Chikanda Zambia: Wild edible orchids, a Darwin Initiative project 2016-2019

June 1st 2016 marked the first day of a three year collaborative project by a team of scientists, horticulturists and conservationists at RBG Kew (UK), Copperbelt University (Zambia), Sanga Research and Development (NGO, Zambia), Homegarden Landscape Consultants Ltd (Zambia), Uppsala University (Sweden), and with technical contributions from Cape Institute of Micropropagation (South Africa), and the Orchid Seed Stores for Sustainable Use project (OSSSU, UK/ global).

The project is three years in duration and is funded by the Darwin Iniatiative (UK). 

A brief summary of the issue here:

"Edible tubers are collected from wild orchids and processed into food, known as Chikanda. A traditional food source in rural diets1, demand from urban populations has increased over the last 20 years 2,3,  and food products are now available commercially3,4 raising income from inflated prices while depleting wild orchid populations and jeopardising livelihoods.

Collection, processing and trade of tubers are almost exclusively undertaken by women and girls who depend upon them as a major livelihood source, particularly in poor rural households.

Up to 80% of households in the vicinity of orchid-bearing grasslands collect the tubers5. Traditional practices that allowed for natural regeneration (hereafter termed “replanting”) have been abandoned, and alternative species are sought 6 (ca. 85-140 species5 in ≥4 genera are harvested).

Scarcity of local wild orchid populations causes women/girls to travel greater distances, risking their personal safety as they cross national borders, increasing their time away from other tasks, and carrying school-age children who are deprived of their education7. In addition, natural resource loss reduces Zambia’s ability to meets its CBD obligations8."  [Quoted from Bone et al., 2015, R22 Darwin Initiative Stage 2 application].


1Richards, A.I. (1939). Land, Labour and Diet: An Economic Study of the Bemba Tribe. London: Oxford University Press.
2Bingham, M. Chikanda, an unsustainable industry. Pollina. 7(2): 10-25.
3Veldman, S. et al. (2014). Efforts urged to tackle thriving illegal orchid trade in Tanzania and Zambia for chikanda production. TRAFFIC Bulletin. 26(2): 47-50
4Otterdijk, R. (2013). Experiences and commercial potential for traditional and specialty food products in Africa, 2013. FAO unpublished report.
5Sanga R&D. (2015). Unpublished report.
6Mickels-Kokwe, G.M. & Kokwe, M. (2003). Survey from the Mabumba wetland, Luapula Province. ZAPE Research & Consultancy Report No. 2. Study commissioned by International Water Management Institute (IWMI), IUCN and FAO
7Dr. Royd Vinya, (CBU School of Natural Resources, Zambia) personal observation.
8Edible orchids are not covered by National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) or recent CBD Reports; CITES legislation not yet implemented for plants in Zambia; no orchids reported in CITES Trade Database.

Above: Eulophia schweinfurthii (photographed by J. Lebrun for, among the terrestrial orchid taxa targeted for the Chikanda trade.

Add new comment

To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.
Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith