Rural subsistence and protected areas : community use of the Miombo woodlands of Lake Malawi National Park
This study examines the utilisation of miombo woodland by fishing communities in Lake Malawi National Park (LMNP). Combining methodologies from the natural and social sciences, patterns of use of non-timber forest products (NTFPs), and the impact of harvesting practices on the resource base, are described. The main focus is the commercial and subsistence use of primary woodland resources including: fuelwood, construction materials and grass thatch. Aerial photographic analysis and a quadrat based vegetation survey are used to examine the impact of local utilisation practices on the miombo woodland. Multivariate analyses assess the importance of different environmental variables in explaining the floristic composition of the woodland vegetation. A range of NTFPs are used locally but market surveys indicate that few products are traded outside the villages. A marketing analysis suggests that urban trade is constrained by the low economic value of woodland resources compared to the high cost of rural transport. Specific patterns of collection and use are apparent for each resource. This thesis explores the impact of different harvesting practices on the miombo woodlands. Using household surveys and time allocation, the effects of children on patterns of wood collection and use are examined. The role of daughters in fuelwood collection is discussed in relation to theories of fertility and family size. Furthermore, behavioural ecology approaches are used to examine the decision making in wood collection. This research provides a useful framework for investigating resource use because it combines concurrent studies of village and woodland communities. The quantitative and rigorous approach enables the factors that influence resource use, and their impact, to be defined. This study contributes to theories of conservation and the practice of integrated management of natural resources. Furthermore, the research demonstrates the importance of woodland resources to the subsistence strategies of rural communities within a protected area system.