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The Trade in and Household Use of Phoenix reclinata Palm Frond Hand Brushes on the Wild Coast, South Africa

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The Trade in and Household Use of Phoenix reclinata Palm Frond Hand Brushes on the Wild Coast, South Africa

The Trade in and Household Use of Phoenix reclinata Palm Frond Hand Brushes on the Wild Coast, South Africa. This paper reports on an investigation of the harvesting, trade, and use of hand brushes made from fronds of the wild palm, Phoenix reclinata. We considered both the abundance of the resource as well as the demand. Within the harvesting areas, there were approximately 141 palm plants per hectare, of which almost two-thirds showed no signs of frond harvesting. During harvesting, most fronds (82%) were left on the plant, 16% were removed to make brushes, and 2% were cut and discarded. Although the number of harvesters had increased during the last decade, most felt that the number of palm plants had remained stable or even increased over the same period. There was strong consensus that cut fronds were replaced within two months, after which a particular stem could be harvested again. Harvesting and trade were practiced largely by middle-aged to elderly women, who had limited formal education, skills, and employment prospects. Most had entered the trade because of cash income poverty. The main markets for selling the palm brushes were in nearby urban areas. The income earned from the trade was modest, but still rated highly by the traders, for most of whom it was the second most-important source of cash income. For many users, the palm brushes was found to be the only type of brush suitable for cleaning mud and cow-dung flooring and, most importantly for many, their use forms part of a long household use history and culture.

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A huge thank-you to the brush traders of Willowvale for their patience and willingness to interact with us, to Wayne Westcott for field assistance, and to Sheona Shackleton and Angelina Martins for their comments on an earlier draft of this work. The field work and stipend for NM were provided by the South African Research Chairs Initiative of the Department of Science and Technology and the National Research Foundation of South Africa. Any opinion, finding, conclusion, or recommendation expressed in this material is that of the authors and the NRF does not accept any liability in this regard.

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Correspondence to Charlie M. Shackleton.

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Mjoli, N., Shackleton, C.M. The Trade in and Household Use of Phoenix reclinata Palm Frond Hand Brushes on the Wild Coast, South Africa. Econ Bot 69, 218–229 (2015).

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