Wild plant resources and cultural practices in rural and urban households in South Africa : implications for bio-cultural diversity conservation

M.L. Cocks

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


An 'inextricable link' between biological and cultural diversity has been identified and the term bio-cultural diversity has been introduced as a concept denoting the link. Studies on bio-cultural diversity are largely focused on remote and isolated communities with the modes and relations of indigenous production systems being typically subsistence and kin based and involving extraction of wild products from the natural environment. Rural conditions are however rapidly changing in many tropical countries, and the livelihood strategies of communities are becoming increasingly diversified. As a result the worldviews, cultural values and knowledge of large sectors of the population can no longer be classified as 'traditional'noras representative of western culture. Despite these changes, many of these communities are still reliant on wild resources both for utilitarian and cultural needs. Unfortunately, the theory on bio-cultural diversity as it currently stands only pays homage to one end of the continuum — the more 'exotic' and politically under-represented sectors of the population. This has resulted in very little systematic analysis of the interaction between culture and use of biological diversity, and of the question of whether cultural practices linked to the use of biodiversity are resilient, or rather the persistent, and whether they are maintained under processes of commercialisation and globalization The overall aim of this study is to assess the importance of biodiversity with respect to cultural and utilitarian value amongst different categories of non-traditional community households in both peri-urban and urban contexts of South Africa and to evaluate factors which contribute to the persistent use of biodiversity for cultural practices. It is shown that cultural practices of biodiversity are divers and often still poorly recorded. Even in urban areas and amongst richer people several forms of cultural use of biodiversity are maintainedThestudy gives credibility to the idea that the future of conservation movements depends on their ability to deal with the relation between history, culture and conservation in all its complexity.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
  • Schanz, H., Promotor
  • Wiersum, Freerk, Co-promotor
Award date11 Oct 2006
Place of Publication[S.l.]
Print ISBNs9789085044710
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • wild plants
  • plant genetic resources
  • forest resources
  • biodiversity
  • rural urban relations
  • culture
  • man
  • households
  • south africa


Dive into the research topics of 'Wild plant resources and cultural practices in rural and urban households in South Africa : implications for bio-cultural diversity conservation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this