oa South African Journal of Science - Selecting medicinal plants for cultivation at Nqabara on the Eastern Cape Wild Coast, South Africa : research in action

Volume 101, Issue 11-12
  • ISSN : 0038-2353
  • E-ISSN: 1996-7489



The intensive harvesting of medicinal plants for commercial trade in South Africa poses a threat to many species. Cultivation has therefore been considered as an alternative to collection in the wild. This paper aims to assess the feasibility of cultivating medicinal plants in the Nqabara Administrative Area on South Africa's Wild Coast. A combination of participatory and formal research methods was used to collect data on the importance of medicinal plants, collection localities, market prices, the time spent collecting plants and their ease of cultivation. The values attached to medicinal plants were mainly dependent on their market prices. Four of the five Nqabara traditional healers interviewed cultivated these plants in their home gardens, but many medicinal products were obtained in indigenous forests from the bark of large trees, which were unsuitable for cultivation. Collectors said that the proximity of forests to their homesteads and the richness of forests in medicinal plants influenced their selection of harvesting localities. There was no correlation between time spent collecting species and their market prices. These prices were, however, positively correlated with the species' perceived healing properties. Users acknowledged that harvesting had an adverse effect on large trees, are eager to cultivate them and are taking action to conserve indigenous forests. Community-based enterprises should focus on species that are easy to cultivate and have a high demand, such as <I>Stangeria eriopus, Acalypha glabrata&lt;/I&gt; and <I>Behnia reticulata&lt;/I&gt; but not <I>Araujia sericifera</I>, which is exotic and abundant. The main barriers to commercial cultivation are availability of suitable land, water, lack of start-up capital, and access to markets and to seeds. Cultivation of medicinal plants could contribute to the economic empowerment of women in rural areas.

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