The role of edible non-timber forest products in maternal and child diets in rural households of Chongwe district, Zambia.

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Chama, Idah
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The University of Zambia
Zambia has a lot of edible non-timber forest products (NTFPs). However, not all edible NTFPs have been documented. Therefore, the main objective of is to identify the edible NTFPs available and their contribution to maternal and child diets in rural households of Chongwe district. A cross sectional research design was employed. Data was collected using semi-structured questionnaire and focus group discussions (FGDs). A sample of 158 mother/child pair comprising of non-pregnant women aged 15 to 49 years and their children aged 6 to 23 months were interviewed. Quantitative data was analysed using the SPSS software (version 20.0) while qualitative data was analysed thematically. Mother and child dietary diversity were determined. Anthropometric data for children was analysed using WHO Anthro-plus software version to compute children’s nutritional status. A child with Z-score <-2 SD was considered malnourished. Body Mass Index (BMI) was used to determine nutritional status of the non-pregnant women. A woman with a BMI <18.5 and >24.9 was considered malnourished. A total of 35 different edible NTFPs were identified in relation to their seasonal availability. The most consumed edible NTFPs were obtained from the “other fruits” food group, which was consumed by 21.5 percent of mothers. About 15.2 percent of children and 19 percent of women consumed edible NTFPs from “other fruits and vegetables” food group respectively. The mean dietary diversity score for women was 5.94 while for children was 4.19. About 71.5 percent of the women met the minimum dietary diversity and about 95.6 percent of the children met the infant and young child feeding minimum dietary diversity. Pearson correlation results showed a weak negative linear correlation (-.079) between children’s nutritional status (weight-for-age z-score) and consumption of edible NTFPs. Similarly, there was a weak negative correlation (-.029) between maternal nutritional status (body mass index) and consumption of edible NTFPs. There was no significant relationship between consumption of edible NTFPs and maternal as well as children’s nutritional status in the study area. The research findings imply that usually edible NTFPs are consumed as a coping strategy during the lean periods when agricultural produce is depleted resulting in reduced contribution to dietary diversity and improved nutritional status of mothers and women. Therefore, this research recommends that future researchers should investigate nutrient composition of certain edible NTFPs such as wild yam that have not been analysed and incorporated in the Zambian Food Composition Tables. Secondly, appropriate strategies and programs are required to promote optimal consumption of available edible NTFPs among rural households in Manyika and Mwalumina wards to alleviate the emerging issues of wasting and overweight/obese among children and women respectively. Keywords: Edible non-timber forest products, Maternal and child diets, Nutritional status
Edible non-timber forest products. , Non-timber forest products--Health benefits.