Previous Page Table of Contents

9. Dependency on forest and trees for food security

1.0 Introduction
2.0 Characteristics and Historical Background of the Study Villages.
3.0 Agricultural Production and Sources of Income
4.0 Forestry and Forest Products
5.0 Current and emerging issues
6.0 Comparisons between the two villages
7.0 Comments from the participants on the rap method
8.0 Preliminary conclusions

by the Tanzania Food and Nutrition Centre, Tanzania.


Compiled By

Missano, H.

Njebele, C.W.

Kayombo, L.

Ogle, B.

1.0 Introduction

1.1 Background and Justification
1.2 Description of the region
1.3 Objectives
1.4 Methodology

Forests and woodlands are assumed to occupy about 50 percent of Tanzania's land area (TFAP 1989). In these regions/areas forests and forest products continue to be central to the household economy, as well as to household food security and health through numerous traditional practices. Forests and tree products form a significant part of household food security in most communities in the rural areas.

The entire rural population as well as the majority of the urban households rely on forest resources for their energy needs. In the rural areas mostly firewood is used while in the urban areas about half of the population use charcoal as their main source of energy. Subsistence farmers also need the forest lands for their agricultural production.

In Mtwara, the region selected for this study, farmers practice a forest-fallow system of shifting agriculture and continue to expand into remaining forest areas in their search for more fertile land.

In addition forest resources are being used to supply building materials as well as various forest foods and medicines. It is a major concern of the forestry department that forest resources in many parts of the region are now being rapidly depleted.

1.1 Background and Justification

Historical background indicate that frequent food crisis caused by natural calamities like drought floods, outbreak of crop diseases and pests is normally associated with increased us of forest and tree products for food. Usually the intensity of utilization is higher in those areas where forest and tree products are easily accessible.

However, not only direct consumable food is obtained from forests and tree products but they sometimes provide indirect support to household food security (see fig.1). Such supports comes in different forms like provision of materials for business such as firewood, charcoal, timber, crafts etc. which in turn provide cash for use in purchasing food items. Firewood is in most rural communities the only source of cooking fuel.

Forest and tree products have also been and are still being used for prevention and cure of diseases. This is indirectly related to household food security in the sense that it provides good health to both people and livestock as well as crops. It is also associated with normalizing or increasing the productivity and food availability.

Maintenance and improvement of ecology, is also achieved by the presence of forest and tree products. Good soil conservation and fertility with improved conditions of rainfall availability is partly a function of forests and tree products.

In areas which face shortage of domesticated animals (livestock), forests and tree products play a major role as good sources of animal protein. People go for animal hunting to supplement the little available source of animal protein.

1.2 Description of the region

1.2.1 Background to the pilot study

Mtwara region is located in the extreme South East of Tanzania covering an area of 16 726 sq. km. It is bordered by the Indian Ocean in the East, the Ruvuma river and Mocambique in the South, the Ruvuma region in the West and Lindi region in the North.

Administratively, Mtwara region is divided into four districts; Mtwara Urban (163 sq. km.), Mtwara Rural (3 597 sq. km.), Masasi 8,940 sq. km.) and Newala (4,020 sq. km.). According to the 1988 population census there were 894,000 people in the region and the population has been growing at an average rate of 1.4%, well below that of the national average of 2.8% for the last ten years.

Mtwara region has 132,192 hectares of planted forest and about 542,000 hectares of natural forests. Hence about 30% of the region is covered by forest but the requirements of wood for different uses is also high and increasing with population pressure.

Mtwara rural district has about 284,857 ha of natural forests including several forest reserves. It also has 1,073 ha of planted forest and 14,237 ha of mangrove forest reserves. Hence, about 76% of the total land area of the district is covered by forests. The district lies within the eastern zone of the Makonde plateau and has an altitude ranging from sea level to approximately 350 metres.

The district has a population of 169,436 people, mostly Makonde. Other major ethnic groups of people living in the area include, Makonde from Mozambique, Yao, Makua and Swahili.

Major health problems in the area include malaria, upper respiratory tract diseases, and diarrhoea. The district has a relatively high rate of malnutrition as compared to the other two districts in the CSD programme. According to the Tanzania Nutrition Trends report (TNT, 1992) about 9.5% of the total children underfive years of age during the year 1990 were severely malnourished.

The major source of income is subsistance agriculture with cassava and cashewnuts as predominant cash crops. Other cash crops include coconut, oil seeds and legumes. Major food crops include sorghum, cassava, rice, maize and legumes. Livestock plays a minor role but there are some cattle, goats and poultry.

1.2.1 Background to the pilot study

During the early phase of the Forest, Trees and People programme, TFNC carried out a nutrition study in the Forest and Tree Programme (FTP) project area of Babati. This study was the first activity TFNC undertook in collaboration with the community forestry department. Although the study was small it was important in making both nutritionists and foresters aware of the many and complex ways in which the two fields interrelate. It also raised the interest in participating in further FTP activities aiming at finding more practical methods of collecting information on forestry and nutrition.

