$6,742.61). The sustainability of the forests for the supply of wild plant products is precarious. In plant conservation programs, priority attention should be given first to species threatened with extinction and then to plants of limited distribution in natural forests. © 2005 National Association of Environmental Professionals.
household expenditure; rural economy; socioeconomic status