Agriculture and Human Values 22 (1):87-103 (2005)

There is, at present, little precise understanding of the relative contributions of the various income streams used by impoverished rural households in southern Africa. The impact of household profiles on overall income also is not well understood. There is, therefore, little consideration of these factors in national economic accounting. This paper is an attempt to reduce this gap in knowledge by reflecting on the relative contribution of agro-pastoralism, secondary woodland resources, and formal and informal cash income streams to households in the semi-arid rural village of Thorndale, Limpopo Province, South Africa. In the absence of jobs and confronted with high migrant labor, households with open access to natural resources derived more benefits from land-based livelihoods than cash income streams. Total livelihood income was valued at US$2887 per household per annum. A significant correlation between monetary values derived from crops and formal wages was established, and it was found that households with high cash incomes tended to invest more in crop production. Over 80 of households were male-headed. Of these heads of household, more than 60 were long-term migrants to urban areas, leaving household decision-making to the women. The low literacy rates of women have deprived them of paid jobs outside the area and, therefore, have increased their dependence on crops and secondary woodlands resources. This was further reflected in the proportion of households in which females were the main contributors of cash income, or joint contributors with men. Various positive correlations were established between the number of women per household and the three land-based livelihoods. This implied that women’s total control over such activities was mostly a result of the absence of men and not a typical phenomenon. In spite of this control, it was not positively reflected in the lives of majority of the women. Households differed in their participation in livelihood activities. Household size influenced the level of production and was positively correlated with the value of secondary woodland resources and crops. The study shows the interdependence of land-based livelihood sources and the impact of household features on production and consumption. Policies that focus on livelihood options need to recognize and accommodate associated household dynamics.
Keywords Direct-use value  Gender  Household composition  Land-based resources  Livelihood options  Multiple resource use  Rural poor  South Africa  Woodland resources
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DOI 10.1007/s10460-004-7233-0
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