Thus, TFNC participated in the planning seminar in Uppsala in 1991. This was when the plans for conducting pilot surveys on dependency on forests and farm trees for food security were drawn up. Further preparatory discussions were held between the department of Community Forestry of the Ministry of Tourism National Resource and Environment and TFNC, and a one day workshop involving TFNC, ministries of Tourism Natural Resources and Environment, Agriculture and Community Development Children and Women affairs and Institute of Resource Assessment was held in Dar es Salaam. The meeting introduced and discussed several issues relating to forestry, food security and nutrition and served as a sensitization seminar for professionals from all the participating institutions. The plans for the pilot study in Mtwara were discussed and agreed on. The meeting formed a multisectorial taskforce to review existing documentation, identify ongoing efforts and prepare a 5-year programme (Ref.).

1.3 Objectives

1.3.1 General objectives
1.3.2 Specific objectives

1.3.1 General objectives

1. This, study in Mbambakofi and Nanguruwe villages in Mtwara rural district, aims at exploring the degree of dependency by the community, and identifying way through which the forest staff can use this opportunity to integrate nutrition aspects on their programme so that Household food security can be assured.

2. To provide preliminary information on the role of forests and trees in food security, people's dependence on forest and trees, changes and trends in the nature of this dependency.

3. To develop and test informal methods of collecting information on dependency on forests and trees which could be useful for planning of support activities by institutions involved in community forestry and nutrition.

1.3.2 Specific objectives

1. Describe and analyse the current role of forests and tree products in household food security, especially in the food insecure households.

2. Document the perceived changes in access to and dependency on forests and tree products for food security and describe strategies people use to cope with these.

3. Identify priority issues expressed by the communities and relate to dependency on forests and trees for food security for community forestry to consider in their planning.

1.4 Methodology:

1.4.1 Selection of Study area.
1.4.2 Teamwork and Field Implementation.

1.4.1 Selection of Study area.

During a preliminary visit to Mtwara in August 1992, staff from TFNC and Ministry of Tourism Natural Resources and Environment (Department of Community Forestry) selected two villages for the pilot study. The criteria used for the selection was that one village should be close to the proposed forest reserve of Mnivata/Mtiniko and the other further away from a forest but still using forest produces. The villages selected were Mnivata/Mbambakofi and Nanguruwe/Namahyakata.

1.4.2 Teamwork and Field Implementation.

A multi disciplinary team carried out the pilot study. TFNC and the Ministry of Tourism Natural Resources and Environment (Department of Community Forestry) jointly selected a team with the following composition:

TFNC staff (including 2 nutritionists and 1 agricultural economist)

3 forest officers (from regional, district and community level)

2 community development officers (from district and community level)

1 Nutritionist/Ministry of Agriculture (district level)

The team members are listed in appendix.

Preliminary information was collected through use of rapid assessment methods. The research team was given a three day training in this techniques in connection with the joint planning of the study. The team collected and reviewed secondary data from regional and community levels, Discussed and agreed on issues of importance for investigations of dependency on forests and farm trees for food security and together prepared checklists to be used in collection of primary data.

Following that the team made a one day initial visit to the communities for consultation with village leaders on topics of importance and practical arrangements. In accomplishing this work the team divided into two groups of about five people. Each group went to different sublocation of the selected villages.

Then the team spent two days in each village collecting information. The information was gathered through village meetings, village walks, semi-structured interviews and conversations with key informants and knowledgeable people individually and in groups. Interviews were made with different categories of community members e.g. leaders, elders, women, youth, and children. The information from interviews and conversations was complemented with observations. During field work, the team split into smaller sub groups of 2-3 people using different combinations of professions depending on the topic to be investigated.

The data collected included general village set up, history, economic development, current issues, production systems, sources of income, food procurement, food security, use of forest and tree products in meeting food security needs, trends and changes in utilisation, extent and nature of food problems, coping strategies, current and emerging problems.

... Insert (PRA training & data collected in connection with 3rd visit ... Analysis and reporting

Each evening day the team met and reviewed the information gathered during the day. In those meetings, summaries from the interviews were prepared for the report, and illustrations and diagrams of the findings were made. The team discussed and compared notes and took notice of conflicting and missing information for further investigation the following day. Each day the team also agreed on topics to investigate the next day, revised the checklists and decided on key respondents or groups to interview the following day. Differences and similarities between the two study villages were also discussed before leaving the study area and preliminary conclusions drawn.

... Need to add from 2nd & 3rd visit ...

2.0 Characteristics and Historical Background of the Study Villages.

2.1 Social Services


Mnivata/Mbambakofi village is located 56 km south west of Mtwara on the road to Newala district. The village is divided into two sub-locations, Mnivata and Mbambakofi, each with houses on both sides of the road and separated by a stretch of forest (see map 2). The Mnivata forest reserve lies partly within the village boundaries. Including the crop fields and natural forest the area belonging to the village stretch approximately 4 km towards the north and 5 km to the south.

Mnivata sublocation is a traditional village said to have originated under Chief Mzee Chamtula during the 19th century when Sultan Bin Said ruled Zanzibar. The original settlers came from Newala district and settled near the river valley and at the edge of the forest. The village remained small until in the 1950's when the new road was constructed. People then moved towards the roadside and in the early 1960's the first families settled in the area which was to become Mbambakofi (Figure 2).



First settlers


Proposed forest reserve


Construction of Mtwara-Newala road people started moving from valley


Food shortage


Few families settled in Mbambakofi


Mbambakofi registered as village


Food shortage


Villagization act-people moved from valley and other areas to Mnivata/Mbambakofi


Primary School opened in Mbambakofi


Food shortage


Kuchakumi farm introduced


Floods in valley area


Food shortage

The Mbambakofi sublocation was registered as a village in 1968. It received it's name from the Mbambakofi tree (Afzelia quanzensis) which was planted on the road side and became a popular resting place.

With villagization in 1974 more people moved in from areas nearby. According to the village register, the total population of the two clusters today is 1726 persons consisting of 341 households. The majority of the people are of upcountry Makonde origin and most of them are moslems.

Behind the houses and further away from the road is a mixture of old and new fields in the natural, regenerated forest areas. Access to land in terms of-acreage is not yet a problem in the Mnivata/Mbambakofi area but people complain that the fertility of the land is decreasing and that there is no more thick forest available for opening up new fields. Some therefore question the proposed forest reserve.

The Mtiniko/Mnivata forest Shamba la Bibi (Grandmothers forest) was proposed a reserve in 1952. It is a catchment rather than a productive forest and it was considered of special interest beneficial because potential springs were developing. The forest border was cleared regularly until the 1970's but has since been left unattended for financial reasons. In general both villagers and government have respected the boundaries and regulations of the reserve despite it not yet being a gazetted forest. The forest is now said to harbour wild animals such as lions, leopards, bushpigs and monkeys and the villagers complain that these wild animals are destroying their field crops.

2.1 Social Services

Mnivata/Mbambakofi has got limited basic social facilities. A primary school was established in 1980. It was constructed by the villagers themselves and the government gave a support of corrugated iron sheets. The school is surrounded by trees from the seedlings distributed by the forestry department in the early 1980's.

The village has a serious problem of water shortage. There is no permanent river neat Mbambakofi and the sub-merged surface water storage troughs have been constructed all over the village area. People have also dug several deep water holes in the dry river valley to utilize the little amount of water available. The river valley is located on the north side of the village and collects water from Newala in the Makonde plateau to the Indian Ocean. In the dry season, people walk about 4 km searching for water, and spend long hours (6-12) queing to collect water from the river valleys.

There is no clinic and the basic health service is provided by a first aid assistant who has a first aid kit. There are also three traditional birth attendants in the village. For other services villagers utilize health centres in Mtimbwilimbi, Ntiniko and Namasangi which are about 5-7 km away. There is also a catholic missionary hospital which is located in Nanyamba, about 20 km away.

There is no centralized market place in the village but small informal markets are found in several places near the road. Mostly youths are involved in the selling of foods, cigarettes, both forest and domesticated fruits and other forest products, e.g. Ming'oko.

Last year a group of elders also decided to start a small shop in one of the houses and this group now sells items mostly needed in emergencies such as funerals.

There is one mosque in each cluster/street, (i.e. Mbambakofi and Mnivata) and the village also owns one godown which is mainly used for storing crops collected by the primary cooperative union. Major crops collected by the union are cassava (dried) and cashewnuts.


Nanguruwe/Namahyakata villages are located about 45 km south west of Mtwara on the way to Newala District. People started to settle at Nanguruwe/Namahyakata in 1950s when the road was constructed as they wanted to live along the road.

In 1974 as villagezation took place more people came from nearby villages, and to date, people are still imigrating in especially from Newala. It is said that they are attracted by availability of social services, mainly water, health centre, school & transport.

Previously, these two villages had one common name (Nanguruwe). In 1975 the Nanguruwe split into two (see fig.3).



First settlers.


Cassava started to gain economic importance.


Mtwara-Newala road constructed
Opened by Governer 1954.


Godown constructed.


Health Centre constructed.


Food crisis.


More people moved in.


Food shortage-drought

Some died from eating improperly processed wild roots.


Split to two villages - Nanguruwe and Namahyakata.


More people came from Newala.




More people came from Newala.


Started to use cassava as cash crop.


Food shortage for most families (March-April).

