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Wetland Plant Species Used for Craft Production in Kwazulu–Natal, South Africa: Ethnobotanical Knowledge and Environmental Sustainability

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Wetland Plant Species Used for Craft Production in Kwazulu–Natal, South Africa: Ethnobotanical Knowledge and Environmental Sustainability. In KwaZulu–Natal Province, there is a rich tradition of wetland plant utilization for craft production. A survey of the province, based on interviews and participatory field walks, revealed which wetland plant species are harvested and how the different species are used. The principal plant species utilized varied greatly among regions: In the coastal region it was Cyperus latifolius Poir. (iKhwane) and Juncus kraussii Hochst. (iNcema), whereas in the uplands it was Cyperus marginatus Thunb. (iNcema). The initial hypothesis that the diversity of plant morphologies added to the diversity of different weave types and products was confirmed by the data. Plant morphological characteristics influenced the weaving techniques suitable for craft production. For example, the fine culms of J. kraussii and C. marginatus have particular value for twilling, twining, and straight sewing and the robust C. latifolius leaves are well suited for the plait. Pressures on the supply of the natural resource were greatest from competing land uses, such as wetland cultivation and, to a lesser extent, from competition among plant harvesters. There was a high demand for J. kraussii, which is traded beyond the limits of its geographical distribution to a much greater extent than the other species. The paper concludes by recommending the wider application of the approach and methods used in the study in order to inform initiatives promoting small business development based upon sustainably harvested natural resources.

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Acknowledgements

The following organizations are thanked for their support: WWF South Africa, the Anglo American Chairman’s Fund, and the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA). Zandile Hadebe, Charles Ndlela, and Mncedi Nkosi are thanked for assistance with translations and interviews, Prof. Gordon-Gray and the University of KwaZulu–Natal Herbarium for assistance with the identification of collected specimens, and the craftworkers of KwaZulu–Natal for so generously sharing their knowledge. The two anonymous reviewers are thanked for their useful comments, which contributed to improving the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Donovan C. Kotze.

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Kotze, D.C., Traynor, C.H. Wetland Plant Species Used for Craft Production in Kwazulu–Natal, South Africa: Ethnobotanical Knowledge and Environmental Sustainability. Econ Bot 65, 271–282 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12231-011-9166-z

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