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close this bookFamine, Needs-assessment and Survival Strategies in Africa (Oxfam, 1993, 40 p.)
close this folder3 Survival strategies and their 'costs'
View the document(introduction...)
View the document3.1 Eating wild foods
View the document3.2 Going hungry
View the document3.3 Food preparation
View the document3.4 Slavery
View the document3.5 Sale of assets (productive/non-productive) and purchase of food
View the document3.6 Trading
View the document3.7 Labouring
View the document3.8 Household migration
View the document3.9 Consurnption of assets
View the document3.10 Borrowing
View the document3.11 Gifts
View the document3.12 Receiving remittances
View the document3.13 Theft

3.1 Eating wild foods

Wild foods have been an important factor in securing survival in Sudan, Ethiopia, Mozambique and Angola, and indeed apparently throughout Africa. In 1991, wild foods were part of the diet of almost everyone in rural Darfur who had access to them. Among the wild foods eaten in Mozambique have been ants and berries. Hunting and fishing were also reported to have been significant means of acquiring food. There may be certain nutritional costs from gathering and eating wild foods. Wild foods may also supply a monotonous, irregular and nutritionally unbalanced diet, Oxfam field staffin Mozambique have reported. Some wild foods are poisonous at certain times of the year, or unless properly prepared. For example, some roots in Angola are poisonous in the rainy season. Collecting wild foods may partially undermine the effectiveness of relief interventions. Researchers in Red Sea Hills in October 1991 found that:

There is some improvement in the nutritional status of the children who come to the

(feeding) centres daily, but most of them do not come regularly because their mothers prefer to go and search for food for the other members of the family, rather than remain all day in the centre for one child.

Collecting wild foods is often very labour-intensive. There is a risk that it will take labour away from farm or pastoral production. Where women and children are constantly on the move in search of food, as has been the case in parts of Mozambique, the children may never see the inside of a school. Such an arduous life is thought to lead to premature births and miscarriages among the women involved, although there are no figures on this.

Gathering wild foods may also have important 'costs' in terms of exposure to security risks. Regular relief supplies to the major towns of Lichinga and Cuamba in Niassa province, Mozambique, have tended to discourage people from venturing into surrounding rural areas to look for food. Many people have been wounded or killed during these trips —whether hunting, or looking for fish, or trading, or returning to their own fields. While it is possible to see relief as undermining a 'survival strategy' and creating dependency (and Oxfam staff report signs of this), it may also be regarded as a desirable alternate to risky journeys into the countryside.

Wild food collection may also deplete the natural resources of a given area, perhaps causing permanent damage. As Walker notes, there is a tendency to regard survival strategies as 'cost-free'; but the resources have to come from somewhere. This may mean extra extraction from the environment, or extra labour for women, or both. Collection of wild foods may combine both of these 'costs'.