One side retained the name while the other was named Namahyakata and these two are separated by the road. The split of the village was due to increased number of households.

As more people moved in from various areas including Kitondo village, Kitondo primary school which was about 5 km distance had to shift to Nanguruwe/Namahyakata from where it was previously located (i.e. 1975). The school was built by villagers themselves and Government supplied corrugated iron sheets and cement.

According to village register, the population of Nanguruwe/Namahyakata is 2, 977 (data December, 1991) with 733 households and the household size is between 6-10.

This include:


7 22



Children (under 13 years)






The dominant ethnic group in Nanguruwe/Namahyakata are also Makonde, most of them are moslems. Only few are christians and most of these are from Mozambique.

Nanguruwe/Namahyakata has a health centre established in 1970 and currently serving more than 10 villages. Only one traditional birth attendant was identified.

Unlike Mnivata/Mbambakofi, water is not a problem in this village. There is a water dam which supplies water throughout the year.

3.0 Agricultural Production and Sources of Income

3.1 Main Staples.
3.2 Labour demand
3.3 Livestock
3.4 Domesticated Fruits

3.1 Main Staples.

The main economic activity in both study areas is agriculture. Nearly all households are subsistence farmers who practice shifting cultivation or forest-fallow system.

Cassava is a basic dependable staple crop through out the year (Fig. 4)


Cassava is also treated as a major cash crop. It is intercropped with a number of other food crops such as sorghum, bulrush millet, maize, and rice. Thus, the definition of food short-age in these villages implies low Cassava harvests. Other crops grown are cowpeas, sweet potatoes and several varieties of yams. The second major cash crop is cashewnuts, but smaller amounts of rice, sorghum and maize are also sold on the local market.

The number of crops intercropped in a single field depends on the size of the field. Normally people prefer to grow more than four crops (i.e. cassava, maize, sorghum and rice) in one field when the size of the field is as larger as two acres or more. This system of intercropping is preferred to monocropping because it is believed to take care of risks of crop output failure due to droughts, crop disease and pests outbreaks!

The local cultivation system is rather complex with a large variety of crops intercropped without tilling the land in the same field. Planting time for the individual crop varies and rarely or no kind of fertilizer is applied. In both areas planting seasons and sequence of crops is almost the same. During the first year after the forest has been cleared and burnt, cassava is planted first followed by rice, maize, and then cashewnut. The cassava is planted in rows but more widely spaced than the government recommendations, with grain crops interspaced in the rows.

Cowpeas, sweet potatoes, pumpkins and a number of local yam varieties can also be intercropped in the same field during the first year.

In the second and sometimes up to the fourth year, the plot will only be planted with cassava and cashewnut. New areas are used for the cereals and legumes. Cassava may be planted in the same field for a third and even fourth year but people complained that yields decrease with the years.

A number of different varieties of cassava are used. They vary in maturing periods (table: 1) but also in other characteristics, e.g. texture, taste and storage.

Table 1: Common Cassava varieties.


Maturing time (Months)




(New farm)


(Old farm)










After the third (or fourth-fifth) year, the land is left fallow for 10-13 years with only cashew remaining. The cashew tree indicates that the land is occupied. This will ensure that the plot is left to regenerate until the farmer decides to start another cycle of production.

The average farm size is said to be 6-10 acres in Mbambakofi and 4-5 acres in Nanguruwe/Namahyakata. The biggest farm in Nanguruwe is about 15 acres.

Depending on the labour available access to cash or food to hire labour, households can continue to expand their farms. Some people feel that currently there is a trend of farm expansion. Some are complaining that much of the better farmland near the road is already occupied by the elders (but not used) and new farms have to be opened far away. Several people commented that land fertility was declining, there was no longer good farming land available closer to the villages. Thus, they wanted to get permission to clear part of the forest reserve.

The yields of cassava are better during the first year of cultivation but declining thereafter (See table: 2) All agreed however, that the yields were better in their system of intercropping than what would be possible with a monocropping system. People said that they would get 6 bags of rice if monocropped but could get 2 bags of rice plus 2 bags of maize, 1 bag of sorghum and 4 of cassava if they applied their intercropping system.

Table: 2 Average Crop Yield for Main Staples.






5 - 7 bags

up to 10 bags


1 bag

2 - 3 bags


1 ½ bags

½ - 1 bag


2 - 4 bags

¼ - ½

Many people commented that cassava production was expanding. Cassava has just become the priority cash crop with an assured market through agreements made with private dealers. Farmers have seen that those who sold enough cassava last year, all made enough profit to buy bicycles and other useful consumer goods. Others were planning to expand their fields this season. Up to the 1950's people relied on their traditional staples millet and sorghum sufficiently to neglect cassava as a food. In fact during that time cassava played only a minor role as cash crop and was used for local brewing beer that had to be mixed with tobacco (Figure 5).



