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Conservation, commercialisation and confusion: harvesting of Ischyrolepis in a coastal forest, South Africa

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Harvesting of non-timber forest products is an integral component of rural livelihoods throughout the developing world. At times this is at odds with conservation objectives. Reconciliation of the two requires examination of local level contexts and needs. This paper reports on the harvesting needs for Ischyrolepis by a rural community in South Africa, against the setting that they had recently been prohibited from harvesting by the local conservation officials. Interviews were conducted with conservation officials to understand the reasoning for the prohibition. Local demand for Ischyrolepis was assessed by household surveys, as well as in-depth interviews with traders. The density and size class distribution of Ischyrolepis was determined using transects. The total annual demand for Ischyrolepis was determined to be approximately only 2.7% of the standing crop. The bulk of the annual demand was for small-scale trade, the income from which was a primary source of income for the few harvesters. Very little evidence could be found indicating that harvesting was damaging the resource or its habitat, and local knowledge suggested that the abundance of the species was stimulated by harvesting. Even if market demand were to increase, the size of the shoots required means that less than 20% of the standing crop could be harvested annually. Current regulations around harvesting are in a state of revision, and hence confusion prevails regarding if harvesting is permissible, and if so, under what conditions, which is detrimental to both conservation and livelihoods.

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The authors are grateful to all respondents interviewed during this work (villagers, traders and conservation authorities) for their time and willingness to share their knowledge. The work was funded by Rhodes University. We are appreciative for useful comments received from Tony Dold and Fiona Paumgarten on earlier drafts of this paper.

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Correspondence to Charlie M. Shackleton.

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Shackleton, C.M., Parkin, F., Chauke, M.I. et al. Conservation, commercialisation and confusion: harvesting of Ischyrolepis in a coastal forest, South Africa. Environ Dev Sustain 11, 229–240 (2009).

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