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Rural livelihoods on bamboo handicraft making and culm vending in Mvera, Malawi

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The bamboo enterprises involving handicraft making and culm vending in Mvera, Dowa district, Malawi were studied from October to December 2003. The aims of the research were to find out the contribution of bamboo enterprises to household income and the management practices of the bamboo handicraft makers and bamboo collectors, and the activities of stakeholders in the bamboo industries in Mvera. Eighteen respondents were randomly selected from the bamboo culm vending community for questionnaire survey and stratified random sampling was used to select 74 respondents from bamboo handicraft making villages. Focus groups discussions on issues of bamboo enterprises were conducted in each of the five villages selected. Perceived stakeholders were consulted to examine their roles in bamboo enterprises. It was found that an average bamboo handicraft maker used 681 bamboo culms per year and an average bamboo culm vendor cut 1146 culms per year. It was also found that an average bamboo handicraft maker obtained MK 20 684 (US$ 190) per year from the cash sales of assorted handicrafts and an average bamboo culm vendor obtained MK 10 833 (US$ 100) per year from bamboo culm cash sales. An average bamboo entrepreneur obtained MK 3251 (US$ 30) from farm cash sales. However, the average bamboo entrepreneur consumed an amount of their own farm produce worth MK 26 679 (US$ 247), which was about 1.5 times as much as average bamboo income of MK 18 417 (US$ 170). All respondents indicated that the income from bamboo enterprise was mainly for household petty cash, i.e., hand-to-mouth consumption. No significant bamboo management practices were carried out by the entrepreneurs. Bamboos were naturally growing in Thuma Forest Reserve, where most of the bamboos were collected. A few stakeholders in bamboo enterprise and resource management were merely involved in actual promotion of bamboo handicraft industry and actual bamboo management by their policies and interventions.


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