Cassava introduced in the village minor crop used for brewing only


Started to gain importance as cash crop started to be used as food


Gained importance as food against traditional grains


Cassava major food


Cassava main cash crop as well as major food

Gradually cassava has gained popularity against the traditional grains as a staple. Cassava became the main staple in 1970s and was until 1989 mainly grown for food. With the current lucrative market prices for cassava, people in Nanguruwe have even stopped using it for the local brew and changed to coconut sap (mnazi). Cassava beer is only brewed for festivals. Harvesting of the new crops normally starts as early as April starting with maize, followed by other annuals during the months of May and June (fig.6).


During the dry and sunny months of July to October, cassava harvesting and sundrying takes place. Enough cassava has to be processed to ensure sufficient supplies over the rainy seasons. Drying is difficult during the rainy months and some people do soak the thin cassava roots to speed up the drying at such times.

The local varieties of cashew may start producing after the third year. For better cashewnut harvests, the crop requires a substantial pesticide input and good management.

Farmers complained that it was no longer worthwhile. Production has been declining since 1970s and producer prices last season were 127/= per kg which is considerably lower than anticipated.

3.2 Labour demand

The seasonal pattern of labour and the gender division of labour for agricultural work in the two areas follows a similar pattern to other regions in Tanzania. The busiest period, when women feel that they are overworked is during the early part of the agricultural season. This is when preparation of the fields, planting and weeding is done (Fig. 7).


Normally men are concerned with clearing and preparing the new fields while women often work on the old shamba. In Nanguruwe both men and women were said to take part in planting of cassava and the annual crops. But in Mbambakofi this was said to be the responsibility of the women. In both study areas, the weeding of crops were all done by women.

The period of relaxation, rest and visiting friends and relatives is during May-June. At that time most of the annual crops would be harvested and people could afford to take a break before July when the harvesting and drying of cassava begins.

3.3 Livestock

Livestock play only a minor role in the economy of bath study areas. Apart from chickens which are common in most households, only very few families are engaged in livestock keeping. In Mnivata/Mbambakofi only 10 households had goats and 2 households had sheep. It was said that there was a declining trend of number of livestock keepers and that of livestock kept.

In Mbambakofi, cattle was introduced by government in the 1970's but failed to prosper. The serious water shortages and the lack of grazing land together with poor or absence of veterinary services had all contributed to the failure. To day people are not very much interested in keeping small livestock either. Only few households kept their goats tethered near their houses.

Some people expressed their willingness to use the open range livestock keeping system. But, their fear was that, if livestock were left roaming around the forest, they would cause crop damage in the forest fields or get killed by leopards or lions. This has happened sometimes within the village itself where some livestock were killed by wild animals.

In Nanguruwe however, a relatively big number of people keep livestock like goat, sheep, chicken and doves. Very few people (about 2) have cattle. Like in Mbambakofi, in Nanguruwe cattle were introduced by the Government but, only few of them were surviving. Same reasons as those applied to Mbambakofi, except water shortage accounted for the failure of the programme in Nanguruwe as well.

In the nearby village of Namahyakata, cattle keeping is both done privately and communally. There are two cows communally owned under the village leadership management, while some few individual also have their own cattle.

The few domesticated animals are supplemented by wild animals which are used in large amount. The presence of Makonde from Mozambique who are good hunters has contributed to consumption of more wild animal species in the area.

3.4 Domesticated Fruits

Coconut, palms and one or two fruit trees are grown near houses. Common tree fruits include oranges, mangoes, pawpaw and bananas.

A wild plant locally known as "Mlangilangi" whose fruits produce a dye used in food preparations, dying of materials for making baskets and mats has also bean domesticated. The plant has become more popular around many homes especially at Nanguruwe, and it is also sold for cash.

4.0 Forestry and Forest Products

4.1 Use of forest foods
4.2 Medicinal use.
4.3 Preferences and trends.
4.4 Food shortages and crisis.

Besides marketing of agricultural produce and farm labouring, small forest based enterprises dealing with marketing forest products are the only alternative sources of income in the study areas. These enterprises include selling of firewoods, charcoal, carvings and timber.

4.1 Use of forest foods

4.1.1 Fruits
4.1.2 Root products
4.1.3 Vegetables
4.1.4 Animal Products
4.1.5 Honey

A large number of forest foods, especially fruits and roots are still used in bath study areas. Over forty varieties of fruits, several different roots and vegetables, mushrooms and numerous wild animals and birds were mentioned in the interviews and conversations. A full list of those mentioned in interviews or shown to the team during field visit is given in Appendix (i - vi).

The list is probably an exhaustive list of forest foods familiar to people in the area, and should not be interpreted as an indication of dependency.

The exploratory nature of the initial interviews did not allow such analysis of all foods mentioned.

