Non-timber forest products (NTFPs) are globally utilized resources. However, consideration of community natural resource dependencies is dominantly focused on rural populations. With rapid urbanization, growing food deserts, and increased populations of urban poor, this limited perspective is no longer viable. Understanding household dependencies across the ‘rural-urban continuum’ is increasingly relevant as not all urban households may be able to access cash based livelihood strategies and so remain reliant on subsistence resource use.
In order to understand urban-rural NTFP dependencies in southern Africa, we evaluated NTFP use, dependencies, and access in three communities in northern Botswana: two urbanizing towns (Kasane, n=30 households and Kazungula, n=30 households) and a rural village (Lesoma, n=25 households). We surveyed households using a questionnaire based survey tool, key informant interviews, and focus groups discussions.
Data suggests that 75% of households in urban areas use three or more NTFPs, most commonly wild fruits, wild spinach, fish, grass and fuelwood. The extent of use of these NTFPs showed little difference between the rural and urban households. In fact, 100% of all households surveyed used at least one NTFP. Data suggests that urban households utilise a range of resources, particularly wild foods and fuelwood, with the majority view that NTFPs are basic necessities.
We use this data to further explore the levels of dependency on NTFPs by urban and rural households as well as the implications to policy in urban development and sustainable natural resource management. Understanding rural-urban linkages is important in promoting the sustainable use, and conservation, of natural resources by broadening the options for enhancement of livelihood capabilities and complimentary policy development, particularly that of urban political ecology. The inclusion of NTFP use in urban policy development is often limited and a closer look at urban resource dependencies is key if improved urban livelihood capacities are to be as effective as rural livelihood development. Projections for urban migration and growth of poor urban communities make addressing these issues a matter of urgency.