Development of a compendium of local, wild-harvested species used in the informal economy trade, Cape Town, South Africa

Petersen, L. M., E. J. Moll, R. Collins, M. T. Hockings (2012). Development of a compendium of local, wild-harvested species used in the informal economy trade, Cape Town, South Africa. Ecology and Society 17(2), 26.

Cape Town
Publication type
Scientific article (peer-reviewed)
DOI Title
Development of a Compendium of Local, Wild-Harvested Species Used in the Informal Economy Trade, Cape Town, South Africa
Ecology and Society
Leif M Petersen E J Moll R Collins Marc T Hockings
Published year
biodiversity Cape Town South Africa cash-based economy compendium conservation illicit harvesting informal economy urbanization wild harvesting wild harvest trade



Wild harvesting has taken place over millennia in Africa. However urbanization and cash economies have effectively altered harvesting from being cultural, traditional, and subsistence activities that are part of a rural norm, to being a subculture of commonly illicit activities located primarily within the urban, cash-based, informal economy. This paper focuses on Cape Town, South Africa where high levels of poverty and extensive population growth have led to a rapidly growing informal industry based on the cultural, subsistence, and entrepreneurial harvesting and consumption of products obtained from the local natural environment. Through a process of literature reviews, database analysis, and key informant interviews, a compendium of harvested species was developed, illustrating the breadth of illicit harvesting of products from nature reserves, public open space, and other commonage within the City. The compendium records 448 locally occurring species (198 animals and 250 plants) that are extracted for medicinal, energy, ornamental, sustenance, nursery, and other uses. The sustainability of harvesting is questionable; nearly 70% of all harvested flora and 100% of all collected fauna are either killed or reproductively harmed through the harvesting processes. Furthermore, for the 183 indigenous flora species currently recorded on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, 28% (51) hold assessments ranging from Declining through to Critically Endangered. With respect to the more poorly assessed fauna (46 spp.), approximately 24% (11) have Declining or Threatened status.

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