Nevertheless it is clear that people in both areas make extensive use of forest foods in four major ways. Some as regular items in the diet, some are used intensively and some seasonally during the-high time of agricultural field work. This is when people spend a lot of time in the forest areas attending their fields. Some are exploited only when extra cash is needed and some in times of food shortages or crisis.

4.1.1 Fruits

Fruits such as mango, vitolo, matili and usofu were plentiful in the Mbambakofi area, and they were mentioned by all as important both for consumption and as a source of extra income. The mango season coincides with the early preparation of the fields and mangoes are a welcome addition to the diet. In fact, many of the most popular fruits were in season during the period of December April. (See appendix iv).

They were much appreciated as snacks in the busy agricultural season when people would be in the forest, or walking through on the way to the fields for planting or weeding.

Matili and usofu were often gathered in larger amounts by men and youths. They were highly thought of having a considerable cash value and would sell even in Dar es salaam or to the Far East. Matili is also valued as a basis for a soft drink 'togwa', and for local beer or could even be distilled into a potent 'gin'. Other fruits such as 'vitolo' or 'makunyu' were more considered children's fruits.

Some even said that it was difficult to keep the children in school when those fruits were in season and that whole classes could disappear for the day when these fruits were in season.

People also questioned whether overeating of these fruits was dangerous, as children often got constipated or other stomach complaints, especially when they swallowed the hard fruit seeds. But, fortunately they have some plant remedies which are used especially when someone had overeaten 'vitolo'.

4.1.2 Root products

Of all forest foods discussed with the community, ming'oko is clearly the most important. It is available all year around and is used regularly in the diet as well as more intensely in periods of food shortage. Many were of the opinion that it was becoming more common. People would eat ming'oko while waiting for the main meal to be prepared, or mix ming'oko with cassava for diet variations. "It's the first food we eat in a meal" (village elder's statement in group interview).

Collecting ming'oko is the work of women. It could be done throughout the year, but the peak season could be dry seasons especially during the period of transit food shortages. During the rainy season it is more difficult to find the vines as the bush grew generally thick and lush. Thus, the thin vines were more difficult to be seen.

Ming'oko is also the forest food which is most significant from an economic point of view, and which seems to have an assured growing market outside the village. In Nanguruwe Ming'oko is used extensively to complement the traditional staple, despite the fact that Ming'oko is not available within the village.

Women travel long distances ranging from 8-16 km to the nearby villages of Mkomo Chavi, Mtiniko and Malanje where Ming'oko are available in a reasonably large quantities. Normally women spend a night away and come back the next day.

Though Ming'oko are regarded as not an important commodity for sale (business) in the village; but observations indicated that Ming'oko are sold both when raw and boiled. Most people involved in this business are youths who do it on behalf of their mothers. One piece of boiled Ming'oko measuring about 10 cm long sells at 2/=. While a bundle of ming'oko with about 10-15 pieces (see picture) was sold at 10-20/=. Occasionally, cassava is sold in a fresh form. Normally it is sold in a dried form, with one kg fetching up to 25/=.

Despite this given so far to carryout research or investigation of this wild yam variety. Only one priest in a nearby community was said to have tried to domesticate and cultivate ming'oko. But, in general no one could see any advantage of doing that as the production of ming'oko was more than sufficient.

At the local Naliendele agricultural research station only minor interest has been shown to the crop. Some scientific studies on the crop has been attempted by the research station. The studies involved collecting germ plasm from the forest. First the growth was tested in a pot, but it failed to germinate well and later died.

Thereafter, another test was carried out in the farm (in normal soils) but also the crop failed to thrive. However, these tests made researchers to come up with thoughts that the crop requires soils with higher fertility for better growth. So far, no botanical name has bean named though it was said that the crop belongs to the Dioscorea spicies. Currently it is generally called a wild yam. It was also claimed that, plans are underway to carryout studies on the nutritional value of the crop. This is going to be done in collaboration between the research centre and TFNC.

Several other wild roots and tubers were also mentioned but each was of lesser significance. Several of the local yams varieties which were domesticated were said to be found also in the wild but this was not fully verified. There was one tuber said to resemble Irish potatoes ("Mandale", Mailu).

Apart from Ming'oko, and other forest fruits, Mbunga is another forest product highly preferred for its sweet taste for consumption. It is a wild grain from bamboo trees resembling rice.

Though the crop is highly appreciated but its supply occurs in long cycles. The bamboo grain "Mbunga" is produced when the bamboo tree reaches its maximum growth and after producing the grains, the tree dies. It takes about 30 years to reach its maximum growth & produce grains.

Its occurrence is traditionally associated with poor crop harvests leading to famine for that particular year. This type of wild grain is used by the people especially during food shortage.

4.1.3 Vegetables

A limited number of vegetables were also gathered from the forest, mostly during the rainy season. In the initial field visit no attempt was made to investigate the use of such foods in depth and some of the villagers thought that they were not very important.

