We investigated the role of gathering and selling the edible tubers of wild orchids by children orphaned by AIDS as one of their livelihood strategies, through a household survey administered to 152 households in three villages in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania during 2006 and 2007. Additionally, several household heads were selected as case studies and subjected to an in-depth life-history interview. Overall, most households in the study villages were very poor. We made comparisons within a total sample of 57 households headed by children orphaned by AIDS, 43 adult female-headed AIDS-affected households, and 52 adult male-headed non-AIDS-affected households in terms of food security and wealth outcomes after engaging in orchid tuber-gathering activities. The findings reveal that the majority of the orphan heads of households regarded the gathering and selling of wild orchid tubers as the best option for satisfying their basic needs. This category of households gathered more orchid tubers than the male-headed non-AIDS-affected households but not more than the female-headed AIDS-affected households. Children in these households spent more time on tuber-gathering activities than did members of the other households but had fewer household assets. Almost all the orphan-headed households depended on the cash obtained from selling orchid tubers to purchase food throughout the year. However, we surmise that gathering and selling wild orchid tubers fails to pull these children out of poverty and functions merely as a survival strategy.
- coping strategies