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That residents of Zimbabwe's Communal Areas (CAs) obtain a variety of goods and services from their natural woodlands has long been recognized. Little was known however, of the value or preferences of CA residents for these goods and services. This paper describes a study, carried out in mid-1991, to elicit the preferences of residents of CAs for the goods and services they derived from trees. A new approach to eliciting preferences and establishing monetary values for the non-market goods and services was developed and administered to a total of 369 households in three CAs. Scores given to tree-derived goods and services were indexed to an anchor (a borehole) for which a willingness to pay (WTP) estimate was elicited. A similar instrument, but without the WTP questions, was administered to 39 professionals involved in research, management, or administration of indigenous woodlands. Of the goods and services derived from trees CA residents valued fuelwood, farm and household materials, inputs to crop production, animal feed and ecological services most highly. Mean capital value to a household of the tree-derived goods and services was Z$1678. Using a 4% discount rate this capital could yield average annual household incomes of between 45 and 60% of the average incomes derived from agricultural activities. Differences in values between residents in high and low tree cover sites were used to estimate the per household loss in capital value of reductions in tree cover. These amounted to about Z$700 per household or about 50% of the mean total value in high tree cover sites. Professionals assigned a higher total value to tree derived goods and services than did CA residents. Professionals and CA residents also assigned different values to several of the categories of tree derived goods and services. The results had a number of implications for research and policy. Indigenous woodlands provide a significant source of household income whose value is not reflected in markets. Lack of understanding of the productivity of indigenous woodlands as well as the poor understanding of the impacts of management on woodlands were seen as major factors inhibiting their efficient and sustained use. Research, management and policy need to focus on enhancing the ability of CA residents to effectively manage their woodlands. This objective requires that researchers develop; a) a clear understanding of the values, needs and objectives of CA residents; b) reliable technical knowledge on the growth, production and reproduction of indigenous woodlands; c) a clear understanding of the institutions controlling the access to, and the use of, indigenous woodlands in the CAs of Zimbabwe.


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