The varieties which were commonly used included leaves from the cassava plant, wild 'mchicha' and mucilagenous leaves like 'mlenda' (See Appendix (iii). In Nanguruwe there were leaves from at least three species mentioned as vegetables and several water plants growing in the pond.

4.1.4 Animal Products

Wild animals are considered as a nuisance in Mbambakofi, because they destroy crops. This is due partly to its being part of the reserve forest which harbours a lot of vermins. However, in Nanguruwe the wild animals are hunted for food. Hunting is done mostly by the Mozambican Makondes who are traditionally hunters. The animals which are widely hunted include wild pigs, hogs, birds, gazelle, rabbits, dikdick.

A list of animals and birds that are hunted could be seen on appendix (v). During hunting the Mozambican Makonde team up with the upland Makondes who are moslems and who actually do the slaughtering of the animals, so that they can be used by the rest of the community. The use of wild animals for food could be of great importance to the community, as there are very few domesticated ones.

4.1.5 Honey

Use of honey in this communities is very minimal. There is only one beekeeper at Mbambakofi. This person was initially a traditional beekeeper and has now been supplied with modern beehives.

4.2 Medicinal use.

A number of forest plant products were also mentioned as home-remedies both in prevention and treatment of common health problems. An initial list from the first visit is given in appendix (i).

Knowledge and use of plant medicines was not limited to traditional healers only. On the contrary, most people would mention or show the common plant medicines and describe how they would be applied as a first "home cure" for different ailments.

4.3 Preferences and trends.

Most of the food items mentioned could be used mostly for diversity of the diet, however Ming'oko seems to be playing a crucial role in food security. It has been shown to be used for complimenting the usual diet and also as a supplementary food in lean months. The degree of dependency on forest products will be explored during the second visit.

4.4 Food shortages and crisis.

For people in Mbambakofi, food security is basically perceived as sufficient stores of cassava up to the time when the new crops are harvested. Shortages and bad years were described as situations where people have to resort to harvesting thinner cassava roots. This has normally been occurring during the December-March a period of transit food shortage (hunger seasons - see fig. 8).


During this period people rely heavily on the Ming'oko roots as a coping strategy.

With the new role of cassava as a cash crop, women were fearing worse food shortages in future as their husbands would sell off too much of the food stock.

The views of men and women were clearly different on the issue of whether food shortages were common or not. Men generally did not consider food insecurity as a major issue, at least not in Mbambakofi. On the contrary most women rated food shortage was a problem and that this was compounded by the fact that cassava functioned as both major staple and cash crop.

Serious food crisis for the entire community did not seem to be a major issue. But, most villagers would recall some years when food shortages were more severe because of drought, or would agree that some households had problems in meeting the food needs. They all described various strategies through which food insecure households coped with during hunger periods.

Besides increased use of immature cassava and Ming'oko, other coping strategies to overcome the hunger season include food for work or rely on relatives for food assistance or use cash to purchase.

In years of more severe crisis people would resort to famine foods. Several types of toxic roots were mentioned including Malondolo and Hyangadi. The process of detoxification was described to be labourious.

5.0 Current and emerging issues:

A number of concerns issues related to food security and the future were brought up in conversations with both men and women in the two study areas.

The overwhelming problem in the Mnivata/Mbambakofi area is water. Water collected from the storage tanks or the hand dug holes and wells in the dry river valley would only last for 9-10 months.

After that women have to walk several kilometres to get water from other distant sources. This goes on up to the time when the tanks begun to fill again. Over forty of the 53 storage tanks were in need of repair and no cement was available even in the Mtwara town. The problem was acute at the time of the preliminary review. However, the local, district and the region authorities were aware of this touchy problem.

The declining productivity and deterioration of forests and forest lands is a central concern in both study areas and linked to several of the listed problems. The forest-fallow system of shifting agriculture is under increasing stress for reasons of population pressure (natural and immigration) and desire to expand cassava cultivation. Over time farmers have had to clear for new fields further away from the village. Many now complain of time consuming and tiresome long walk distances to the fields. Farmers in both study areas try to increase farm production through expansion of the cultivated area. In some cases they try to meet their increased need through longer use of the same fields or shortening the fallow periods. Still many complain of continued declining yields. The dependency on forests to sustain agricultural production and as a supplementary source of non-agricultural income is gradually becoming more difficult as most of these are also forest based. The collection of forest products for cash income is becoming more difficult and the availability of forest foods is also declining.

People in both Mbambakofi and Nanguruwe complain for declining fertility of land and "Land-shortage" (i.e. no more dense, virgin forest for their new fields). In Mbambakofi, forest foods seem still available in abundance while in Nanguruwe people already have to walk long distances to find these products.

6.0 Comparisons between the two villages:

(i) Based on: (1) availability of resources.
(ii) Based on: (2) use of resources.

