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Pilot country study - South Africa


Introduction
Vegetal NWFP
Faunal non-wood forest products
Forestry services
Assessment of the importance of NWFP in South Africa
Relevant NWFP in local communities
Vegetal NWFP
Faunal NWFP
Technical description
Cultural practices
Processing and storage
Renewability and sustainability
Environmental implications
Problems and constraints
Recommendations
References
Annex I: Classification of NWFP
Annex II: Statistical data on NWFP


Introduction

In 1991 it was estimated that 16 million people in South Africa would live below the bread-line. This figure has probably increased quite considerably since then, and will most likely continue to do so, because modern South African agriculture, as is the case in many developing countries, is failing to meet the challenge to fight hunger, mainly due to the destruction of the environment through pollution, soil erosion, overgrazing and uncoordinated development. The situation is made still worse by unreliable climatic conditions.

The food security of millions of rural dwellers all over the world depends to a large extent on the survival of nature, and the ability of man to manage natural resources sustainably for the production of his basic needs.

Man has always depended on natural resources in various ways for his survival. The number of wild plants and animals which have served, and still serve man today is astounding. In almost every country in the world, including South Africa, both rural and urban communities use various plant and animal products from, or adjacent to forest areas for their daily requirements.

South Africa has widely varying climatic, topographic, edaphic, social and cultural conditions, and its floral and faunal composition is equally diverse, ranging from the sparse vegetation of the dry semi-desert climates in the south-west, to the species-rich lowland, coastal and dune forests in the moister areas of the south.

Most afforestation activities in South Africa are commercially undertaken by private companies, government or individuals on private land, and as such are usually of little benefit to rural communities, except for job creation, the main benefit being that of jobs to carry out the various forestry operations, thus earning much needed cash incomes. An innovation introduced by Sappi Forests, one of the major forestry companies in South Africa, five years ago, is to allow local individuals living around the company's plantations access into freshly-established forest compartments (usually Eucalyptus spp.) and grow food crops such as tomatoes and beans and before the canopy closes. The system is mutually beneficial to both the locals and the company; the locals get to grow their crops on well-tilled ground for free, and the company gets free weeding as the crops are weeded. The crops so raised are usually sold for profit. This practice has so far not bean widely adopted in South Africa, but other forestry companies are posed to implement it as it has been shown to reduce establishment costs.

A very large proportion of the natural forest areas and largest forests in South Africa are managed and controlled by local governments in the various regions. A relatively small portion (18.7% in the Transvaal, 28.8% in Natal, and 23.3% in the southern Cape) are privately owned. In Natal, the Kwazulu homeland controls 34.8% and in the Transvaal Lebowa (another homeland) controls 22.5 % of the forests. The Transkei homeland forest reserves cover an area of 73 505 ha.

Ownership of the forests in South Africa usually determines the type of management and use made of them. In many of the privately owned forests, rural communities have limited or no access at all.

The value of the forests to the rural communities of South Africa has long been recognized. A number of direct and indirect benefits of South African forests have been listed by several authors. However, use of NWFP from the various forest types depends also on the particular ethnic group existing in a particular region. The country has approximately 26 different ethnic groups distributed throughout the various bioclimatic regions.

Black South Africans represent the largest (73%) and fastest growing sector of the total population of the country, their numbers increasing from 3.5 million in 1904 to 20.6 million in 1980, due to an average growth rate of 2.35% per annum. The rural portion of this population is particularly dependent on indigenous plant and animal resources, although urbanization does not preclude the use of these wild indigenous resources. Fuelwood, traditional medicines, wild spinaches, wild fruit and animal skins are all items of trade from rural forest areas which regularly supply urban demands.

Although this paper is intended to describe the NWFP situation in South Africa, it is worth mentioning that the exotic forest plantations of pines, eucalypts and wattles, provide the urban structural timber needs of the region, the furniture timber being provided mainly by the relatively large southern Cape forests where this industry had an annual turnover of about US$ 5 million and employed 650 people in 1986 (Geldenhuys, 1990).

The important species used here are the yellowwoods (Podocarpus spp.) and the stinkwood (Ocotea bullata). Another species of significance is the sneezewood (Ptaecroxylon obliquum) which is used for a number of purposes including railway sleepers and beautiful furniture (Palgrave, 1977).

One of the main problems facing rural communities in South Africa today is housing. Many rural people cannot afford the expensive modern building materials which are on the commercial market; therefore they usually have to rely on the available forest resources in order to erect some sort of shelter. These resources are either free, or cost very little. A number of building materials from the forest have been reported; these include climbers, leaves, leaf petioles and tree bark. The use of wood for building varies with building style and availability of materials; however, a number of different tree and shrub species have been identified as being of importance in the construction of rural dwellings in South Africa (Johnson, 1982).

Another major use of forests by both the rural and urban communities of South Africa is that of fuelwood. Basson (1987) has reported that fuelwood accounts for 51% of the domestic energy use in South Africa, as well as representing the highest volume of forest product use by rural communities. Le Roux (1981) estimated that 6.6 million people in the rural areas of South Africa were dependent on wood as a source of energy. This has put a lot of pressure on the forest resources of the country. There are, however, a number of projects in the country which are intended to address in particular the fuelwood problem, mainly through the establishment of community woodlots.

The use of NWFP in South Africa

For many years the use of NWFP has represented an important aspect of the daily life of the lesser developed rural communities in South Africa, and to a lesser degree, also the urban African communities. Today many rural communities still depend for their livelihood on natural resources of their immediate environment. However, modern agricultural and forestry systems and technologies have reduced the awareness of most rural people that their physical well-being depends, to a large degree, on the way they use and manage their natural resources. The ignorance of the people can mainly be blamed on lack of education, since most of them are not bothered to sustain or replenish the resource in question.

Conventional agricultural crop production, however, still plays a significant role in the sustenance of rural South African communities. But poor seasonal yields and lack of variety mean that the daily rural diet lacks many of the mineral and vitamins essential for good health and disease prevention. The diet of most rural South Africans, as is the case elsewhere in Africa, is typically based on starchy staples such as maize and sorghum. In order to supplement the normal diet, a number of forest foods are used, the types and quantities varying according to region.

The range of NWFP available to rural communities in South Africa is quite extensive; this is reflected by number of uses made of them. Trees provide by far the largest number of NWFP.

Vegetal NWFP

Food

South African forests provide a quite startling range of foods. These include edible fruits, nuts, plant leaves, wild spinaches and edible fungi, which all provide important dietary supplements to the black communities in the less developed areas of South Africa, by providing nutrients deficient in the normal starchy diet. This role of providing food supplements becomes even more important during drought periods, particularly in areas of marginal agricultural potential (Grivetti, 1979). Wild spinaches are not very common in South African forests, however, there are species such as the vine Pyrenacantha scandens whose leaves are a popular spinach in the Maputaland area of Natal (Cunningham, 1985). A number of tree and shrub species are very popular for their delicious fruits, seeds, nuts and sometimes roots. Among these, mention can be made of the cashew nut (Anarcardium occidentale), the marula (Sclerocarya birrea), buchu (Agathosma betulina), the mango (Mangifera indica), the guava (Psidium guajava), the avocado (Persea americana), wild rosemary (Eriocephalus spp.), pecan nuts (Carya illinoinyensis), wild date palm (Phoenix reclinata), the ilala palm (Hyphaene coriaceae), the carob (Ceratonia siliqua).

Forage

Many trees and shrubs, and other plants are found in South Africa which are used as forage for various types of domestic livestock, wildlife (both animals and birds), and insects (particularly in apiculture). As with food-producing plants, various parts of forage species are used by different types of animals (both domestic and wild). Forage species are especially important in those areas of South Africa where conventional grazing and pastures have bean degraded due to overstocking and human population pressure. A case in point here would the Kwazulu region of Natal where the degenerate grass, 'Ngongoni (Aristida junciformis), occupies large areas of land. This grass is virtually useless as animal feed or for anything else, and eradicating it is virtually impossible. In order to improve the carrying capacity of such 'Ngongoni veld, various authorities in South Africa have recommended the introduction of exotic fodder trees and shrubs which can also provide other products. This has bean done to a certain degree, albeit amid strong resistance from certain groups and government authorities who consider many exotic tree and shrub species of the Leguminosae in particular, to be noxious weeds. However, introductions have been made in areas such as the Transkei and Kangwane, where species such Leucaena leucocephala in particular are doing quite well.

Although rural black communities in South Africa have kept livestock for many years, the growing and use of trees specifically for fodder production among such communities is relatively unknown. For some years now white farmers have been aware that trees can be grown and managed for fodder production, and indeed some have integrated this aspect with other types of agriculture to a very successful level, an example being the Lion Match Company, whose integration of sheep farming with their poplar growing operations has been found to be quite profitable.

Local knowledge of trees for a long time was restricted to the use of indigenous species such as the buffalo thorn (Ziziphus mucronata subsp. mucronata), shepherd's tree (Boscia albitrunca) and the Elephant bush (Portulacaria afra) for fodder. In the tree-rich savannah veld of South Africa, such as parts of the eastern Cape, northern Natal, the Transvaal Lowveld, northern Transvaal, the Transvaal Bushveld and the Kalahari, where livestock farming is practised, indigenous trees are sometimes deliberately protected for supplementary fodder production, particularly during drought periods.

Extension efforts by various groups in the promotion of agroforestry in South Africa have resulted in a number of rural farmers (both black and white) eagerly wanting to initiate fodder production schemes, and it is indeed gratifying to record that in various parts of the country some promising schemes have been started.

A number of tree and shrub species (both exotic and indigenous, wild and domesticated) already feature, or have recently been introduced for fodder production in South Africa. Some examples are the sweet thorn (Acacia karroo), tagasaste (Chamaecytisus palmensis), mesquite (Prosopis spp.) and the honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos).

Medicines

An important aspect of rural life in South Africa for many years has been the use of plants for medicinal purposes. Traditional medicines are important to rural communities for medical, psychosomatic and economic reasons. Traditional medicinal NWFP include the roots, bark, leaves, branches, stems and flowers of trees, shrubs, climbers, epiphytes and parasites. Some of the most popular species used in traditional medicine are the bastard onionwood (Cassipourea malosana), the Swazi ordeal tree (Erythrophleum lasianthum), the stinkwood (Ocotea bullata) and the pepper-bark tree (Warburgia salutaris). Traditional medicines are also important to the rapidly growing urban black population, and they have a local and national multi-million dollar trade between rural sources and urban markets and shops.

Toxins

Many forest plants in South Africa have toxic properties, some useful, some not. Some actually have lethal substances in their different components, be they leaves fruit, roots or some other part of the tree. However, the most important use of plant toxins by rural populations in South Africa is probably that made by the Bushmen; they use the poisons of certain plants to give their arrows more lethal power; an example of this is the violet tree (Securidaca longepedunculata). Some plant poisons are also used to stun fish so that they can be easily caught. Examples are the bead bean (Maerua angolensis) and the confetti tree (Maytenus senegalensis).

Biochemicals

There are a number of plant species in South Africa which are sources of biochemicals. The best known is probably the black wattle (Acacia mearnsii) which is widely grown, especially in Natal, for the economic value of its bark from which tannin (used in the leather tanning industry) from which tannin is extracted. Another species whose bark has been used in tanning is the weeping boer-bean (Schotia brachypetala). A number of species are used particularly by rural communities because of the dyes they produce; these include Adansonia digitata, the horse radish tree (Moringa oleifera) and the small sourplum (Ximenia americana) whose seeds also produce an oil which is used by the rural people to soften leather and to rub on their bodies as a cosmetic; a similar oil is also found in the seeds of the large sourplum (X. caffra).

Fibre

A number of plant species lend themselves to exploitation by South Africa rural communities for the production of fibres which are an important component in the making of various household items, crafts and clothing items. For example, the bark fibres of the baobab are widely used for cordage, basketry, mats and cloths. Its root bark is also a useful string for nets, socks and mats (Booth and Wickens, 1988). Another useful species in this respect is the bastard brandy bush (Grewia bicolor) whose bark fibres are stripped and used for string, rope and cordage; this is the most important Grewia species for this use. The bark of the horse radish tree (Moringa oleifera), when beaten, produces a fibre which is plaited to make small ropes and mats. A tree which is much appreciated by rural South Africans for its long, durable and tough fibres is the violet tree (Securidaca longepedunculata). Its fibres are used to make string and rope for fishing nets and lines, bird and animal snares, thread to sew bark cloth, coarse bark cloth, and bead string for necklaces. Besides trees, a number of climber and grass species are also used for cordage, basketry, brooms and clothing. Abrus precatorius and Flagellaria guineensis are some of the more commonly used climber species.

Handicrafts

This is one area where the rural populations are able to make a decent living. South African wooden handicrafts can be found in many urban markets and tourist shops, where the prices are rather high compared to what the rural craftsmen are paid for their wares. Since the 1970's, there has bean a dramatic increase in the production and sale of handicrafts by rural private entrepreneurs and non-profit organizations (Preston-Whyte, 1983; Cunningham, 1987). Due to low capital outlay and use of locally available resources and traditional skills, handicraft production has become an important cottage industry in many rural areas of South Africa. Indigenous plant species provide the major source of raw materials for this trade. Some of the species used for handicrafts are the ilala palm (Hyphaene coriacea) (leaves used for weaving beer baskets, beer strainers), the pod mahogany (Afzelia quanzensis), the velvet bushwillow (Combretum molle), Terminalia sericea, (wood used for the making of grain stamping mortars), the Natal mahogany (Trichilia emetica), the torchwood (Balanites maughamii) the tamboti (Spirostachys africana) (wood used for making bowls, spoons and carved animals), the mat-rush, Juncus krausii (used for making mats), the monkey oranges (Strychnos madagascariensis and S. spinosa) (the fruits are used decoratively). Walking sticks made of the bastard tamboti (Cleistanthus schlechteri), the Cape plane (Ochna arboea), the Natal plane (O. natalitia), the hairy drypetes (Drypetes gerrardii) and the coffe-bean strychnos (Strychnos henningsii) are much in demand by tourists and urban dwellers (Geldenhuys, 1990). Magic rope (Oncinotis inandensis) stems are used for the making of basket frames and handles.

Ornamentals

South Africa provides a glimpse of paradise for the floricultural enthusiast. The southern and western Cape especially, with their variety of indigenous flowering plants, are regarded as one of the richest sources of flowering plants in the world today. South Africa's floral wealth has sprouted a prosperous new industry, namely the production of indigenous cut flowers. For example, fronds of the seven-week fern (Rumohra adiantiformis) are used extensively in the florist trade, both locally and abroad. The development of the export market for the fern since 1981 has flourished into an industry earning over US$300 000 per annum, giving employment to about 250 - 300 people (Milton, 1987; Geldenhuys and van der Merwe, 1988). Epiphytic mosses have been harvested from Transvaal forests as packing material for flowers, floral arrangements and for exhibition purposes (Jacobsen, 1978).

Indigenous flowers and bulbs contribute approximately 1% of the total national value of agricultural production in South Africa. Not only are local markets served, but foreign currency is generated through the export of cut flowers and other plant material. The South African "fynbos" is the smallest of the globe's six plant kingdoms, but it exceeds all the others in its diversity of higher plant species. Many of the species found in the "fynbos" have become important floricultural products, and high priority is given by different institutions to research on this great natural resource of South Africa.

Other than the highly developed flower trade in South Africa, many tree and shrub species exist in the country which are important in horticulture and because of their amenity value. Many nurseries have been established in South Africa to cater for the growing ornamental tree and shrub markets, especially in the urban and peri-urban areas.

Faunal non-wood forest products

For centuries the rural communities of South Africa have relied quite strongly for some of their requirements for survival on animals (both domestic and wild) and animal products. This is still very much the situation today, although the numbers of wild animals have tended to dwindle due to uncontrolled hunting in some areas.

The uses made of animals and animal products by rural South Africans are many and varied. Foremost among many rural people is the need to supply the family with much needed protein to accompany the usually mainly starchy diet. Hunting has always been regarded as part of the existence of the rural poor. As far back as 1770, when the first contacts between the white and native black inhabitants of South Africa took place in what is today the Eastern Cape Province, the nomadic natives (then called the Khoisan, later to become known colloquially as Bushmen and Hottentots) were already roaming the interior of the country in hunting bands looking for game to kill (Becker, 1975). Even up to today hunting is still an important aspect of the daily life of the Bushmen. Hunting, however, is not restricted to the Bushmen; the Nguni tribes, the Sothos and Tswanas of South Africa also do some hunting although the methods tend to be different from those employed by the Bushmen.

The forests and the sparsely forested areas of South Africa provide habitats for a wide range of animals, birds, reptiles, insects and fish, all of which are exploited to varying degrees, and for various purposes, by the rural communities in particular.

Wild animals

For communities living in the vicinity of forests, natural woodlands and forest fallow areas, wild animals often play a significant role in local diets; in some cases they provide the single largest source of animal protein. Wild animals of different kinds can be found in all the physiographic regions of South Africa. Rural South Africans, and indeed the urban dwellers as well, are great lovers of most forms of meat. They like protein foods, however the problem is that these may be scarce at times and there are relatively few places where they can be obtained with ease. Of course, there are exceptions, but the majority of the rural population are rarely able to enjoy adequate protein in their daily diet. The slaughtering of domestic animals such as goats, sheep, cattle and poultry occurs very rarely, usually done only for special occasions such as wedding, burial or thanksgiving ceremonies. Domestic animals are kept mainly for milk production, draught purposes, or simply as a status symbol, therefore meat protein has to come from wild animals.

The methods used to snare and hunt wild animals are basically the same among the different ethnic groups, however some differences do occur. The Bushmen, whose skill in tracking, stalking and snaring game is unparalled in South Africa, rely most heavily for their protein on wild animals, because they do not keep any domestic stock, which also means they have no access to milk protein. Their hunting weapons consist of a light metal- or bone-tipped arrow (the quiver is made from the roots of the quiver tree (Aloe dichotoma) which they fire at close range with a short but sturdy bow, a tiny spear and a hunting club. Mindful of the limitations of their weapons, especially when in pursuit of the eland (Taurotragus oryx) or other of the larger antelopes, the Bushmen daub their arrows with poisons extracted either from selected roots, bark and berries, or from the venom sacs of snakes, spiders or scorpions. Poisons are also prepared from the cocoons and grubs of a reddish-brown desert (Becker 1975). These vary from band to band, depending on what is available. The other ethnic groups tend not to use bows and arrows for hunting; their hunting weapons usually comprise of spears, sticks, clubs and small axes, and they are usually accompanied by dogs which chase the animals.

Wild animals which are hunted for their meat include various species of buck, genets, field mice, rock rabbits, porcupines, bush pigs and hares occasionally monkeys, which are relished particularly by the Zulus. Some tribes will not eat certain animals because of traditional beliefs.

Sometimes if the catch has been good, some of the meat is sold for cash, but this is not a very common occurence in the rural areas of South Africa.

Besides meat, which is the main product from wild animals, a thriving industry based on animal by-products such as hides, skins horns and bones exists in South Africa. The hides and skins are also used by some communities to make bags, cordage, and items of clothing such as dresses, shoes, belts and hats. Some of these items may be used locally, but most are sold at roadside markets. Sometimes the skins are sold to more sophisticated entrepreneurs in urban areas for the production of better-looking, and more expensive, leather items. Occasionally the hides and skins are used by the rural communities as mats or blankets.

The horns and bones are used by local craftsmen to produce beautiful artefacts which are then sold for extra income. The bones are sometimes collected until a sizeable amount has been accumulated, at which stage they are then sold to commercial bonemeal producers.

Another use made of wild animals is that of traditional medicines. Various animal parts are believed to have curative properties by some tribes. Animals whose body parts have been used in traditional medicine include the scrub and cape hares (Lepus saxatilis and L. capensis), the porcupine (Hystrix africaeaustralis), the polecat (Ictonyx striatus), and the pangolin (Manis temminckii) which is considered to be a particularly potent medicine by the Lobedu tribe of the north-eastern Transvaal.

The effectiveness of medicines made from animal parts has never been ascertained. The use of wild animals in traditional medicine is, however, not as widespread as that of plants.

Birds

Birds are also an important aspect of the daily life of the rural communities of South Africa, which abounds with various species of birds. A number of different birds are eaten by the various ethnic groups, which is probably by far the main use made of them. Birds used for meat include the guinea fowl (Numida meleagris), the ostrich (Struthio camelus) whose meat is also commercially sold as biltong, the francolin (Francolinus sephaena), the common quail (Coturnix coturnix) and various types of geese and ducks. Most of these birds sometimes feature on South African restaurant menus, at very exorbitant prices.

The eggs of most birds are also collected for consumption by rural communities. The enormous eggshells of the ostrich are used by the Bushmen to store and carry water, once the contents have been eaten. The eggshells are sometimes sold to tourists as decorative objects.

Skins, especially those of the ostrich, are a valuable commodity in South Africa, where they are used for the manufacture of quality ostrich leather goods. Ostrich feathers, and those of a few other birds such as the peacock, whose plumage is one of the most ornate, are also trade objects. The feathers are normally used to adorn the head as part of traditional attire.

A number of birds are also caught alive and sold as pets, mainly to the white urban communities. These include the louries (Tauraco spp.), the parrots (Poicephalus spp.) and the buntings (Emberiza spp.). This is quite a thriving business in South Africa. Some birds are also used in traditional medicine, but again the efficacy of medicines produced from birds is uncertain.

Fish

Rural South Africans do eat fish, but it does not comprise a significant source of protein in their diet, particularly those living inland. This is probably because many of the smaller rivers tend to dry up during the dry season and therefore it might require a long journey to nearest source where plenty of fish can be caught. For those nearer the coastal areas, such as the mangrove areas of northern Natal, subsistence fishing is almost a daily occupation. If the catch is good, some of the fish may be sold for cash, otherwise it is for home consumption. There is no doubt, however, that fish is a popular food item among South Africans of all races; for example, the most popular type of fish among the black peri-urban communities is the canned variety (sardines, pilchards, etc).

A number of ways are employed by rural South Africans to catch fish. The most common is the line and hook method. In the Maputaland area of Natal nets made of plant fibres are used. Another method, used particularly by the rural communities of the Limpopo valley in the Transvaal, involves the use of a poison prepared from the latex of the candelabra tree (Euphorbia ingens) and the lesser candelabra tree (Euphorbia cooperi). A bundle of grass is soaked in the latex, tied to a stone and thrown into a pool in the river. The fish are said to rise to the surface after 15 minutes, paralyzed but still breathing. Presumably this is a safe fishing method as there are no records of deaths having occurred due to the eating of fish caught this way. This shows how far the poor will go just to get protein for their families.

Recent innovations have tried to encourage the establishment of small fish production units, particularly in the Natal midlands, because of the realization that fish can be a cheap but important source of protein for the rural communities of South Africa.

Reptiles/Amphibians

The uses made of reptiles and amphibians by rural South African communities are almost the same as those made of wild animals and birds. South African forests are crawling with all types of reptiles and amphibians. Several members of the Reptiliae occasionally find their way into the cooking pot of a rural family, although less often than with wild animals and birds. Those eaten are usually regarded as delicacies. These include lizards, leguaans (Varanus spp.), frogs and toads, turtles or tortoises, and a number of snakes, including venomous ones such as the puff-adder (Bitis spp.) For various reasons snakes would seem to make up the largest percentage of reptilians used as meat by rural South Africans, judging from the number of cases cited regarding their use for local consumption.

The skins of many reptiles are in great demand in the leather and fancy goods industries. They are used in the manufacture of shoes, suitcases, bags, belts etc. The reptiles used include crocodiles, leguaans, lizards and snakes, particularly the larger types such as the python.

There are records of poisonous snakes, such as puff-adders and mambas, being used by some native South African tribes to kill buffaloes. The snake is caught and then anchored by its tail to the ground in the middle of a buffalo track, and is supposed to bite the passing animals (Fitzsimons, 1962).

Many urban South Africans delight in keeping reptiles as pets and quite a thriving business is carried out in this respect. The favoured reptiles are snakes, including pythons, chamaeleons, lizards, frogs and tortoises.

Finally, snakes, or more precisely their venoms, are very much in demand for their therapeutic properties. Many uses of the two types of venom, haematoxin and neurotoxin, have been evolved, the former in combating haemophilia, and the latter in providing sedatives and pain killers. South African medical scientists are continually working at finding new ways of using snake venom, which is also used as arrow poison by Bushmen.

Insects

Despite their small size, some insects contribute to the livelihood of man in quite a big way. Their importance in the ecosystem varies from place to place. In South Africa, the subsistence Use of insects for the benefit of man is mainly limited to a few species considered edible by the rural communities, and bees (Apis spp.) which are probably by far the most important insect in the country, in terms of economic products and their role in pollination.

Honey is by far the most popular (and profitable) insect product in South Africa, both among the rural and urban communities.

Honey bees occur either wild or in farming in South Africa. In the rural areas, wild colonies are regularly raided for honey. Among the Bushmen in particular, honey is a great favourite. Other ethnic groups in South Africa also enjoy wild honey, which they use as a substitute for sugar, and often in the brewing of local beer.

The caterpillars of a number of moths and butterflies are relished by some rural communities. The mopane worm, a great delicacy of both the rural and urban communities of the northern Transvaal, is sometimes sold in local markets (Gelfand, 1971), when the harvest has been good.

Forestry services

The use of trees and forests in providing services is well known to both the rural and urban populations of South Africa, although the urban communities tend to be much more aware of the service role of trees than the rural dwellers. The rural communities of South Africa tend to perceive trees or forests as an unending resource to be exploited for their own well-being, and not because it can protect the soil, feed animals (both domestic and wild), and at the same time enhance their immediate surroundings, and protect rural homes against bitter South African summer and winter winds.

Range

For many years, both the rural and urban South African communities have used trees (both indigenous and exotic) in their livestock management systems. In some cases, trees have been deliberately protected in order to give shade to livestock against the scaring heat in the summer and the harsh winter. Both animals and crops need protection from the elements, as has been shown by research, which suggests that shelter from hot or chilly weather can improve production from all types of agricultural crops and livestock. White farmers in particular, are now aware that trees can be managed to increase productivity from their animals. The rural communities, however, are only aware that the foliage of certain trees is useful as animal feed, but they do not seem to consider management of such species for the sustained production of fodder.

In some regions of South Africa, the management of trees and pasture in a single system sometimes improves animal productivity. This is especially the case in the Karroo where Acacia karroo is commonly associated with the sparse dryland pasture in the rearing of sheep. Other systems found in South Africa involve the use of species such as Dichrostachys cinerea, Acacia albida, Boscia albitrunca and Euclea spp.

Most trees which are browsed by domestic stock also tend to be eaten by wild animals and birds.

Soil improvement and protection

The use of trees for the protection and improvement of the soil is relatively unknown among the black rural communities of South Africa; can also be said about the white farming communities, who, even though they may be much more aware of the importance of trees in their local environment, do not deliberately Use them for their soil protection and improvement qualities. However, a few farmers have begun to realize this potential, and tree planting, especially among the white farmers, is on the increase. The species favoured are those that tend to provide several products and services such as erosion control (Acacia spp.) shelter (Crataegus pubescens) hedges or windbreaks (Casuarina cunninghamiana) and bee forage (Eucalyptus spp.).

Parks and reserves

South Africa is one of the leading countries on the sub-continent in terms of efforts to protect and conserve its flora and fauna, particularly species considered to be endangered or over-exploited. There are many parks and nature reserves in the country which not only serve to conserve the indigenous biodiversity, but also earn much-needed incomes for those involved in their day to day management. Many of the parks and nature reserves offer a number of recreational facilities such as hunting, fishing, bird watching, nature trails, hiking, camping, and the occasional "braaivleis" (barbecue) party (non of which can usually be afforded by the locals. Tourists come from all over the world to visit South African game parks and nature reserves. The poor rural communities of South Africa, (at least those that live near the parks) however, often do not benefit directly from these establishments, the only legal beneficiaries being those who are lucky enough to be employed as game rangers and assistants; the other beneficiary is the poacher, who often plies his trade at the risk of severe punishment by the authorities.

Aesthetics

South Africa boasts some of the most spectacularly beautiful forestry areas in the region, not only such, but also some unique structures of old, set in forestry landscapes. These are usually much appreciated by foreign tourists and do indeed attract a lot of trade from outside the country, but a lot of South Africans also visit these areas.

Many scenic routes, such as the wine, fruit and flower routes of the Cape, are found throughout the country. Another example is the "fynbos" of the south-western Cape; no region of comparable size in the world is richer in plant species that the narrow zone bounded by the south-western Cape's fold mountains and the sea. The Afrikaans word "fynbos" (literally "delicate bush" or "fine bush") used to describe the indigenous vegetation of the area is almost inadequate, considering the wealth of flora that includes some 600 kinds of heath (Erica spp.), almost 70 proteas (Proteaceae), and over 50 Disa species. To walk through the "fynbos" in spring can leave one with the impression of not being in the wild, but in a prolific garden (Readers Digest, 1990).

Assessment of the importance of NWFP in South Africa

Undoubtedly NWFP have a very important role to play in the local economics and nutrition of the various ethnic groups of South Africa, as well as the daily subsistence of the rural communities in particular. It was mentioned earlier that agriculture, on which the rural people of South Africa have depended for centuries, has been modernized, but still cannot feed the masses. Asibey and Child (1990) point out that sustained high rates of population growth characterize almost every country in sub-Saharan Africa. The associated urgent demand for increased food production has prompted many rural African farmers to shorten fallow periods, in an effort to try to obtain increased yields from low fertility soils, and to grow crops on marginal lands. This usually results in the steady degradation and impoverishment of arable land. And, where livestock populations are growing as fast as, and in some areas, faster than the human population, Africa's vast grazing lands are also undergoing similar destruction. This is particularly the case where the loss of traditional grazing land to crop production intensifies the pressure on the remaining area.

In South Africa, resource-poor rural communities cannot afford the type of costly inputs required by modern agriculture in order to obtain reasonable crop yields. This problem is compounded by ever-increasing unemployment coupled with the rapidly escalating cost of living in the country, as well as rapid population growth. In order to make ends meet, and to add variety to their regular starchy diet, rural communities in South Africa rely to a large degree on their immediate natural resources in the form of NWFP. Although many are not aware that the natural resource base is not inexhaustible, particularly if it is not properly managed, they do however, place great importance on various NWFP. Many rural families in various parts of the country are continually searching for alternative means of livelihood, and local NWFP have offered an opportunity. The use of NWFP among rural dwellers may either be for home consumption, or for sale to earn extra income for the purchase of other basic household necessities (e.g. salt, tea, sugar, paraffin), and sometimes to send the children to school. Examples of community-based subsistence economies based on local NWFP can be found in areas of Natal, where the "muti" (traditional medicine) trade is quite literally big. The importance placed by rural communities on NWFP is further shown by the willingness of some of the locals to try and sustain the resources through small-scale agricultural production, and also to manage existing ones (such as paw-paws, guavas and bananas) sustainably.

The extent to which rural communities rely on NWFP in South Africa has been shown by several authors and researchers. Cunningham (1990 a, b,) has shown that the palms Hyphaene coriacea and Phoenix reclinata are very important to the rural people of Maputaland coastal plain in Natal because they are a source of weaving material, palm wine and edible fruit. Despite their small size, resulting from tapping, the high density of the palms provide a commonly used resource for the local Thembe-Thonga people who also use the area for cattle grazing, subsistence cultivation, and the gathering of wild fruits and traditional medicines.

At the district level culms of the saltmash rush (Juncus krausii) are a favoured and extensively used material for the weaving of traditional articles by rural women in Natal/Kwazulu (Heinsohn and Cunningham, 1991). Geldenhuys (1990) also points out that in the Transkei the use of certain NWFP has become important to the livelihood of the local communities; he reports that in the Port St. John's area of the Transkei, climbers are the basis of a craft industry, mainly baskets and mats, which form an important part of the local economy and traditions of the local Pondo people. The industry is worth more the USD40,000 per annum and grows rapidly with organized marketing methods. In the Karroo region, the sweet thorn (Acacia Karroo) is the basis of extensive sheep and cattle farming in the area, mainly because of the nutritious fodder (leaves, flowers and pods) it produces (Aucamp et al., 1984).

At the national level, mention has already been made of the booming trade in cut and dried flowers, both locally and internationally. Furthermore, a number of fruit trees such as Psidium guajava, Persea americana, Mangifera indica and Carica papaya are the basis of a booming local and export business. This shows that with proper management NWFP can actually contribute quite significantly to the national economy, not only in terms of job creation, but from foreign exchange earnings as well. Another NWFP of national significance in South Africa is the wild fruit liqueur which is prepared from the marula fruit (Sclerocarya birrea) and is marketed locally and for export. Again at the national level, South Africa's game parks and nature reserves with their kaleidoscope of flora and fauna, attract thousands of local and foreign tourists each year.

Relevant NWFP in local communities

As already indicated, there is an astounding wealth of NWFP in South Africa, which are used for various purposes and to varying degrees by local communities. Some are considered as vital to the day to day existence of certain communities, some are regarded purely as luxuries, while others are only important in times of acute need, such as the case may be during severe droughts.

The following are some NWFP which already feature significantly have the potential to play a major role in the general livelihood of both rural and urban communities of South Africa.

Vegetal NWFP

A number of vegetal NWFP provide regularly for the needs of the rural people of South Africa. The resource base includes food producing species such as fruit trees, of which there are several types whose current productivity at the national level is quite high, and which can certainly be improved in the rural areas. Fruit species which are considered important among local communities include the marula (Sclerocarya birrea), which is so highly esteemed by the rural population that it is seldom cut down, the guava (Psidium guajava), the avocado (Persea americana), the mango (Mangifera indica), the banana (Musa sapientum), the pawpaw (Carica papaya), and cashew nuts (Anacardium occidentale). All of these species already grow in some areas of South Africa and the development and expansion of their production in the rural areas should not pose many difficulties.

Mushrooms are another food NWFP with a lot of potential in South Africa. Reports of mushroom eating by rural communities in South Africa date back as far as the early 1920's; for example, the Zulus have always been known to enjoy the beefsteak mushroom (Schulzeria umkowaani). Fox and Young (1982) also indicate that in the Ciskei the Xhosas roast the this particular mushroom over hot coals. Cunningham and Pieser (1991), while studying the traditional foods of the Zulus, showed that mushrooms featured quite significantly in their diet. Today mushrooms are a very common item in South African supermarkets and are enjoyed virtually all by the different ethnic groups.

Medicines are another NWFP of importance to the rural communities of South Africa. Many plants are used for the treatment of a variety of ailments and diseases, some are effective while others are not so effective. Some of the favoured species have already been mentioned above. But of note is the fact that the traditional medicine trade is very important to a large section of the rural and urban population in South Africa. The growing of some of these medicines could easily constitute a full-time and profitable occupation for some of the rural people. However, another two medicinal species which are worth a mention these are the mountain Buchu (Agathosma betulina) and the wild ginger (Tetradenia riparia) (formerly Iboza riparia).

Faunal NWFP

The importance of bees and their products has already been mentioned. Enjoyed by millions of South Africans, both rural and urban, the main be product, honey, is not as easily accessible to the rural people as it might sound. The urban communities have relatively easy access to honey because they can buy it (most being employed) in markets and shops. For the rural communities, however, the only honey is natural honey, and gathering it has been made somewhat easy the fact that they know their environment and do not need specific gadgets for the collection of the product.

There are approximately 2 000 bee farmers is South Africa; whether any of those are rural and/or black, is uncertain at the moment; but it would appear that they are all white farmers.

Honey production in South Africa has been reported at 3200 metric tonnes/year (van Hoven, 1991). It is obviously an industry with much potential for the rural poor; the only lacking factor being education in this regard, and for rural South Africans should give much needed nutrition, and if commercialization is the idea, much-needed income.

Institutional Aspects

South Africa is in a unique position regarding the institutional handling of all aspects of its natural resources. Unlike many other developing countries, South Africa has the infrastructure and the manpower required to oversee all types of natural resource development, management and protection. However, the institutional infrastructure is mostly geared towards assisting the urban commercial sector and the big white commercial farmers. Only recently have efforts been increased to address the problems of feeding and creating employment for the poor rural and urban communities, through the responsible use of natural resources.

Institutions and government

Several institutions and organizations, as well as the South African government have responsibility relating to the development, preservation and sustainable use of natural resources in the country. Different NWFP are handled by different organizations.

Government

The responsibility for many of South Africa's natural resources is vested with the Department of Community Development (formerly the Department of Agricultural Credit and Land Tenure). According to relevant legislation such resources are deemed to belong to the state although they are for the benefit and use of the general public. This category includes resources such as the sea and its shores, state forests, (including forestry nature reserves, protection forests and wilderness areas), national parks, provincial and local nature reserves, rivers and certain dams.

The government is directly charged with the management of the mentioned natural resources. Although not always the owner of specific NWFP, which are relevant to rural communities, the government nevertheless controls the use of such resources in the public interest even, where such resources are privately owned. Examples are soil conservation, wildlife, (birds, animals and fish) plants, some lake areas, mountain catchment areas, mineral resources and underground water.

The government is also entrusted with the planning of how land (both private and government land) is to be used. Land-use planning at the national level is the responsibility of what used to be the Department of Constitutional Development and Planning. However, the responsibility for environmental matters and natural resources lies with a number of government agencies. Most government departments are fully manned and equipped for their various tasks; however, as mentioned before, the channelling of such efforts is questionable, judging by the help given rural white farmers as opposed to rural black communities.

Institutions

The South African government, through its various agencies, works very closely with a number of institutions in the country in order to manage various natural resources and the environment in general. South Africa has also been involved in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) from the very early stages of its formation. It is also one of the founder members of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) which produces the International Red Data Books (RDBs). South Africa was one of the first countries in the world to publish its own regional RDBs, the production of which is currently a joint venture undertaken by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the Endangered Wildlife Trust and the Department of Environment Affairs.

In terms of the South Africa Constitution, the responsibility for the protection of fauna and flora, and specifically the control on the use of vegetal and faunal NWFP is vested in the four Provincial Administrations. The nature conservation authorities of the Transvaal, the Orange Free State, Natal and the Cape Province have been designated as CITES Management Authorities. The Department of Environment Affairs acts as the central co-ordinating and policy-making authority in respect of environmental conservation in South Africa, and as such, has also been designated a CITES Management Authority with the responsibility of co-ordinating the implementation of the Convention internally, and to act as a channel of communication between the CITES secretariat and the provincial management authorities and other bodies involved.

Several South African universities also have institutions which are very active in promoting the development and sustainable use of natural resources in rural areas. The Institute of Natural Resources of the University of Natal has done some appreciable work in this regard with the rural communities of Natal. Others of note are the University of Zululands's Centre for Low Input Agriculture and Research Development, and the Wits Rural Facility of the University of the Witwatersrand in the Transvaal.

The provincial nature conservation authorities, and other conservation and research institutions such as the National Parks Board and National Botanical Institute have at their disposal the services of a devoted corps of biological scientists, almost all of whom are whites, the other race groups being poorly represented. One of their main responsibilities is to monitor the protection status of all species on a continuous basis. Their work is supplemented by scientific research at various South African universities.

One of the results of this comprehensive effort is the production of the South African Red Data Book series. Red Data Books have already been produced on terrestrial mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, fish, butterflies as well as the "fynbos" and Karroo biomes.

The homelands of South Africa tend to have their own nature conservation set-ups, but these are not as well-staffed or well-organized as the provincial ones. They depend almost entirely on expertise and funding from the central South African government.

Research and Development

There is a number of research organizations in South Africa whose work is important in the study of natural resources and the environment, but very few of these are private bodies. The majority are controlled and funded by universities, government departments and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). The limited number of research bodies and the means at their disposal make close collaboration essential. Of particular importance in this respect is the CSIR's Cooperative Scientific Programmes (CSP). The CSP administers a series of National Programmes which offer mechanisms and means for co-operation and collaboration between research organizations, universities, government departments and individual scientists.

There is also a number of voluntary organizations which help in the fight to save South Africa's environment and its natural resources. Such organizations range from permanent scientific and professional associations, to pressure groups which exist for only as long as the issue in question remains unresolved; examples are Earthlife Africa, the Wildlife Society, the Botanical Society, the Ornithological Society and the Dendrological Society.

Education

A number of South African universities and colleges offer training in a number of disciplines ranging from environmental and natural resource management to nature conservation. Of note is the University of Cape Town's environmental courses which are quite popular in South Africa; however, once again this type of training seems to be mostly for white students, although this situation is beginning to change, giving the disadvantaged youth of South Africa access to environmental and nature conservation courses. This would indeed be to the advantage of the rural communities as they will be in a position to manage their own natural resources; they will be much more aware of the problems inherent in the sustainable utilization of local NWFP.

Funding

Funding for work on NWFP in South Africa comes from a variety of sources. The government funds its own departments and affiliated organizations, and also offers assistance, in funding or in kind, to some private organizations particularly if they are non-profit making. The majority of private organizations get their funding from donations by the business sector and individuals both from South Africa and outside. In this respect, the South African Nature Foundation (SANF), which is the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) representative in Southern Africa, helps to raise and distribute funds for nature conservation projects in South Africa and other countries in the sub-continent. The SANF also assists in all forms of nature conservation, and in the education of the public. In gaining monetary commitments from major financial houses the SANF has helped increase private sector participation in the environment. A few organizations get their funding from consultancies, while professional associations and the smaller societies depend mainly on membership fees and the sale of promotional materials.

Legislation

Comprehensive legislation exists in South Africa for the protection of the environment and natural resources. South African environmental provisions are contained in an extremely wide variety of parliamentary acts, provincial ordinances, local by-laws and ministerial regulations. Some statutes regulating environmental affairs deal exclusively with such issues. For example the National Parks Act 57 of 1976 and the various provincial nature conservation ordinances, fall into this category. Other statutes, although not exclusively environmental statutes, may be regarded as being of a predominantly environmental nature. Examples are the Forest Act 72 of 1968, the Mountain Catchment Areas Act 63 of 1970 and the Lake Areas Development Act 39 of 1975. Legislation has also been enacted for the control of the exploitation of, and trade in endangered species. High penalties (up to US$ 50 000) and long periods of imprisonment (up to ten years) are applicable.

The law enforcement authorities in South Africa have a force of almost 1 000 law enforcement officers at their disposal. They work in very close collaboration with the Endangered Species Unit of the South African Police. In 1991 this co-operation resulted in 81 cases being brought to court.

Technical description

Because of the potential they are deemed to have in improving the livelihoods of rural South Africans, three NWFPs will be discussed in this section.

Food (both vegetal and faunal)

The rather heavy reliance of rural South African communities on NWFP has already been discussed. The different black peoples use NWFP more or less similarly although there are some variations. The importance of the various wild and domesticated foods also vary -from place to place, but it is generally acknowledged that food and nutrition, being some of the most basic needs of the rural people of South Africa, are also some of the most important products obtained from South Africa's natural forest areas.

Cultural practices

Harvesting

For most food NWFP, harvesting by rural communities simply means going into the area where the food is growing and collecting it. Methods of collection vary depending on the type of food and/or plant species. The leaves, fruits, seeds, nuts, flowers, sap and sometimes roots of various plants may be used as food.

The leaves of wild spinaches such as the cockscomb (Amaranthus spp.), fat hen (Chenopodium album), milk thistle (Sonchus oleraceus) and black jack (Bidens pilosa) are simply picked from the plant, placed in a bag or basket, and taken home.

Wild spinaches are usually first washed, the fibrous parts being removed and fed to livestock, and the cooked to be eaten with maize porridge. Occasionally, if the harvest is good, the spinaches may be dried and stored in bags to be eaten at a later date. Wild spinaches are usually collected not far from the homestead, in any case, not more than a three hour walk to the collection area and back.

Various parts of a number of tree and shrub species are popular in the diet of may rural people in South Africa. Again collection is done from trees in and around the community. Harvesting methods differ for the various species, but in most cases the edible part is picked straight from the tree, placed in a bag or basket and taken home, where it is either eaten fresh, processed or preserved in one of a variety of ways. For example, the monkey orange (Strychnos madagascariensis) fruit is picked green to protect it from wildlife, and buried in the ground to ripen (van Wyk, 1974) after which the fruit pulp (which does not shrink on drying) is sun-dried and kept as a food for lean times; the fruits of the natal mahogany (Trichilia emetica) are picked when they ripen in January/February. They are then taken home where the seeds are removed from the capsules and soaked until the scarlet arils are a light yellow, at which stage the seeds are separated from the arils. The arils are then mixed with sweet potatoes, squash or peanut flour and eaten as a main meal; this is a popular dish of the Natal communities (Cunningham and Pieser, (1991).

Generally, the rural people do not have to walk very long distances to gather traditional foods from the forest or veld, in whose vicinity they usually live. Very occasionally, they may have to travel from dawn to dusk, on foot, to gather a particular food which is abundant elsewhere, mainly for home consumption, sometimes, if a lot has been collected, some will be sold to the neighbours.

Other methods of harvesting fruit or nuts involve their collection once they have fallen down from the tree. A good example is the marula (Sclerocarya birrea), whose fruit, a great favourite with South African rural communities (Palmer and Pitman, 1973), is usually collected when it is about to ripen (around February/March in South Africa) and has dropped to the ground. Another species whose fruits drop before they are quite ripe is the mobola plum (Parinari curatellifolia); both fruits go through the final ripening phase on the ground (van Wyk, 1972).

Another food-harvesting method is that employed in the tapping of certain palm species for sap which is used in the making of a traditional wine. The main palm species used for this purpose in South Africa are the wild date palm (Phoenix reclinata) and the ilala palm (Hyphaene coriacea). Although pastures, fuelwood, wild fruits and game animals are traditionally considered to be natural resources under communal ownership, palm wine tappers are traditionally allocated "territories" in the palm veld for their exclusive use in producing palm wine (Cunnigham, 1990a). In Natal persons wanting to tap palm sap for the first time must first approach the local headman, who will then indicate a suitable area; thereafter a payment of cash, or a quantity of palm wine, is made to the headman and a further, equal quantity of wine during the course of tapping. Boundaries of these tapping areas are respected by all concerned and any disputes are taken back to the headman (Cunningham, 1990a).

The tapping process involves selecting clumps of palms and preparing large stems within these for tapping after burning each clump to remove the undergrowth and leaf spines. Selected stems are trimmed to initiate sap flow using razor sharp bush knives. A woven palm leaf is placed over the palm stem and collection container, protecting it from rain, dust, sun and insects. The stem and young leaf bases are cut at a slight angle to guide sap onto a leaf gutter and into the clay collection container. By the end of the tapping period these young leaf bases have been removed by trimming two to three times per day over a five to seven week period.

Although rural South Africans like to eat faunal NWFP when they are available, they are unfortunately not as easy to harvest, and not as abundant as the vegetal food NWFP. However, some do play an significant role in the diet of some rural communities.

As mentioned earlier a number- of wild animals are caught and eaten by some rural communities, although it is difficult to determine the extent to which wild meat contributes to local diets. The hunting of large game animals is legally forbidden in South Africa, although it still occurs in some areas, and many of the more commonly consumed faunal NWFP such as caterpillars, locusts and grasshoppers, tend to be eaten as snacks, with the result that their consumption goes unrecorded (FAO, 1989).

Most animals and birds are usually caught during a hunt, which may include the use of sticks, spears, clubs, bows and arrows, and the odd gun. Other than hunting, most wild animals are trapped using a variety of snares devised by the rural people themselves or purchased from stores in adjacent urban areas. Favoured animal include springhares, porcupines, rabbits, and wild fowl (ducks, geese). Again, most rural South Africans are not concerned with the legalities of hunting and trapping wildlife.

Of the insects eaten by rural South Africans, one of the most popular is the emperor moth (Imbrasia belina) caterpillars which are found on the mopane tree (Colophospermum mopane). Rural people collect the protein-rich larvae in sacks or baskets from the mopane trees.

Another insect of importance, not only to rural communities, but also to commercial farmers, is the bee (Apis spp.). Honey from the bees has long been used by the rural people of South Africa as a food and a sweetening agent. The collection of wild honey, although not without its risks, is a simple matter for the rural people. When honey is known to be in a tree a fire is lit underneath to smoke out the bees. No special clothing is worn for protection. A lighted stick, still smoking, is thrust into the hole from which the bees emerge dazed. A hole is then made in the hive with an axe just below or above the natural opening, or sometimes in both places. The honey is then taken out through one of the openings and placed in a container. For bees which nest in holes in the ground, after they have been smoked out, a spade or some other digging instrument is used to dig out the hive from which the honey is then extracted.

One of the most important means of livelihood for the rural people of South Africa, craftwork, demands the collection of various materials from a number of different plants either by the craftsmen themselves or by commercial harvesters of craft materials.

Again, as with the food NWFP, the harvesting of craft materials simply means any individual going to an area where the resource is found and harvesting it, as craftwork resources in the rural areas of South Africa are also regarded as common property. Harvesting methods differ according to plant species and the plant part to be harvested.

The plant parts mostly used in craftwork are tree roots and bark (used in the making of dyes) and leaves/culms/thin stems used in the making of woven articles.

Various implements are used for harvesting craft materials. These include knives, sickles, axes, bush knives and various types of saws. Thin stems of species such as Acalypha glabrata, Canthium setiflorum and Dalbergia obovata are cut off with bush knives and tied into headload size bundles. Branches bearing leaves are also cut off in a similar way, after which the leaves are removed by hand and also tied into bundles. Leaf-yielding species include Cyperus latifolius, Digitaria eriacantha, Hyphaene coriacea and Phoenix reclinata. Bark is usually stripped off the tree trunk in long strands after making an initial cut with an axe or a bush knife; pieces of bark can also be removed by repetitive (almost vertical) blows of the bush knife or small axe on the tree trunk. Species whose bark is used for dye production include Ficus trichopoda, Trichilia emetica and Schotia brachypetala. Roots of species such as Acacia burkei, Aloe martothii and Terminalia sericea are usually collected by digging around the tree and cutting off pieces with a bush knife or small axe. Culms or stems of species such as Cyperus natalensis, C. sexangularis, C. textilis and Juncus krausii are usually harvested using a sickle, small sharp knife or bush knife, after-which they are tied into bundles ready for transportation.

Traditional medicines

Many rural people in South Africa still believe strongly in the use of traditional remedies for a variety of illnesses; consequently the harvesting of vegetal NWFP for traditional medicines can be found virtually throughout the whole country.

The harvesting of traditional medicines in South Africa takes many forms. In some case it is done for practical purposes while in others it is based on traditional harvesting methods. Here again, various plant parts are gathered. The main parts used are leaves, small branches or twigs, bark, fruits and roots. The methods used to harvest these are almost similar to those employed for wood and fibre for handicrafts, except that traditional medicine practitioners tend to use only their bare hands for harvesting, except when digging roots and bulbs.

The species used for traditional medicines are too numerous to mention here, but some of the more important ones are Warburgia salutaris, Ocotea bullata, Agathosma betulina and Boweia volubilis.

Transportation

This is one area which poses a few problems for the rural South African. The road infrastructure is often very inadequate in most rural areas, therefore most journeys have to be done on foot. Some areas are lucky enough to have a main road passing through or near their collection areas, in which case the gatherers may catch a taxi or bus to and from collection points and vice versa.

For most wild foods (both vegetal and faunal), collection or gathering is done in the surrounding adjacent forest or natural woodland areas, and usually the only means of transport is walking since large quantities of food are not usually gathered, that is, only enough is gathered for home consumption. If large quantities of a particular wild food are gathered, then some of the family members may help to carry the produce on the head or shoulder in bags, baskets or bundles, and also in hand-held baskets. Occasionally, the gathering of wild foods may require a whole day trip, but it is often a matter of three or four hours, and this usually only happens in times of scarcity.

The main problem arises when large quantities of material, such as palm leaves and culms of Juncus krausii for weaving, have to be transported from the source to the homestead or processing centre. In such cases road transport is often used. For example, in Natal, syndicates of women who use Juncus krausii for craftwork usually hire a vehicle for the collection of this material, which may be up to 25 km away, thereby sharing the transportation costs; otherwise they have to rely on suppliers to bring them the materials, thus incurring extra costs.

South Africa's modern and extensive transport system plays an important role in the national economy and also those of neighbouring countries. For the rural communities of South Africa, the transport system is particularly important in the marketing of their craftwork, medicines and fruits such as bananas, mangoes, guavas and pawpaws further afield from their areas.

Occasionally, some of the rural people may have a horse or ox-drawn cart which they use for the collection and transportation of bulky NWFP, and sometimes this is hired by other commercial NWFP operators.

Processing and storage

A number of NWFP found in South Africa have to undergo some form of processing before they can be consumed, marketed or stored.

Food

Most wild fruits are eaten fresh in the veld or as a supplement to the main meal at the homestead; others such as the rubber vine (Landolphia kirkii), the Zulu milkberry (Manilkara concolor), the large sourplum (Ximenia caffra) and the spiny monkey orange (Strychnos spinosa) are mainly added to thin porridge (Cunningham and Pieser, 1991) after being washed and cut up into small pieces.

Some fruits such as bananas, are harvested just before they are fully ripe, and taken home where the ripening process is allowed to run its full course. Sometimes the fruits are sold in the partially ripe state to avoid wastage as the shelf life of ripe fruit is rather short (sometimes only a few days); this is especially the case with bananas, mangoes, guavas and pawpaws.

If they are not eaten fresh, fruits may be processed. In South Africa several methods exist of doing this. Sun-drying one of the more common methods. The categories of sun-dried foods are fruit, fungi and wild spinaches.

An example of fruit-drying in Natal is that of Strychnos madagascariensis fruit pulp. The fruit shells are first broken open and the pulp removed along with the seeds. These are then placed on mats and then dried over a fire in a pit. When the pulp has changed to an orange brown colour, but is still moist, it is separated from the pips with a sharp, flat instrument. It is placed in the sun to dry, then finally over the fire again. The dried pulp is then stamped in a wooden mortar until sticky, in which state it can be stored for up to five years.

Other fruits are dried directly in the sun. For example, bananas may be sliced, spread out on mats and placed in the sun for drying, a process lasting up to two weeks, after which the dried product can be stored.

Fungi or wild mushrooms and wild spinaches can also be sun-dried. Dried mushrooms are ground into a powder and then added to soups made with peanut flour and wild spinaches which can also be dried to be eaten at a later date. Cunningham and Pieser (1991) report that two species of fungi are eaten raw in Natal, although they do not give the names of the species.

In South Africa, cooking is by far the most common method of processing wild and domesticated foods, although the heat may reduce the content of some essential nutrients in some of the foods. The Bushmen are probably the only rural South Africans whose vegetal diet is not commonly subjected to cooking; they eat most wild foods raw, which is probably why they do not suffer from many diseases as they get the full complement of nutrition from plants. Cooking applies mainly to wild spinaches, fungi and some fruits, but generally it is not common to cook fruits in the rural areas of South Africa. In the urban areas, fruits such as guavas may be cooked in canning bottles, with sugar added in order to preserve them for later consumption.

Fermentation is another processing method employed by rural South Africans. For example in Natal and the Transvaal palm and marula wine are quite popular, the former being made from the fermentation of palm sap, and the latter from that of marula fruit juice. The fermentation may be done in a clay or plastic container; the wine is also stored in these.

In the more commercial sector, processing methods include juice extraction, canning, and the production of liqueurs and wines.

The seeds of some species, such as the marula, are edible, and may be extracted by various means such as cracking the shell with a stone to get at the kernel.

Fibre

The processing of fibre materials normally means their actual weaving into specific products such as mats and baskets. As mentioned earlier, the main types of fibre used by South African rural communities are climbers, thin tree stems, palm leaves and culms of certain reeds and grasses.

Climbers and thin stems, which usually form the basic framework, are used while still green so that they can be easily bent into the required shape; they are kept in water to maintain their flexibility. Baskets are constructed of fibre coils comprising narrow strips of palm leaf pinnae wrapped around an inner core of the same material, grass leaves or the stems of climbers. This material is prepared by cutting and drying young, unopened palm leaves, tearing them into strips, and soaking them in water before use to make them less brittle. Designs are worked into the weave by using palm leaf strips dyed in extracts of the bark and roots of certain tree species.

After harvesting, culms of the reed Juncus krausii, are dried and then cut into different lengths depending on the articles to be made, the lengths of reed are then woven into the required product, usually mats of varying sizes and designs, being held in place with twine woven across the culm length.

Medicines

As already indicated traditional medicines for the treatment of innumerable diseases and conditions are many and varied in South Africa, and methods employed for their processing before they can be used or marketed are equally numerous. Some traditional medicines require several stages of processing before they can become useful.

Generally, however, drying is the commonest processing method employed although some plant parts and used fresh. Almost every medicinal plant part imaginable is usually first dried before it can be processed further or stored.

Boiling the relevant plant part to extract the active medicinal ingredients (infusion) may be the next step of processing; sometimes this is preceded by grinding the part into powder, which in itself is also considered as the final processing stage, particularly if the powder is to be used as a snuff.

Sometimes the plant parts are squeezed to extract the juice which is then used, usually immediately, as a medicine. The juice can also be extracted by tapping the stems of some plants.

Insects

The main insect product in the rural areas of South Africa, honey, does not undergo any special processing, except for the squeezing of the honeycombs to extract it. It is then stored in a jar for later use. Of course, in the commercial sector honey and beeswax are processed into a variety of products in the food, confectionery and pharmaceutical trades.

After being harvested, mopane worms, another insect product, are squeezed to remove the intestinal contents and then washed in water. They are then cooked immediately in water, and the following day they are spread out on a mat or rocky place to dry in the sun. They are sometimes also fried after cooking and then stored for future use.

Marketing and Trade

There is a wide variety of practices regarding the trade and marketing of the various NWFP found in the different parts of South Africa. Most NWFP and their secondary products are disposed of in several ways: they may be used directly by rural households, marketed locally by individuals (at roadside markets), marketed by small-scale traders or co-operatives (syndicates), or marketed by a government agency, although the latter is not very common in South Africa; it is found, for example, where rural farmers want to sell large quantities of fruit such as bananas, avocados or guavas.

The sophisticated marketing and trade system in South Africa is mainly applicable to large-scale production of domesticated food NWFP such as the ones mentioned above. By-products of naturally-occuring indigenous fruits such as the marula also benefit from this system.

Food

Most wild and cultivated South African NWFP are directly consumed by the household. In seasons of plenty, the surplus is sold locally and at roadside markets; this is particularly the case with the marula, the mobola plum (Parinari curatellifolia), and a few other indigenous fruits, as well as the domesticated ones.

A rural food NWFP whose marketing and trade is probably better organized than most is palm wine. À study conducted by Cunningham (1990b), showed that nearly 980 000 litres of palm wine were sold during the 12 month period between November 1981 and October 1982, generating US$145 113 (1982), although individual profits were small. The marketing of palm wine entails its sale and resale. The palm sap tappers or palm wine producers set up pre-determined sales points which are "advertised" by word of mouth. The re-sellers then bay the wine from the producers in order to re-sell to the general community. Cunningham (1990b) points out that palm wine for resale is diluted to increase its volume, and therefore, the profit margin. The dilution ratio of wine to water is kept at about 1:1 by consumer demand. Undiluted palm wine is sold within the local production area. The wine to be resold is transported to centres outside the production area, but it does not reach the urban market.

Fibre

The various types of fibre mentioned above are, as mentioned earlier, either harvested directly by the user (craftworker) or by commercial harvesters (those whose job is purely to harvest the NWFP and sell to others who use the NWFP for the production of certain articles). The commercial harvesters usually arrange for the transportation of the NWFP to the user, for which they charge accordingly.

Once articles have been made of the fibre, a few are sold locally, while the majority are either marketed at roadside to passing motorists, or are collected by commercial businessmen who buy in bulk to sell at established urban craftwork markets. In some cases the marketing system is very well organized. For example, syndicates of the estimated 8 000 women involved in the rural weaving industry (using Juncus krausii in Natal, send representatives to urban areas to sell their products. Their goods also sell in curio shops all over the country, and a few outside the country.

Medicines

The traditional medicine trade in South Africa is very big indeed. It is estimated that 80% of the black people in the country choose to consult a traditional healer before resorting to the consulting rooms of a qualified practitioner of orthodox western medicine. Although there is no reliable figure of the number of traditional practitioners in South Africa, the figure may be as high as 200 000, of which probably no more than half are trained.

Most traditional practitioners usually set up some sort of consulting rooms where the local people come to consult and/or buy specific medicines. A number of "muti" (medicine) shops also exist in most South African towns and cities from which anyone can buy; these are not necessarily run by practitioners, but can be run by anyone who is business-minded and knows a bit of botany.

The financial transactions involved in the trade are estimated to run into a few million dollars, and indeed some of the practitioners are very rich (usually those who have built up an awesome reputation as herbalists over a period of several years; people will travel very long distances from all over South Africa and neighbouring countries to consult such practitioners).

There is no set marketing system for traditional medicines in South Africa, except by consulting a traditional practitioner, buying from one of the numerous "muti" shops, or from the many unqualified hawkers who can be found in urban market places or roadside markets, and who sometimes have absolutely no idea of what they are selling.

Some medicines are particularly costly, regardless of who is selling; a good example is Warburgia salutaris, whose bark is probably the most expensive traditional medicine in South Africa.

Insects

The traditional use of wild honey and mopane worms, the main insect products in rural South Africa, at the household level, ensures that no marketing or trade in these products can take place. This may have to do with the quantities harvested annually in the wild, which are too small to market with any reasonable profit in mind.

Renewability and sustainability

It is all too well to harvest from nature's great storeroom without any consideration of what would happen should the supply ran out. However, this is precisely what is happening in the rural areas of South Africa. Obviously the natural resources on which the rural people are so dependent cannot continue to exist ad infinitum, therefore ways to conserve and replenish the resource have to be found.

The resource base of the four NWFP discussed, viz food, fibre, medicines and insects, can be sustained at a production level sufficient to maintain the livelihood of the rural communities in South Africa, and increased to cater for population growth. Most plants yielding the first three NWFP can easily be propagated and grown in appropriate areas of the country, and indeed much research has already been done in this respect with some of the relevant species. For example, Amaranthus spp. are semi-naturalized in some parts of the country, meaning that with a little more effort rural communities can take to their production in a sizeable way, particularly considering that the genus required little attention once established. The same goes for many tree species.

Regarding bee farming, it should be mentioned here that South Africa is at the fore-front of this business in the region, and there is absolutely no reason why this resource (bees) cannot be sustained in rural areas. Honey production in this country speaks volumes about the ease with which bees can be managed to produce not only honey, but beeswax as well.

South Africa is blessed with knowledgeable scientists in all aspects of resource management and conservation; if this knowledge could be imparted to the rural communities, it would be a major step towards ensuring the sustainability of NWFP in the country.

Environmental implications

It is inevitable that in any situation where natural resources are exploited without due consideration of their renewability problems will arise. The harvesting of NWFP in South Africa has already had serious environmental consequences in some areas.

With regard to food NWFP, the impact on the resource base is usually not much of a concern because, as pointed out earlier, trees known by the rural communities to produce large amounts of fruit, are often protected and looked after; even when clearing land for agriculture, such trees are usually left standing, as is the case with the mobola plum and the marula, and exotics such as guavas and avocados. Problems usually arise when tree roots, for example, have to be dug up as a source of food. If this is done too often and big quantities of roots are harvested, then the tree may be undermined. Fortunately, instances of such use of trees are very seldom encountered in South Africa, except for species such as the sweet-root commiphora (Commiphora neglecta) whose roots the Zulus peel and eat like sugar cane, but then this does not represent a significant part of the local diet, so the tree usually survives.

Palm-tapping for sap poses a threat to the two main palm species of Natal, where the palm-wine trade is quite important to the local communities. Cunningham (1991a) showed that sap-tapping resulted in the death of on average 2.9% of the tapped palms in Natal, depending on tapping intensity. Obviously if care is not taken to regulate palm-tapping, it may be a very short time before the resource is used up.

The harvesting of fibres for craftwork also has an impact on the environment and sustainability of the resource base. For example, the steady increase in the number of people harvesting Juncus krausii in Natal has steadily grown since 1970, and this has placed a tremendous strain on the resource base. In 1970 there were 400 J. krausii harvesters, but now there are more than 1500 cutters during the harvesting season, which lasts about three weeks each year. J. krausii grows in ecologically sensitive wetlands of northern Natal, therefore, the harvesting of the resource on a large scale could easily cause disequilibrium in the system, resulting in the loss of some ecologically important species.

In the past, under subsistence demand, plants providing dye material were not ring-barked and only some of the roots were dug up. But under commercial demand this has resulted in the opportunistic scramble for dye material, and ring-barking and uprooting of trees occurs. This is aggravated by the demand for dyed fibre for articles woven for commercial purposes. Tourist demand for heavily decorated woven materials has similarly resulted in increased pressure on dye material. Dye resources can easily become extinct due to the destructive effects of harvesting for commercial purposes, therefore care has to be taken in dealing with such materials.

The use of plants, especially trees, for medicinal purposes has been a constant cause for concern for some years in South Africa. Unsustainably high levels of exploitation are not a new problem, although the problem has escalated in areas with large urban areas and high levels of urbanization since the 1960s. Many plant species are on the verge of extinction due to harvesting for medicinal purposes. For example, by 1938, only poor coppices, cut right down to the bottom, of Warburgia salutaris could be found in Natal. Cooper (1979) has estimated that 95 % of all Ocotea bullata trees in South Africa have been exploited for their bark, with 40% ring-barked and dying. Many such examples abound in South Africa. Such a loss of biodiversity will obviously leave many areas of the country predisposed to many factors of environmental degradation.

Bees, which are the producers of honey, require nectar in order to produce, and nectar is found in plants. Lack of plant biodiversity in the rural areas of South Africa has meant that most rural people do not have ready or easy access to honey, and indeed they have not made any efforts in this regard. The more trees are destroyed for various purposes in the rural areas, the less bees will be found in such areas, and the people will be denied a nutritious and potentially important commercial resource. The same goes for the mopane worm. Its host, Colophospermum mopane, is valued for its fine timber;, however, the greed for timber could lead to the destruction of this species, along with that of the mopane worm, thus putting paid to another important source of nutrition to the rural people of South Africa.

Problems and constraints

Although the rural communities of South Africa have used NWFP for many generations, they however still need to become aware of the range and variety available to them, or that can be made available through the establishment of various tree and shrub species. They also need to know and practice different management systems for natural resources, so that they can be in control of their resources.

For a long time now, the management of natural resources in the rural areas of South Africa has been in the hands of those who do not live in these areas, and therefore do not benefit directly from the local resources. Not through their own choice, rural communities have been left to try and find solutions to their dwindling resources; each day they have to walk further and further away from their homes to collect food and other NWFP for their livelihood. To most of them, it has still not occurred that NWFP are resources that can be replenished, or sustainably managed in perpetuity to yield their daily requirements.

Efforts so far have been very poor in bringing knowledge and information about NWFP and their importance to the rural communities. Instead scientists are more concerned with the management or studying of the dynamics of indigenous forests which are out of bounds, and therefore of very little importance to the rural people. Not that such forests should not be studied, but the information derived from such studies should be available to the rural people also, which is currently not the case.

What the authorities, scientists, nature conservationists and environmentalists in South Africa have so far failed to notice is that human beings, particularly the deprived rural communities, are a nation's most valuable natural resource. Any approach to the environment that ignores, demeans, or regards people as in any way dispensable or susceptible to manipulation in the interest of any other objective, is untenable and virtually doomed to failure.

Land tenure is another constraint which hampers progress in the promotion and development of NWFP in South Africa, and it is clearly an issue of great concern to the rural people particularly regarding tree planting activities and tree ownership. The people will only take the risk of planting trees and protecting them if they are confident that they will be the ultimate beneficiaries, and this can only happen if their claim to the land and the trees is secure. The land tenure system in South Africa, especially for the rural and displaced people, is rather vague and complicated, and varies from area to area. This uncertainty tends to create the feeling that the land does not really belong to the people, consequently they are reluctant to undertake long-term "risks" such as tree planting for fear that the land might be taken away from them, even with the realization of the benefits to be derived from, for example, fruit trees.

If the promotion of NWFP is to be successful, particularly, among the rural communities, seedlings of various tree, shrub and herb species should be readily available to the people who require them. Unfortunately, in South Africa, most nurseries are located in urban areas, and the cost of seedlings is way beyond the means of most rural people, which does not augur well for NWFP development.

There is virtually no trained manpower in South Africa to lead the way in the development of NWFP in the rural areas. Most of the available manpower is more concerned with commercial forestry, nature conservation and environmental management at the national level, aspects in which black students in South Africa have received very little exposure, and these are the people most likely to understand the needs of the rural communities in South Africa.

Finally, funding for initiatives to promote and develop NWFP in rural areas is very scarce. Institutions which have made efforts to address the sustainable management and exploitation of natural resources have often failed to see the job through because of lack of funds.

Recommendations

In view of the prevalent problems and constraints with regard to the promotion and development of NWFP in South Africa, the following recommendations are made:

- A full complement of manpower should be trained to initiate the NWFP promotion and development activities in the rural areas of South Africa. The country is very big, therefore, this fact should be taken into consideration when deciding on the numbers of manpower to be trained;

- Extension services have to be developed and strengthened as an integral part of the existing extension system in South Africa, especially for technology transfer regarding new ways of managing the resource base for NWFP. This should include such aspects as nutrition and propagation of species;

- Nurseries should be established in rural areas so that the locals have easy access to seedlings. These rural nurseries should be run by the people themselves, who should also receive basic training in plant propagation techniques;

- The relevant authorities in South Africa should make funds available for the development of NWFP; these should also include funds for nursery establishment and training of technical staff, as well as the rural people themselves.

- A detailed assessment of the use of NWFP in South Africa should be carried out;

- Finally, the rural people must be kept informed at all times about developments in their areas regarding various aspects of NWFP.

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Annex I: Classification of NWFP

CATEGORY OF NON-WOOD FOREST PRODUCTS

PRODUCT

IMPORTANCE OF NWFP

Fibre

Palm leaves

1

Climbers

1

Juncus krausii

1

Food (Vegetal)

Marula

1

Mobola plum

2

Guava

1

Banana

1

Mango

1

Pawpaw

1

Avocado

1

Mushrooms

3

Wild spinach

1

Trichilia emetica

3

Palm wine

1

Food (Faunal)

Honey

2

Mopane worms

2

Bushmeat

1

Ostrich meat

2

Fish

1

Non-Food (Faunal)

Animal skins

2

Reptile skins

3

Bird (Ostrich) skins

2

Feathers

3

Bees wax

2

Cosmetic & Medicinal

Warburgia salutaris

1

Ocotea bullata

1

Betulina agathosma

1

Tetradenia riparia

1

Trichilia emetica

2

Boweia volubilis

1

Eucomis spp.

1

Acacia xanthophloea

1

Cassine transvaalensis

1

Terminalia sericea

2

Extractive

Tannin

1

Dyes

1

Forage

Livestock fodder

2

Mopane worm fodder

1

Bee forage

1

Wood (handicrafts)

Trichilia emetica

1

Afzelia quanzensis

1

Balanites maughamii

1

Ochna spp.

1

Strychnos henningsii

1

Oncinotis inandensis

1

Ornamentals

Flowers (cut & dried)

3

Amenity

2

Range

Grazing and browse

3

Shade and shelter

2

Soil improvement and protection

Green manure

3

Humus

3

N-fixation

2

Soil stabilization

1

Windbreaks & hedges

2

Parks and reserves

Tourism

1

Conservation

2

Hunting

3

Fishing

2

Annex II: Statistical data on NWFP

PRODUCT

YEAR OF REFERENCE

UNIT

QUANTITY

UNIT PRICE (US$/T)

VALUE (US$ 1000)

Avocados

1992

T

35 000

1 045

36 575

Mangoes

1992

T

25 000

N/A

N/A

Bananas

1992

T

182 000

550

100 100

Pawpaws

1992

T

30 000

410

12 300

Guavas

1992

T

40 000

N/A

N/A

Apples

1993

T

25 540

460

11748

Pears

1993

T

15 980

380

6 072

Marula fruit

1991

T

1 700

N/A

N/A

Honey

1992

T

3 200

N/A

N/A

Palm wine

1989

L

980 000

0.15

147

Beeswax

1991

T

60

N/A

N/A

Flowers (cut & dried)

1990

N/A

N/A

N/A

460

Medicines(top 20)

1988

B

15 700

18

282.6

Legend:

T: Tonne
L: Litre
B: 50 kg bag


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