n Indilinga African Journal of Indigenous Knowledge Systems - The Zulu : a home garden system of useful plants with a particular layout and function

Volume 9, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1683-0296



The Zulu (home garden) is a model of sustainable resource management. However, gardens of indigenous cultures are often considered to be spontaneous and disorganized. This reconnaissance survey of home gardens in KwaZulu-Natal considered this by examining the different use categories of garden plants, and determining whether a specific home garden layout, with micro-gardens containing useful species, exists. A survey of 40 randomly selected muzis from eight locations was conducted. A total of 149 useful plant species belonging to 72 plant families were recorded. This consisted of 91 medicinal, 32 food and 26 spiritual plants (main plant use categories). Most of these species (68%) are indigenous (including semi-wild domesticates) and the rest are alien (naturalized and cultivated exotics). Rural home gardens are characterized by a higher percentage of naturally occurring, indigenous useful plant species when compared to peri-urban areas. This suggests that traditional culture regards naturally occurring indigenous species as more valuable, suggesting that the uses of local plants have been passed down generations. Peri-urban areas are usually restricted to first or second-generation residents with little knowledge of the local indigenous flora and therefore prefer well-known exotic species. Home garden floras in rural areas were found to be collectively planted and positioned according to cultural practices passed down many generations, which is supported by a common layout plan that is repeated in home gardens.

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