Making the most of what we’ve got



Abstract

Taylor, S (2008), Making the most of what we’ve got: The commercial beneficiation of indigenous plant species in arid areas, Centre for Development Support, University of the Free State.

Abstract

The paper will explore some of South Africa’s efforts to find new products, crops and industries from local biodiversity, to encourage the search for novel indigenous crops that are tough and adapted to local conditions, especially for the arid regions.

Poverty and climate change are both challenges that we face in South Africa. One approach to poverty alleviation is to step up our efforts to “make the best of what we have” and to domesticate local plant species that will to grow in drier areas. The other challenge facing South Africa is climate challenge preparedness. As the southern African region becomes drier, and the search for local species of commercial value in a more arid environment must be increased.

One of the major assets that South Africa has as a country is a rich botanical biodiversity and it is to this that farmers, entrepreneurs and researchers may need to turn in a much bigger way to find novel crops that will create jobs and wealth, and contribute to climate change adaptation for the agricultural sector.

Developing new crops from unimproved wild material is not straightforward, with challenges at many levels. In this paper, examples will be shown with the arid plant Hoodia (Hoodia gordonii) and semi-arid tree marula (Sclerocarya birrea), and a non-arid example, Rooibos tea (Aspalanthus linearis). These examples will demonstrate the various issues that are scattered along the path to commercialisation.

South Africa’s new Access and Benefit Sharing regulations also need to be taken into account with all attempts to develop local biodiversity and any associated indigenous knowledge into commercial ventures.

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