(i) Based on: (1) availability of resources.



*1. Kuchakuni

*1. Kuchakuni

2. No Mfumaki

2. Mfumaki

3. Sufficient land with relatively low fertility

3. Sufficient land with relatively high fertility

4. Farms near home

4. Distant farms from home

5. More area with thick forest

5. Less area with thick forest

6. Water shortage

6. Have adequate water supply

7. Low population

7. Density populated with high influx of people from other areas particularly Newala.

*8. Have School

8. Have School

9. Have less Social facilities

9. More Social facilities

NB: * - Indicate Common to all villages.

(ii) Based on: (2) use of resources



1. No forest based small business

1. More forest based small business.

*2. High use of forest food products

*2. High use of forest food products.

3. Less use of animal products

3. More use of animal products

4. Walk less distance to collect forest products.

4. Walk long distance

5. Less cassava production

5. More Cassava products

6. Less variety of crops grown

6. Wide variety of crops grown.

*7. Livestock keeping is minimal

*7. Livestock keeping is minimal

8. More complains about wild life destroying

S. Less Complains

9. Less urbanized

9. More urbanized

*10. Lean months hunger seasons common to both

*11. Share the same rainfall patterns and crisis periods are the same

*12. Same coping strategies during hunger/food shortage periods.

13. Long fallow periods

13. Shorter fallow periods

14. Gets most of the forest fruits

14. Only some of the forest fruits

15. Mostly Makonde moslems from Makonde Mainland

15. Mixed with other tribes few Christians and majority muslims.

NB: Indicate common to all villages

7.0 Comments from the participants on the rap method

1. (a) It is an easy method, but, possibilities for repeating the same respondents is high especially if you have a large team in small village.

(b) Solution to the above (a) is:

- to have a better preliminary arrangements at village level.

- the size of the survey team should be proportionate to the size of the village.

2. The method can be adjusted according to the community needs. It is also seems to be approximately right or precisely wrong.

3. It is faster and cheaper

4. The investigator need to be able to interview and need be interested in the subject.

5. Can be useful for community forest activities in Mtwara for TFAP and RFAP at both National and Regional respectively.

8.0 Preliminary conclusions:

1. Community dependency on forest for farm land (Shifting Cultivation) presently the community feel that there is a decline in land fertility.

2. There has been an intensive use of forest products for food particularly Ming'oko.

The use is more pronounced during food shortages. In some cases forest food are used in the case of changing diet and sometimes as a source of income.

3. Fuelwood is not a problem, but choice of suitable wood could be a problem because most suitable woods has been depleted and they are found deeper into the forests.

4. There is a seasonal food shortages and some houses could be severely food insecure.

5. Cassava production could expand with time as it becomes a cash crop. This as it becomes a cash crop. This can have a considerable consequences on forest deterioration. Because farm land expansion goes concomitantly with deforestation.

Appendix (i) List of trees used for medical purposes

Tree (Makonde) Name

Scientific name

Part of a tree used

Diseases it treats

Mpera (guava)


Stomach pains






Constipation bilharzia



ear pain



Coughing, chest pain



























Stomach pain


Leaves (leaves)



Many diseases

Appendix (ii): List of forest roots used as food

Makonde Name


English/ Elab.

Scientific name

Season Available


Wild yam

Whole year








Dioscorea bulbifera




Mandale, Mailu









Bamboo grains

*Most Pentful

Appendix (iii): Forest Vegetables

Makonde Name



Scientific Name




Cassava leaves

Manihot gravii

Nov - May



Amaranthus wild onion
















Mushrooms (fungi)

Highland valley


Dec - Jan































Appendix (iv): Forest Fruits

Makonde Name



Scientific Name





Mangifera indica


Matili, Maungo







Lannea Stuhlmanni











Sterarlia appendiculata






Tamarindus indica


Uheu, Usegevu




Mwambo, Kwambo


Jinjunju, Vingolongondo













Mambila, Mambilu



Annona senegalensis







Pulp as spice





Psidium guajara

a whole year




Jan- Feb









Appendix (v): Wild animals

Makonde name

Swahili name

English name

Scientific name

Season of availability













Wild pig










Appendix (vi): Wild Birds

Makonde Name

Swahili Name

English elaboration

Scientific Name

Season of availability























Figure 9(c): VEGETABLES

Figure 9(d): MUSHROOMS


1. Compare food insecure households (Who, Why and how many).
2. Role of different formal and nonformal institutions e.g. research center's)
3. Case examples on:-

(b) Progressive farmers

4. Role of forest and tree products in infant and young child feeding and health questionnaire.
5. Firewood: Accessibility of preferred tree spices
6. Present and planned community forest activities
7. Check on the domesticated forest food crops
8. Check on the degree of dependency of forest and tree products on household food security.




Previous Page Top of Page