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Africulture Centre(project completed 2010)

Promoting sustainable management of botanical resources for food, medicine and crafting.

South Africa's unique medicinal flora includes succulent plants such as Kniphofia (Asphodelaceae) that are valued for their adaptation to dry conditions. Photo: O.M. Grace.

The aim of the Africulture Centre project is to promote sustainable management of botanical resources for food, medicine, crafting and other economically beneficial activities in an area near Grahamstown, South Africa. This area has been selected as it has the highest level of vulnerability to HIV in the Eastern Cape of S Africa with an estimated 1 in 3 people HIV positive. In this area it is estimated that about 80% of the black community rely solely on traditional medicines. Because of the increased incidence of disease and the fact that the population of Grahamstown has more than doubled in the last 15 years the demand for traditional medicines has increased and there is no sustainable supply of species traditionally used as medicine and for food.

In this Darwin Initative funded project Kew is working with Garden Africa and Umthathi, an NGO in Grahamstown, to develop a nursery garden to propagate some of the key endangered species. Umthathi has established a local network of traditional healers to identify the species that they would like to have propagated on the 10 hectare plot that has been secured for the creation of the Centre. Kew will be working with Garden Africa and other partners in S Africa to support the successful propagation of the selected species and to develop good quality plant-based products that can be made by these communities to mitigate the effects of opportunistic infections such as tuberculosis, psoriasis and oral thrush.  Emphasis will also be placed on training members of the community in the propagation of medicinal species as well as improving both the biodiversity and quality of food plants.  It is also planned to create a market area at the Centre to generate income by the sale of cuttings, seed and trees to local gardeners (including the Botanical Garden in Grahamstown) and of locally produced products made from indigenous species. The income from these activities will contribute to the future of the Centre as a community resource as well as a tourist centre. It is planned to have the Centre functioning by 2008 and it is hoped that the Centre will feature on the garden trails that are organised in this part of South Africa.

It is planned to have a display of the garden exhibited at the 2006 Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show in May 2006.

Project partners and collaborators

South AfricaDept. of Water Affairs and Forestry,

Dept. of Agriculture

Dept. of Health

Environmental Impact Assessment Agencies

Fort Hare University

Makana Municipality (Local Government in Grahamstown)

National Research Foundation

Permaculture and Material Development (assist with production of leaflets)

Dept. of  Botany, Rhodes University

University of Port Elizabeth

University of Natal

University of the Western Cape

Umthathi, Grahamstown
UKGarden Africa

Eden Project

Project funders

South AfricaSANBI, Cape Town
UKDarwin Initiative

Project team

HPESara Redstone, Nigel Taylor
Jodrell LaboratorySteve Davis, Olwen Grace, Melanie Howes, Monique Simmonds
Science Teams: 
Project Leader: