SciELO - Scientific Electronic Library Online

vol.84 número2Potencial riesgo de polución biológica asociado a la introducción de Pinus radiata en tierras de pastizalesEfecto de ácidos húmicos de Leonardita en la estabilidad de agregados del suelo y raíces de melón en condiciones de invernadero índice de autoresíndice de materiabúsqueda de artículos
Home Pagelista alfabética de revistas  

Servicios Personalizados




  • No hay articulos citadosCitado por SciELO

Links relacionados


Phyton (Buenos Aires)

versión On-line ISSN 1851-5657

Phyton (B. Aires) vol.84 no.2 Vicente López dic. 2015



Comparative use patterns of plant resources in rural areas of South Africa and Zimbabwe

Patrones comparativos de uso de los recursos vegetales en zonas rurales de Sudáfrica y Zimbabwe


Maroyi A & MT Rasethe

Medicinal Plants and Economic Development (MPED) Research Centre, Botany Department, Faculty of Science and Agriculture, University of Fort Hare, Private Bag X1314, Alice 5700, South Africa.
Address Correspondence to: Alfred Maroyi, e-mail:

Recibido / Received 14.III.2014.
Aceptado / Accepted 17.VIII.2014.


Abstract. Documentation of use patterns of plants across national boundaries is of relevance in understanding the importance of plant resources to livelihood strategies of different ethnic groups. Plant resources have gained prominence as a natural asset through which families derive food, frewood, income, medicines and timber, enabling particularly poor communities to achieve self-suficiency. The objective of this study was to investigate the trends in plant usage in South Africa and Zimbabwe. An ethnobotanical investigation was conducted between January 2012 and January 2013 in the Limpopo Province, South Africa and the Midlands Province, Zimbabwe. The study used questionnaire surveys and interviews with a total of 143 participants to explore plant use patterns in South Africa and Zimbabwe. A total of 98 plant species were identified, with Zimbabwe contributing 70 species and 47 species from South Africa. The uses were classified into 15 categories, major use categories were firewood, food plants, medicine and timber. Food plant was a major plant use category in Zimbabwe, contributing 55.1%, followed by medicinal plants (36.8%), firewood (35.7%) and timber (31.6%). In contrast, firewood was the major plant use category in South Africa, contributing 18.4%, followed by food plants (17.3%), medicinal (14.3%) and timber (1.0%). Comparison of the two countries demonstrated remarkable diferences in plant use patterns. The results showed that rural households in Zimbabwe were more reliant on plant resources than their counterparts in South Africa. Such a trend could be attributed to a close relationship between the local people, and their natural and agricultural environment leading to a rich knowledge base on plants, plant use and related practices. This comparative analysis strengthens the firm belief that utilization of plant resources represents an important shared heritage, preserved over the centuries, which must be exploited in order to provide further new and useful body of ethnobotanical knowledge.

Keywords: Ethnobotany; Plant use; Rural communities; South Africa; Zimbabwe.

Resumen. Documentar los patrones de uso de plantas a través de las fronteras nacionales es de relevancia para entender la importancia de los recursos vegetales para las estrategias de sustento de los diferentes gruposétnicos. Los recursos vegetales han ganado un lugar prominente como bienes naturales por medio de los cuales las familias obtienen alimentos, leña, ingreso, medicinas y madera, permitiéndole particularmente a las comunidades más pobres alcanzar la autosuficiencia. El objetivo de este estudio fue investigar las tendencias en el uso de plantas en Sudáfrica y Zimbabwe. Una investigación etnobotánica fue llevada a cabo entre enero del 2012 y enero del 2013 en la provincia de Limpopo, Sudáfrica y la provincia de Midlands, Zimbabwe. Se realizaron encuestas y entrevistas a un total de 143 participantes, por medio de las cuales se exploraron los patrones de uso de plantas en Sudáfrica y Zimbabwe. Se identificó un total de 98 especies de plantas, de las cuales Zimbabwe contribuyó con 70, mientras que Sudáfrica lo hizo con 47 especies. Los usos fueron clasificados en 15 categorías, siendo leña, plantas comestibles, plantas medicinales y maderas las más importantes. La categoría plantas comestibles fue la de mayor importancia en Zimbabwe contribuyendo con 55,1% del total, seguido por las plantas medicinales (36.8%), leña (35,7 %) y madera (31,6 %). En contraste, el uso de plantas para la obtención de leña fue la categoría de uso más importante en Sudáfrica (18,4%), seguido de plantas alimenticias (17,3%), plantas medicinales (14,3%), y maderas (1,0%). La comparación entre los dos países mostró diferencias muy notorias en el patrón de uso de plantas. Los resultados mostraron que los hogares en zonas rurales de Zimbabwe eran más dependientes de los recursos vegetales que sus homólogos en Sudáfrica. Esta tendencia podría atribuirse a la relación cercana entre la población local y su entorno natural y agrícola, lo cual implica una base de conocimientos abundante acerca de las plantas, sus usos y otras prácticas. Este análisis comparativo refuerza la firme creencia que el uso de los recursos vegetales representa una importante herencia compartida, preservada a través de los siglos, y que debe ser aprovechada para seguir proveyendo un cuerpo de conocimiento etnobotánico nuevo y útil.

Palabras clave: Etnobotánica; Uso de las plantas; Comunidades rurales; Sudáfrica; Zimbabwe.



Plants provide people with food, fuel and medicine, as well as materials for construction and manufacturing of crafts and many other products (Hamilton et al., 2003). Several ethnobotanical studies in tropical Africa (Lykke et al., 2004; Theilade et al., 2007; Ayantunde et al., 2008) and in similar regions in the rest of the world (Albuquerque et al., 2005; Ladio et al., 2007) have emphasized the relative importance of plant species to the livelihoods of local communities. Plants in South Africa provide a wide range of goods and services, predominantly fruits and shade to rural households, which when incorporated into their livelihood strategies, help reduce their vulnerability to adversity (Paumgarten et al., 2005). Research by Shisanya (2011) showed that ethnobotanical inventory in any given geographical setting is regarded as important in response to the rapid loss of plant diversity and genetic resources, and the associated loss of ethnobotanical knowledge. This type of knowledge often referred to as traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) is a cumulative body of knowledge about the relationships that living organisms (including people) have with each other and with their environment, that is handed down across generations through cultural transmission (Berkes, 1999). Traditional ecological knowledge is dynamic and evolves as people build on their experiences, observations, experimentation, interaction with other knowledge systems, and adaptation to changing environmental conditions over time (Charnley et al., 2007). Local communities are known to harbour important information on valuable plants and vegetation dynamics that is fundamental for management strategies aimed at sustainable use and conservation of natural vegetation (Lykke, 2000). In view of the fact that most people in rural communities in developing countries collect non‐timber forest products (NTFPs) for livelihood or as a survival strategy, there is need for sustainable use of these resources to guard against deforestation and loss of biodiversity. Previous research by Ayantunde et al. (2008) showed that a good understanding of local knowledge of native plant species enhanced sustainable natural resource management in southwestern Niger.
The Human Development Index (HDI) gives the degree of progress with respect to life expectancy, adult literacy, school enrolment and per capita income. This index is higher for the Limpopo (0.5943) (South Africa Human Development Report, 2003) than the Midlands Province (0.401) (Zimbabwe Human Development Report, 2003). Previous research in South Africa by Cunningham & Davis (1997) showed that fuelwood, fencing and building materials constituted the highest volume of plant materials used annually. Similarly, research in Zimbabwe showed that rural inhabitants, who comprise over 80% of the national population, utilize wood as their major source of energy for cooking and
heating (Grundy et al., 1993). The livelihood of the majority of people in Midlands Province, Zimbabwe is inextricably linked to the environment because subsistence and livestock farming are the predominant livelihood activities (Maroyi, 2011). Apart from subsistence and livestock farming, most households in the Midlands Province derive part of their livelihoods from harvesting NTFPs such as firewood and wild fruits from the wild (Maroyi, 2011). Rural communities in the Limpopo Province are known to depend on landbased activities such as cultivation of home gardens, subsistence arable and livestock farming and extensive collection of natural resources from the surrounding communal lands (Paumgarten et al., 2005; Rasethe et al., 2013). Given such dependence on plant resources to meet their daily livelihood needs, there is a need to investigate the trends in plant usage by different cultures or ethnic groups in these two southern African countries.
A large number of people in southern Zimbabwe (Masvingo, Midlands and Matebeleland Provinces) share historical, kinship and linguistic ties with people in the Limpopo Province (northern part) of South Africa. For example, languages such as Ndebele, Tsonga and Venda are spoken on both the Zimbabwean and South African sides of the Limpopo River. Mobility of people in southern Africa predates artifcial colonial borders. Even after the establishment of these borders, people tend to ignore them as they continue to visit their relatives across national borders (Mlambo, 2010). The study sites are still to a large degree characterized by low capital, poor infrastructure, high unemployment and high population density (Paumgarten et al., 2005; Maroyi, 2011).
Although indigenous knowledge of local communities is recognized as a vital input in plant resource management (Ayantunde et al., 2008), relatively little comparative studies have been done on utilization of plants by various cultures or ethnic groups in the African continent. The majority of case studies carried out so far are from the developed world (Díaz-Betancourt et al., 1999; Leporatti & Ivancheva 2003; Pieroni & Quave 2005; Leonti et al., 2006; Pardo-de-Santayana et al., 2007; Leporatti & Ghedira 2009), which are highly urbanised and with relatively low population growth rates. Such comparative studies assist in exploring potential analogies and differences in plant use as a result of reciprocal exchanges that have taken place over the centuries (Leporatti & Ivancheva 2003). Research by Leporatti & Ghedira (2009) showed that such comparative analysis strengthens the firm belief that ethnobotanical fndings represent not only an important shared heritage, developed over the centuries, but also a considerable mass of data that should be exploited in order to provide new and useful knowledge. It is within this context that we sought to identify plant use patterns in South Africa and Zimbabwe.


Study area. The study was conducted in two villages (GaSekgopo and Monywaneng) in the Limpopo Province, South Africa and seven villages (Chikato, Donga, Gamwa, Gundura, Hanke, Tongogara and Zvamatenga) in the Midlands Province, Zimbabwe (Fig. 1, Table 1). These two selected provinces in South Africa and Zimbabwe are characterized by direct contact and sharing of several environmental and physiographic traits (Table 1). The study sites were chosen based on similar environmental and physical factors in terms of vegetation, cultivated crops, average annual temperature, rainfall and elevation (Table 1).

Fig. 1. Map of southern Africa illustrating the geographical position of the study sites.
Fig. 1. Mapa de África meridional ilustrando la posición geográfica de los sitios de estudio.

Table 1. Summary of characteristics of the two major ethnic groups interviewed as well as environmental characteristics of the study sites (*).
Tabla 1. Resumen de las características de los dos grupos étnicos principales entrevistados, y de las características ambientales de los sitios de estudio (*).

*Source: Vincent & Thomas, 1961; Wild & Barbosa, 1968; Nyamapfene, 1991; McGregor, 1994; LSOER, 2005; M'Marete, 2003; Paumgarten et al., 2005; Mucina & Rutherford, 2006; Maroyi, 2011, 2013; Rasethe et al., 2013.

Data collection. In order to document plant use patterns in South Africa and Zimbabwe, several field surveys were carried out between January 2012 and January 2013. Sixty randomly selected participants were interviewed between January and June 2012 in Ga-Sekgopo and Monywaneng, Limpopo Province, South Africa. Similarly, eighty three randomly selected participants were interviewed in Chikato, Donga, Gamwa, Gundura, Hanke, Tongogara and Zvamatenga villages, Midlands Province, Zimbabwe between December 2012 and January 2013. Prior informed consent was sought from each participant before interviewing them, and we adhered to the ethical standards of the International Society of Ethnobiology (International Society of Ethnobiology, 2006). Participatory rural appraisal (PRA) methods were used (Chambers, 1994) to systematically collect data on plant utilization [plant species and part(s) used, use(s), preparation and harvesting frequency] and local name of the plant species in question.
Plants mentioned by the participants during the interviews were collected. Plants were initially identified by participants with their vernacular names. Voucher specimens of plants collected in South Africa were verified and deposited for future reference at the Larry Leach Herbarium (UNIN) of the University of Limpopo, while those collected in Zimbabwe were verified and deposited for future reference at the National Herbarium and Botanic Garden, Harare (SRGH).

Data management and analysis. The data collected were entered in Microsoft Excel 2007 program and were later analyzed for descriptive statistical patterns. During analysis, data on plant use patterns were summarized into major themes by content analysis (Chambers, 1994). Descriptive statistics, such as percentages and frequencies were used to analyze the data obtained from the questionnaires. Bar graphs were generated using Microsoft Excel 2007 program.


Demographic data of the participants. Table 2 shows the demographic characteristics of the participants. Of the one hundred and forty three participants, 56.6% were female and 43.4% were male. Their ages ranged from 18 to 87 years, with 52 years as the median. The majority of participants were married (62.2%), 16.8% widowed, 9.1% never married, 7.7% divorced and 4.2% separated (Table 2). The majority of households (70.7%) comprised between three and six family members, while 10.5% had one or two household members and 18.9% had more than seven family members (Table 2). The majority (50.3%) of the participants were educated up to secondary level, while 31.5% had attained primary education, 4.9% had attained tertiary education and 6.5% had no formal education. More than half of the participants (57.3%) were unemployed, surviving on less than R2000 a month (Table 2). A very small proportion of the participants had a constant income as either self-employed (24.5%) or employed by government or private companies (18.2%) (Table 2).

Table 2. Demographic and descriptive data of the participants, N=143.
Tabla 2. Datos demográficos y descriptivos de los participantes, N=143.

*1 Rand = USD 0.115.

Plant richness. A total of 98 plant species were used by the people of the Limpopo Province, South Africa and the Midlands Province, Zimbabwe. Higher species numbers [70 species, (71.4% of the total)] were recorded in Zimbabwe compared to South Africa [47 species, (48.0% of the total)] (Table 3). Higher plant family numbers and genera were also recorded in Zimbabwe than South Africa (Table 3). The majority of the utilized plant species in the Limpopo Province, South Africa (91.5%) were indigenous species, when compared with 87.1% indigenous species recorded in the Midlands Province, Zimbabwe (Table 3). Opuntia fcus-indica (L.) Mill. (edible fruits/hedge), Melia azedarach L. (firewood/fodder/ornamental) and Solanum lycopersicum L. (edible fruits/medicine) were among utilized exotics recorded in both South Africa and Zimbabwe. With the exception of Eucalyptus grandis W.Hill ex Maiden used in South Africa for firewood, six additional exotic species were recorded in Zimbabwe only. Among these were common food plants such as Amaranthus hybridus L. (pigweed), Chenopodium album L. (wild spinach), Cucumis anguria L. (bur cucumber), Lantana camara L. (cherry pie), Physalis angulata L. (cutleaf groundcherry), and Solanum nigrum L. (black nightshade). Four of these exotics (E. grandis, L. camara, M. azedarach and O. ficus-indica) are declared weeds and invaders in South Africa, listed under the Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act (1983) No. 43 of 1983. Maroyi (2012) classified A. hybridus, C. anguria and P. angulata as naturalized in Zimbabwe, while C. album, L. camara, M. azedarach and O. ficus-indica were classified as invasives. These species pose an immediate and significant threat by virtue of their aggressive qualities and having the capacity to invade natural habitats and overwhelm some of the indigenous species (South Africa, 1983). Therefore, these species including other naturalized exotics, and those exotics still confined to cultivation have the potential to spread into the natural environment. If this happens, they might become problematic in the future as alien plant species invasions are causing major conservation problems in many regions of the world (Vitousek et al., 1997; Vilà et al., 1999).

Table 3. Summary of plant species recorded in the Limpopo Province, South Africa and the Midlands Province, Zimbabwe.
Tabla 3. Resumen de las especies de plantas registradas en la provincia de Limpopo, Sudáfrica y la provincia de Midlands, Zimbabwe.

* Percentage of total.

A large number of utilized plant species in South Africa and Zimbabwe (55, 56.1%) are from 10 families (Fig. 2). The most dominant families were: Fabaceae sensu lato (16 species), Anacardiaceae (7 species), Combretaceae (6 species), Ebenaceae and Phyllanthaceae (5 species each), Tiliaceae (4 species), Amaranthaceae, Loganiaceae, Solaniaceae and Verbenaceae (3 species each). Species belonging to Amaranthaceae and Loganiaceae families were utilized in Zimbabwe only. The genera with the highest number of utilized species were Combretum with fve species, Grewia with four species, Euclea, Rhus and Strychnos with three species each, and Acacia, Aloe, Amaranthus, Bauhinias, Bridelia, Carissa, Cleome, Diospyros, Ficus, Gymnosporia, Lannea, Solanum and Ximenia with two species each. Amaranthaceae, Anacardiaceae, Combretaceae, Ebenaceae, Fabaceae sensu lato, Loganiaceae, Phyllanthaceae, Solaniaceae, Tiliaceae and Verbenaceae have the highest diversity of species used probably because these are large families in both South Africa and Zimbabwe, characterized by at least 20 species each (Mapaura & Timberlake, 2004; Germishuizen et al., 2006). In the study area, the family Amaranthaceae was represented by two genera, Amaranthus and Chenopodium used as leafy vegetables in Zimbabwe. Amaranthus hybridus, Amaranthus thunbergii Moq. and C. album are well known agricultural weeds consumed as leafy vegetables in Zimbabwe (Maroyi, 2013). The three members of Loganiaceae family recorded in this study (Strychnos cocculoides Baker, S. madagascariensis Poir. and S. spinosa Lam.) are among common wild edible fruits gathered, preserved, stored and consumed some weeks or months after gathering in Zimbabwe (Maroyi, 2011). Additional uses of Strychnos species in Zimbabwe included firewood, medicine and timber.

Fig. 2. Families with the highest number of utilized plants in the Limpopo Province, South Africa and the Midlands Province, Zimbabwe.
Fig. 2. Familias con mayor número de plantas utilizadas en la provincia de Limpopo, Sudáfrica y la provincia de Midlands, Zimbabwe.

Plant use categories. Four major plant use categories identified in this study included firewood, food plants, medicine and timber (Table 4). A major plant use category in Zimbabwe were food plants, contributing 55.1%, followed by medicinal plants (36.8%), firewood (35.7%) and timber (31.6%). In contrast, firewood was the major plant-use category in the Limpopo Province, South Africa, contributing 18.4%, followed by food plants (17.3%), medicinal (14.3%) and timber (1.0%). Additional use categories recorded in Zimbabwe only included use of plants or plant parts as broom, dye, fibre, fodder, hedge, ornamental, rope, thatching, toothbrush and wooden fence. Use of plants or plant parts for making crafts was recorded in South Africa only (Table 4). A study conducted by Kepe (2003) in the Eastern Cape Province showed that craftwork is a significant component of the livelihood strategies of rural people in South Africa. Previous research in Zimbabwe by Maroyi (2011) found that rural communities in Zimbabwe make use of wild plants to supplement their diet, which is based on rainfed cultivation of staples such as cassava, maize, millet, sorghum and wheat. Similarly, research conducted in northern Nigeria by Harris & Mohammed (2003) found that wild foods are usually collected and used during times of food shortage, and can be of critical importance in livelihood and survival strategies for rural households and communities. Previous studies in South Africa (Van Wyk et al., 2009) and Zimbabwe (Gelfand et al., 1985) revealed a strong culture of herbal medicine usage for primary healthcare in both countries.

Table 4. Proportion of the utilized species contributing to each of the plant use categories.
Tabla 4. Porcentaje de las especies que contribuyen a cada una de las categorías de uso de las plantas.

This study revealed use of plants as firewood as one of the major uses of plants in both South Africa and Zimbabwe (Table 4). Interviews with the participants revealed that the majority of the local people use frewood to cook their food, heat and light up their houses. Plant species used exclusively for frewood in the Limpopo Province, South Africa, mentioned by at least 10% of the participants included Acacia karroo Hayne (22%), A. rehmanniana Schinz (15%), Berchemia discolor (Klotzsch) Hemsl. (35%), Combretum kraussii Hochst. (35%), Dichrostachys cinerea (L.) Wight & Arn. (22%), Dombeya rotundifolia (Hochst.) Planch. (10%), M. azedarach (10%), Peltophorum africanum Sond. (10%) and Philenoptera violacea (Klotzsch) Schrire (13%). No plant species were used as firewood only in the Midlands Province, Zimbabwe. Dichrostachys cinerea, P. africanum and P. violacea were listed among the preferred species used for firewood in two previous studies by Madubansi & Shackleton (2007) and Makhado et al. (2012) carried out in the Limpopo Province, South Africa. According to these authors, these species are preferred because they have relatively dense wood that burns well with little smoke. Research by Makhado et al. (2012) also showed that high reliance on fuel wood in rural areas is due to the fact that it is the cheapest and most accessible source of energy to the majority of rural poor people.
Burkea africana Hook. (81%) and Dalbergia melanoxylon Guill. & Perr. (71%) were used exclusively as sources of timber in the Midlands Province in Zimbabwe. Twenty nine species (29.6% of the total species) were also used as timber in Zimbabwe. Interviews with participants in Zimbabwe revealed that timber is used in hut or house wall construction, roof beams, granaries, drying racks and livestock or crop enclosures. The participants also revealed that large quantities of timber were needed to roof storage huts, living huts and houses built of bricks. For example, previous research in Zimbabwe by Grundy et al. (1993) recorded 150 poles per structure for wooden huts, grain bins and cattle pens. Participants in the Limpopo Province, South Africa did not mention timber as a major plant use category in this study. However, rural inhabitants in South Africa are known to use poles for construction of traditional huts, maize granaries, fences, animal kraals and utensils such as mortars, pestles and wooden spoons (Liengme 1983). The same author documented use of wood to construct traditional structures in rural areas of South Africa.

Plant species utilized in both South Africa and Zimbabwe. A total of 21 species were utilized in both South Africa and Zimbabwe (Table 5). Plant use categories were characterized by a higher number of species in Zimbabwe than South Africa (Table 5). For example, 13 species were utilized as edible fruits in Zimbabwe against 11 species in South Africa. Then species were utilized as firewood in Zimbabwe against nine species in South Africa. Similarly, ten species were utilized as medicinal plants in Zimbabwe against five species in South Africa. Most of the plant species had wider applications and more than one use category in Zimbabwe than in South Africa (Table 5). Among the plant species used by at least 10% of the participants in Zimbabwe (Table 5), only Asparagus suaveolens Burch., Burkea africana Hook., Dichrostachys cinerea (L.) Wight & Arn. and Vangueria infausta Burch. had a single use application each. In South Africa, only four species [B. africana, Carissa edulis (Forssk.) Vahl, Sclerocarya birrea (A. Rich.) Hochst and Ziziphus mucronata Willd.] had more than one use applications with the rest characterized by a single use application (Table 5). With the exception of S. birrea, the frequency of plant usage was higher in Zimbabwe than South Africa (Table 5). In South Africa, the most frequently used species were S. birrea which was cited by 75% of the participants, followed by Berchemia discolor (Klotzsch) Hemsl. (35%); Acacia karroo Hayne, Aloe greatheadii Schönland, B. africana and D. cinerea (all cited by 22% of the participants). The most frequently used species in Zimbabwe were B. africana which was cited by 81% of the participants, followed by B. discolor (80%), V. infausta (60%), A. karroo (52%) and D. cinerea (42%) (Table 5).

Table 5. Useful plants recorded in both the Limpopo Province (South Africa) and the Midlands Province (Zimbabwe). Species marked with asterisk (*) are exotic to both South Africa and Zimbabwe.
Tabla 5. Plantas útiles registradas tanto en la provincia de Limpopo (Sudáfrica) y la provincia de Midlands (Zimbabwe). Las especies marcadas con un asterisco (*) son exóticas para Sudáfrica y Zimbabwe.

The higher number of utilized plant species, and associated high number of plant use categories, in Zimbabwe could be attributed to a close relationship between the local people, and their natural and agricultural environment. This contributes to get a rich knowledge base on plants, plant use and related practices. Our results showed that rural households in Zimbabwe were more reliant on plant resources than their counterparts in South Africa. The economic decline in Zimbabwe, constant droughts, declining health providing system, HIV/AIDS, and rapidly increasing livelihood problems are the main reasons for the extensive exploitation of plant resources in the Midlands Province. Villagers, therefore, are forced to harvest various plant products which are used to supplement household nutritional requirements, herbal medicines, meet energy demand and provide the primary source of poles used for construction of traditional structures. The vast differences observed in South Africa and Zimbabwe are mainly due to socio-economical differences, characterized by deep infrastructural and economic differences. Another significant difference is the HDI according to international measures of both the social and economic development (South Africa Human Development Report, 2003; Zimbabwe Human Development Report, 2003). South Africa is considerably much better than Zimbabwe. Provision of social pension and disability grants, and food packages distributed by the South African government through the Department of Social Development decrease the amount of pressure on plant resources in the Limpopo Province, South Africa. As a form of social protection, social grants are vital components of rural livelihoods; they not only ameliorate poverty and provide a safety net but also potentially promote social transformation in rural areas (Kepe, 2003).


The present study explored and reviewed the contribution that plant resources make to rural welfare. Existing use patterns were examined including types of goods derived from both South Africa and Zimbabwe, including species used in both countries and how they are utilized. We believe that our work makes an important contribution to the body of empirical ethnobotanical research by demonstrating that the improved formal health sector, provision of social services and energy do not necessarily displace the utilization of plant resources as food, frewood and medicines. This comparative analysis strengthens the firm belief that utilization of plant resources is an important shared heritage, preserved over the centuries, which must be used to provide a further new and useful body of ethnobotanical knowledge.


This work was financed by the National Research Foundation (NRF), South Africa. We thank Dr. Wisemen Chingombe, University of Fort Hare (South Africa) and Ms. Diana Quiroz, Wageningen University (the Netherlands) for the Spanish translation.


1. Albuquerque, U.P., L.H.C. Andrade & A.C.O. Silva (2005). Use of plant resources in a seasonal dry forest (Northeastern Brazil). Acta Botanica Brasilica 19: 27-38.         [ Links ]

2. Ayantunde, A.A., M. Briejer, P. Hiernaux, H.M.J. Udo & R. Tabo (2008). Botanical knowledge and its differentiation by age, gender and ethnicity in Southwestern Niger. Human Ecology 36: 881-889.         [ Links ]

3. Berkes, F. (1999). Sacred Ecology: Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Resource Management. Taylor and Francis, Philadelphia, PA. 209 p.         [ Links ]

4. Chambers, R. (1994). The origins and practice of participatory rural appraisal (PRA). World Development 22: 953-969.         [ Links ]

5. Charnley, S., A.P. Fischer & E.T. Jones (2007). Integrating traditional and local ecological knowledge into forest biodiversity conservation in the Pacific Northwest. Forest Ecology and Management 246: 14-28.         [ Links ]

6. Cunningham, A.B. & G.W. Davis (1997). Human use of plants. In: Cowling, R.M., Richardson D.M. & Pierce S.M. (eds.), pp. 474-506. Vegetation of Southern Africa. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.         [ Links ]

7. Díaz-Betancourt, M., L. Ghermandi, A.H. Ladio, I.R. López-Moreno, E. Raffaele & E.H. Rapoport (1999). Weeds as a source for human consumption: A comparison between tropical and temperature Latin America. Revista de Biología Tropical 47: 329-338.         [ Links ]

8. Gelfand, M., R.B. Drummond, S. Mavi & B. Ndemera (1985). The Traditional Medical Practitioner in Zimbabwe: His Principles of Practice and Pharmacopoeia. Mambo Press, Gweru. 411 p.         [ Links ]

9. Germishuizen, G., N.L. Meyer, Y. Steenkamp & M. Keith (2006). A Checklist of South African Plants. Southern African Botanical Diversity Network Report No. 41. South African National Biodiversity Institute, SABONET, Pretoria. 1200 p.         [ Links ]

10. Grundy, I.M., S. Balebereho, R. Cunliffe, C. Tafangenyasha, R. Fergusson & D. Parry (1993). Availability and use of trees in Mutanda Resettlement Area, Zimbabwe. Forest Ecology and Management 56: 243-266.         [ Links ]

11. Hamilton, A.C., P. Shengji, J. Kessy, A.A. Khan, S. Lagos-Witte & Z.K. Shinwari (2003). The Purposes and Teaching of Applied Ethnobotany. People and Plants Working Paper no. 11. WWF, Surrey, UK. 76 p.         [ Links ]

12. Harris, F.M.A. & S. Mohammed (2003). Relying on nature: Wild foods in Northern Nigeria. Ambio 32: 24-29.         [ Links ]

13. International Society of Ethnobiology. (2006). ISE Code of Ethics. (accessed on 15 August 2014).         [ Links ]

14. Kepe, T. (2003). Use, control and value of craft material (Cyperus textilis): Perspectives from a Mpondo Village, South Africa. South African Geographical Journal 85: 152-157.         [ Links ]

15. Ladio, A., M. Lozada & M. Weigandt (2007). Comparison of traditional wild plant knowledge between aboriginal communities inhabiting arid and forest environments in Patagonia, Argentina. Journal of Arid Environments 69: 695-715.         [ Links ]

16. Liengme, C.A. (1983). A study of wood use for fuel and building in an area of Gazankulu. Bothalia 14: 245-257.         [ Links ]

17. Leporatti, M.L. & K. Ghedira (2009). Comparative analysis of medicinal plants used in traditional medicine in Italy and Tunisia. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 5: 31. doi:10.1186/1746-4269-5-31.         [ Links ]

18. Leonti, M., S. Nebel, D. Rivera & M. Heinrich (2006). Wild gathered food plants in the European Mediterranean: A comparative analysis. Economic Botany 60: 130-142.         [ Links ]

19. Leporatti, M.L. & S. Ivancheva (2003). Preliminary comparative analysis of medicinal plants used in the traditional medicine of Bulgaria and Italy. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 87: 123-142.         [ Links ]

20. Limpopo State of the Environment Report (LSOER). (2005). State of the Environment Report. (accessed on 18 March 2013).         [ Links ]

21. Lykke, A.M. (2000). Local perceptions of vegetation change and priorities for conservation of woody-savanna vegetation in Senegal. Journal of Environmental Management 59: 107-120.         [ Links ]

22. Lykke, A.M., M.K. Kristensen & S. Ganaba (2004). Valuation of local use and dynamics of 56 woody species in the Sahel. Biodiversity and Conservation 13: 1961-1990.         [ Links ]

23. Madubansi, M. & C.M. Shackleton (2007). Changes in fuelwood use and species selection following electrifcation in the Bushbuckridge Lowveld, South Africa. Journal of Environmental Management 83: 416-426.         [ Links ]

24. Makhado, R.A., M.J. Potgieter, D.C.J. Wessels, A.T. Saidi & K.K. Masehela (2012). Use of Mopane Woodland Resources and Associated Woodland Management Challenges in Rural Areas of South Africa. Ethnobotany Research and Applications 10: 369-379.         [ Links ]

25. Mapaura, A. & J. Timberlake (2004). A Checklist of Zimbabwean Vascular Plants. Southern African Botanical Diversity Network Report No. 33, SABONET, Pretoria. 148 p.         [ Links ]

26. Maroyi, A. (2011). The gathering and consumption of wild edible plants in Nhema communal area, Midlands province, Zimbabwe. Ecology of Food and Nutrition 50: 506-525.         [ Links ]

27. Maroyi, A. (2012). The casual, naturalised and invasive alien flora of Zimbabwe based on herbarium and literature records. Koedoe. DOI: 10.4102/koedoe.v54i1.1054.         [ Links ]

28. Maroyi, A. (2013). Use of weeds as traditional vegetables in Shurugwi District, Zimbabwe. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 9: 60. doi:10.1186/1746-4269-9-60.         [ Links ]

29. McGregor J. (1994). Woodland pattern and structure in a peasant farming area of Zimbabwe: ecological determinants and present and past use. Forest Ecology and Management 63: 97-133.         [ Links ]

30. Mlambo, A. (2010). A history of Zimbabwean migration. In: Crush, J. and Tevera D. (eds.), pp. 52-78. Zimbabwe's Exodus, Crisis, Migration and Survival. SAMP in cooperation with IDRC, Ottawa.         [ Links ]

31. M'Marete, C.K. (2003). Climate and Water Resources in the Limpopo Province. Limpopo Department of Agriculture, Polokwane.         [ Links ]

32. Moerman, D.E., R.W. Pemberton, D. Kiefer & B. Berlin (1999). A comparative analysis of five medicinal floras. Journal of Ethnobiology 19: 49-67.         [ Links ]

33. Mucina, L. & M.C. Rutherford. (2006). The vegetation of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. Strelizia 19. South African National Biodivesity Institute, Pretoria. 807 p.         [ Links ]

34. Nyamapfene, K. (1991). Soils of Zimbabwe. Nehanda Publishers, Harare. 179 p.         [ Links ]

35. Pardo-de-Santayana, M., J. Tardío, E. Blanco, A.M. Carvalho, J.J. Lastra, E.S. Miguel & R. Morales (2007). Traditional knowledge of wild edible plants used in the northwest of the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal): A comparative study. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 3: 27. doi:10.1186/1746-4269-3-27.         [ Links ]

36. Paumgarten, F., C. Shackleton & M. Cocks (2005). Growing of trees in home-gardens by rural households in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo Provinces, South Africa. International Journal of Sustainable Development & World Ecology 12: 365-383.         [ Links ]

37. Pieroni, A. & C.L. Quave (2005). Traditional pharmacopoeias and medicines among Albanians and Italians in southern Italy: A comparison. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 101: 258-270.         [ Links ]

38. Rasethe, M.T., S.S. Semenya, M.J. Potgieter & A. Maroyi (2013). The utilization and management of plant resource in rural areas of the Limpopo province, South Africa. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 9: 27. doi:10.1186/1746-4269-9-27.         [ Links ]

39. Shisanya, C.A. (2011). Determinants of Sustainable Utilization of Plant Resources in the Former Kakamega District, Kenya. Organisation for Social Science Research in Eastern and Southern Africa (OSSREA), Addis Ababa. 146 p.         [ Links ]

40. South Africa Human Development Report (2003). The Challenge of Sustainable Development in South Africa: Unlocking People's Creativity. United Nations Development Programme, South Africa. 246 p.         [ Links ]

41. South Africa (1983). Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act No. 43. Government Printer, Pretoria. 55 p.         [ Links ]

42. Theilade, I., H.H. Hansen, M. Krog & C.K. Ruffo (2007). Usevalues and relative importance of trees to the Kaguru people in semi-arid Tanzania: Part II. Woodland species. Forests, Trees and Livelihoods 17: 1-15.         [ Links ]

43. Van Wyk, B.-E., B. Van Oudtshoorn & N. Gericke (2009). Medicinal Plants of South Africa. Briza Publications, Pretoria, 366 p.         [ Links ]

44. Vilà, M., Y. Meggaro & E. Weber (1999). Preliminary analysis of the naturalized flora of northern Africa. Orsis 14: 9-20.         [ Links ]

45. Vincent, V. & R.G. Tomas (1961). An Agricultural Survey of Southern Rhodesia (Part 1): Agro-ecological Survey. Government Printers, Salisbury. 124 p.         [ Links ]

46. Vitousek, P.M., C.M. D'Antonio, L.L. Loope, M. Rejmánek & R. Westbrooks (1997). Introduced species: A significant component of human-caused global change. New Zealand Journal of Ecology 21: 1-16.         [ Links ]

47. Wild, H. & L.A. Barbosa (1968). Vegetation Map of the Flora Zambesiaca Area (Suppl. to Flora Zambesiaca). M.O. Collins, Salisbury. 70 p.         [ Links ]

48. Zimbabwe Human Development Report (2003). Redirecting our responses to HIV and AIDS. United Nations Development Programme, Harare, Zimbabwe. 52 p.         [ Links ]

Creative Commons License Todo el contenido de esta revista, excepto dónde está identificado, está bajo una Licencia Creative Commons