Wild Foods Zambia

Alice, an experienced enumerator, using a graduated bucket and peanut shells to measure household collecting devices In November 2018, FAO, in collaboration with the Center for International Forest Research (CIFOR), initiated a project to quantify the collection and consumption of foods from forests across Zambia including products such as mushrooms, wild tubers, wild fruits, freshwater fish, and edible insects. The work is designed to provide an initial step in providing policy-relevant data and in calculating national estimates of consumption. National estimates of these types of wild products are challenging because such a large proportion are informally collected and traded. However, quantification of wild foods from forests is essential to give a clear picture of the role of forests in supporting diet,s nutrition, and livelihoods, particularly for rural communities, and to support these communities or collecting cooperatives in developing sustainable value chains for their products.

The work centers on a household survey in coordination with one focus group and one market survey per area. The household survey was piloted four times over a 10-day methodological development trip and asks questions about which products are gathered, where the products are gathered, how much is gathered, and how much is consumed. Because most products are only available seasonally, we used a one year recall period for collection and then asked about what proportion of the collected product is consumed. In each area, the focus group was conducted in advance of the household survey to identify the most commonly collected species for each product category (e.g, fruits, insects, vegetables, etc.) and households were then asked specifically about these species. The market survey simply checked the proportion of stalls selling wild foods and the length of the value chains for a subset of these products.

A key challenge in this and similar surveys is that households in rural areas collect forest products in their own collecting containers which vary by household and which have no common or known size. An innovation of our approach was to purchase plastic buckets and pitchers, mark them with standard units, and supply them to our enumerators along with a bag of old peanut shells to measure the collecting units used in each household. This simple system allowed us to interview heads of households across Zambia in the units they actually use, their household buckets and baskets.

The survey was administered to 209 households across five areas of Zambia. The study areas are distributed across all 4 agro-ecological regions in Zambia. Initial results suggest that the questionnaire is providing reliable and policy-relevant information. All but one household surveyed collected products from the forest and most collected multiple types of products from forest areas. In December, we presented the first, to our knowledge, quantitative data for multiple areas of Zambia on collection and consumption of wild foods to a multi-disciplinary group of stakeholders. Next, we plan to combine the quantity of foods collected and consumed with nutrient composition data for wild foods thereby providing an initial assessment of the contribution of these foods to diet in each area studied.


last updated:  Wednesday, December 18, 2019