Economic Botany

, Volume 52, Issue 3, pp 251–259 | Cite as

Use and trading of wild edible herbs in the central lowveld savanna region, South Africa

  • S. E. Shackleton
  • C. M. Dzerefos
  • C. M. Shackleton
  • F. R. Mathabela


The use, processing, trading, cultivation and nurturing of wild edible herbs was recorded across a rainfall gradient in the Mpumalanga lowveld. Nine villages, in three transects across the prevailing west-east rainfall gradient, were sampled by means of 20 households per village. All households made use of wild edible herbs to some extent, with households in the wettest region using the greatest diversity. The duration of availability of selected species was increased through drying, storing and processing for later consumption. Such activities were more common in the drier regions relative to the wetter villages. Approximately 38% of the respondents cultivated or nurtured wild edible herbs within their homestead or arable fields, whereas more than 77% grew exotic commercial vegetables. One quarter of respondents traded in edible herbs, largely in the winter months. Very few obtained a significant income in this way, but even casual trading provided vital supplementary income for low-income households.

Key Words

consumption edible herbs processing rainfall trade 


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Copyright information

© The New York Botanical Garden 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. E. Shackleton
    • 1
  • C. M. Dzerefos
    • 1
  • C. M. Shackleton
    • 2
  • F. R. Mathabela
    • 3
  1. 1.Wits Rural FacilitySouth Africa
  2. 2.Centre for African EcologyUniversity of the WitwatersrandSouth Africa
  3. 3.Wits Rural FacilitySouth Africa

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