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Africulture | Umthathi Training Project
 

AFRICULTURE

To restore plant-based African culture through supporting plant users by developing training and advocacy programmes that support and enhance sustainable resource management and skills in the cultivation, use and preservation of traditionally used indigenous plants in order to:

  • reduce stress on indigenous wild plants
  • ensure a sustainable supply of cultivated indigenous plants
  • develop and infrastructure to enable long-term sustainability
  • to preserve and increase biodiversity

PROBLEM STATEMENT

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BACKGROUND

Work on the concept of the Africulture Programme began in 2004 in response to increasing scarcity of wild indigenous medicinal plants and the development of draft legislation affecting traditional healthcare and biodiversity conservation in South Africa.

IMPORTANCE OF BEING IN THE EASTERN CAPE

The Eastern Cape Province is arguably the most vulnerable province in South Africa, with 85% of the indigenous, largely rural population relying solely on traditional medicine as their first, and often only port of call. As the HIV/Aids epidemic continues to forge along the fault lines of poverty, communities have been driven to ever more destructive harvesting practices to secure valuable medicinal plants for health & short-term income, with 34 endemic medicinal species now under immediate threat of extinction.

The scarcity of popular plants has led to their under-supply, with considerable increases in product prices - resulting in the likelihood that ill people will be given nothing, poor substitutes or adulterants.

STAKEHOLDER MEETINGS

Innovative methods of supplying the market with medicinal plants are essential in conserving these species, as is the traditional knowledge associated with them for future generations.

THP associations, often numbering several hundred members, are invited to take part in discussions surrounding their increasingly difficult access to plant materials.

PURCHASE OF LAND AND THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A NURSERY

The development of a 10 hectare nursery and training centre on the outskirts of Grahamstown where people from the target area who are already deriving their living from the harvesting of these plants from the wild will be trained in the home cultivation of these species, sustainable harvesting techniques and other supporting skills.

CULTIVATING SELECTED MEDICINAL AND INDIGENOUS PLANTS

Consultation with Traditional Health Practitioners (THPs) to compile a growing list of species which are increasingly difficult to access, and culturally acceptable to cultivate. Concerned about the impact that presently unsustainable practices will have on their work, the Programme has received the overwhelming support of THPs.

PROPAGATION

Propagation of species which are increasingly difficult to access, and culturally acceptable to cultivate. Appropriate technologies are being trialed for the propagation of the first 30 species many of which are now under successful cultivation.

CULTIVATION AND PROGAGATION TRAINING

Training traditional suppliers of plant derived medicines with medicinal plants cultivation and propagation skills in an attempt to secure a sustainable supply.

SKILLS DEVELOPMENT

A strong element of environmental education, as well as a component on HIV/AIDS awareness and information is included in the skills development.

The rights of the traditional healers, Inyangas and Sangomas, is respected and protected through the formation of or joining with a stakeholder association, including advocacy work and through rights education being part of the workshops with the stakeholder association.

CULTIVATED PLANTS MADE AVAILABLE TO THPS

This programme contributes to the conservation of cultural heritage and biodiversity.

BACKYARD MEDICINAL PLANT CULTIVATION

Cultivated materials form an essential part of the start-up stock for the THPS in rural areas that allow them to create their own businesses while supporting a health care system currently under threat due to dwindling natural resources.

GATHERING SEEDS

The establishment of a low-tech seed saving facility and herbarium aimed to stimulate interest in natural heritage, and provide tangible links to Xhosa culture, transferring information and seed to ensure that this is returned to the next generation.

INTEGRATION INTO SCHOOLS AND COMMUNITIES

Africulture has begun working with 40 schools and numerous communities, providing an opportunity for them to experience environmental education in practice.

The Programme offers individuals a window on the Xhosa culture with particular emphasis on the use of traditional medicinal plants.

Practical demonstrations will combine to provide a comparative view of 'conventional' agriculture and traditional African farming techniques, intercropping and compost making, as they establish their own low-input medicinal gardens.