Vol. 2, Issue 3 (2017)
An ecogeography of poverty? Dependence on biodiversity among communities adjacent to protected areas
Author(s): Tanyaradzwa Chigonda
Abstract: Many of the poor people of the world live in biodiverse regions where they disproportionately depend on biodiversity for the sustenance of livelihoods. An estimated 1.6 billion people, mainly located in tropical developing countries, depend on forests and forest products for livelihoods. This colocation of biodiversity and poverty is commonly referred to as the ecogeography of poverty. The study assessed the levels of dependence on biodiversity and evidences of the ecogeography of poverty in two rural communities in the south-east lowveld of Zimbabwe, which is one of the biodiverse regions of the country. A questionnaire was used to gather primary data on the socio-economic status of study respondents and levels of dependence on biodiversity. Key informants, and also secondary data, were further consulted so as to ascertain the status of biodiversity in areas adjacent to the study sites. The information on the socio-economic status of respondents and levels of dependence on biodiversity was crucial in determining the ecogeography of poverty in the study sites. The study revealed a high dependence on biodiversity among very poor households in both study sites, clearly indicating a colocation of biodiversity and poverty. It is recommended that the many protected areas bordering the study sites should be involved in community outreach programmes and activities for improving the livelihoods of adjacent communities. With Zimbabwe currently involved in a land reform exercise, relocating some of the households in the study sites to agro-ecologically more suitable areas would more sustainably enhance their livelihoods, in addition to encouraging those that remain to specialise in cattle ranching. This would help in reducing the clearly evident ecogeography of poverty in the study areas.