The rise of chikanda, the fall of orchids?  From the guide to wild flowers of Zambia it gives you information were it is found in Zambia and Ichipululu was reading this beautiful guide done by Wildlife and Environmental Conservation Society of Zambia.

Orchids appear to be very common in the miombo woodland habitats of Zambia. During the rainy season it is not uncommon to see a few different orchids on a short walk, and every few weeks there are different species to be seen. This is a very diverse group with very interesting flower shapes. A further couple of species are found in grassy dambo marshes, swamp and growing on tree trunks.

For  a moment Ichipululu thought   chikanda,  go well for a vegetarian meatloaf made of boiled orchid tubers and peanuts but no this is a great African polony.

Chikanda finds its origin in the northeast of the country, with the Bemba people, who have been consuming chikanda for many years as an addition to their staple food. Also related tribes in neighboring countries such as Tanzania, Malawi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have been reported to consume chikanda (or as they respectively call  it: kinakachinaka or kikanda). However, in recent years chikanda gained popularity – possibly due to increased urbanization – and is now sold as a snack at local markets throughout the country and even appears to be served in fancy restaurants.

 A consequence of the increased popularity of chikanda is that collecting orchid tubers has become commercially interesting, to such an extent that it puts serious pressure on local orchid populations as all tubers are still harvested from the wild. A market survey at Soweto market in Lusaka showed that the chikanda tubers are not only collected in Zambia anymore, but now largely originate from Tanzania’s Southern Highlands. Also Malawi, the DRC and Angola are mentioned as collection sites.

 Although all orchids are CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) Appendix II listed, and cross-border trade is supposed to be strictly regulated, an estimated 2-4 million chikanda tubers are transported from Tanzania into Zambia each year.

The reason for harvesters to collect at more distant localities is that the tubers are becoming more and more scarce in their original collection sites. Alarming, because also the sudden rush on tubers from other collection sites is already starting to take its toll. In Tanzania’s Southern Highlands for example, orchid populations are becoming depleted rapidly and even here collectors are already starting to look for new collection sites even further away.

All species used for chikanda are terrestrial orchids and mainly belong to three genera: DisaSatyrium and Habenaria, but also Brachycorythis and Eulophia are mentioned as source for chikanda tubers. Several species used for chikanda are national or regional endemics, making them very susceptible to overharvesting. It remains unclear, however, which species exactly are harvested, because collectors gather the edible orchids indiscriminately and the chikanda tubers are difficult to identify morphologically.

In Zambia as much as over 10 species might be used for chikanda and several may run the risk of local extinction.

Fortunately, the problem becomes increasingly recognized and some conservation measures need to be  taken. focusing on the protection of Zambia’s floral diversity and orchids in particular. Nevertheless, unsustainable harvesting continues in the areas outside the protected areas and orchid populations are still declining.

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