Indigenous plant use in Gxalingenwa and KwaYili forests in the Southern Drakensberg, KwaZulu-Natal.
In response to an increase in forest destruction, nature conservation agencies in South Africa are beginning to introduce innovative and integrated conservation strategies. This study was established to provide information on resource use in Gxalingenwa State Forest (GSF) and KwaYili State Forest (KSF) on which such conservation initiatives might be based. Local villagers in the area depend on a mix of forest products to meet their livelihood needs, including for example heating, cooking, fencing, building, craft-work and medicine. Large quantities (102.072 tonnes) of plant resources are removed from the GSF and KSF annually by traditional healers and commercial gatherers with commercial gatherers responsible for the largest proportions (88.1 %). However, the total market value of medicinal products to the resource users is higher than the local value, implying that the resource users are not harnessing the full potential of the forest products. Fuelwood, building, fencing and carving also account for a large bulk of materials harvested from the indigenous forests annually. Among several species, Podocarpus falcatus is the most preferred and harvested tree for fuelwood, fencing and building. Despite its high recruitment level, it shows a very unstable population structure. Calodendrum capense is debarked for medicinal uses. It is used locally and its current harvest by commercial gatherers is driven by a huge demand from the 'muti' markets. In KSF, C. capense generally has a low density but also has a relatively good recruitment rate when compared with an unexploited forest. However, the harvesting of immature stems pose a threat to this species.
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