Herbanisation was developed in order to bolster community conservation efforts by bringing together and working with two otherwise disparate groups who share interests in Cape Town biodiversity – formal economy, predominately middle class conservation managers and policy makers, and informal economy, predominately working class Rasta herbalists. Through a variety of activities working with each of these stakeholders the project worked to; 1) Build local ecosystem resilience through providing specific reports that offer guidance to conservation officials of the demands for specific flora and fauna species within local protected areas, 2) Build investment in ecological infrastructure through developing street gardens, collectively containing ~4,500 culturally important traditional medicine plants as selected and propagated by the Rasta herbalist community, and 3) Encourage broader inclusivity in conservation through joint dialogue sessions between stakeholders with the aim of developing a set of mutually agreed guidelines to be utilised for future open space conservation projects in the city (such as urban greening of public open space).
Summary of conservation impacts achieved
Herbanisation concluded with the presentation of urban greening guidelines at the regional Fynbos Forum in Port Elizabeth in July 2016, having met or exceeded its major objectives of;
- Propagating and planting 4,500 indigenous plant species in three separate garden sites in the Cape Flats,
- Four garden sites of varying size and species composition were planted in the local area. Local community members were also supported with plants for their own street garden efforts. Three people (Neville van Schalkwyk, Joseph van Schalkwyk and Gammad Asia) were supported on an ongoing basis over the course of the project for the maintenance of these gardens.
- A nursery was established in Hillview on property managed by Neville van Schalkwyk and used to propagate the necessary plant species for the street gardens. All tools, inputs, infrastructure and propagation materials were procured and used in the project site. At varying points up to seven people were employed conducting propagation, site preparation planting, and maintenance on the project.
- Creating dialogue and exposure between commonly disparate groups of Rasta herbalists and the conservation sector,
- A series of planting / education days were held between 2014 – 2016 where different groups of stakeholders including City of Cape Town, Cape Nature, conservationists, university students, members of the general public and Rasta herbalists were present to plant and discuss their perspectives and respective activities.
- A five hour workshop was held in mid-2015 in Seawinds which attracted over 40 participants including more than 30 Rasta herbalists from across Cape Town. This was an important facilitated event to determine the opportunities and constraints that exist between both parties in the ongoing debate of wild harvesting.
- The project attracted further funds for encouraging dialogue through the Making All Voices Count initiative. This allowed for production of eight digital stories from herbalist perspectives which will carry the voices of traditional medicine herbalists beyond the current audiences and potentially more effectively to political decision makers.
- Creation and dissemination of various learning and guidelines documents and videos for the conservation and local government sector in order to foster enhanced relationships between these stakeholders.
- A 14 minute Youtube video was produced on the evolution of the Herbanisation concept. This was presented at the 2014 Fynbos Forum. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8N1bKiHx6g&feature=youtu.be
- Two sets of publicly accessible documents were produced;
- Guidelines for Cape Town conservationists as to the key species of harvest from city reserves, and how they are used.
- Guidelines for conservation, economic and culturally inclusive urban greening efforts within Cape Town
In addition to these achievements the project also;
- Gained funding support from the Making All Voices Count initiative (2016) and Rufford Small Grants for Nature (2015-16)
- Won international (IUCN) and national (Mail and Guardian “Greening the Future”) Awards
- Was published three times in national newspapers and magazines; Mail and Guardian (twice), and High Life (British Airways in-flight magazine).
- Featured on Al Jazeera, Eyewitness News Network, German and French national television.
- Presented at various national (Fynbos Forum) and international (World Parks Congress, International Social Sciences Council) fora.
In this period, the following activities were undertaken in order to conclude the project;
- Final propagation and planting of indigenous plants in current gardens (Seawinds, Military Heights and Retreat). In all, 4,500 plants were propagated and planted, in addition another 1,000 plants were propagated with funds from the Rufford Small Grants for Nature which were used for enrichment planting in the current garden sites and also donated to a community garden in Muizenberg Park in collaboration with the South African Police Service. Plant deaths in Seawinds have left some gaps within the garden site, and the additional plants funded through the Rufford Small Grants programme have supported the rejuvenation of the street garden at that site.
- Ongoing maintenance of community gardens. Neville van Schalkwyk, and Gammad Asia have both been paid stipends to continue their respective maintenance work in Seawinds and Retreat. Neville has also served as liaison for visitors to the site, and was present at the launch of the urban greening guidelines in Port Elizabeth in July 2016.
- Development of urban landscape ecological rehabilitation guidelines for supporting multiple conservation, cultural and economic objectives. The guidelines were produced based on learning from the Herbanisation process. They include the following easy-to-read sections;
- Background and history of the development / conservation challenge
- The process of liaison and dialogue between various stakeholders
- A conservation, cultural and economically integrative planting guide containing year 1, 2 and 3 indigenous landscaping species. This included planting and species advice for practitioners.
- Launch of guidelines to the local government, conservation and academic sector at the annual Fynbos Forum. After development of the guidelines 150 copies were printed and presented by Leif Petersen and Neville van Schalkwyk at the Fynbos Forum in Port Elizabeth in July 2015. Over 100 attendees were at the event representing;
- City of Cape Town
- Cape Nature
- South African National Parks
- Working for Water
- Working on Fire
- Various landscape management agencies including local / district municipalities and Department of Public Works,
- Academics from all Western Cape and some national universities
- The non-profit and supporting sectors
Over 120 copies of the guidelines were disseminated at this event.
- The guidelines were presented alongside a series of four digital stories containing narratives of herbalist lives and challenges for development as funded by the Making All Voices Count – MAVC – programme). The digital stories and the guidelines made for many interesting and stimulating discussions on the topic of wild medicine harvesting. These are being documented in a separate study for MAVC. The related digital stories will be posted online at a point where necessary permissions are granted from the story tellers.
Interested in learning more about Herbanisation? Check out our project pages on the CoalitionWILD, IUCN Panorama: Inspiring Protected Area Solutions, and IUCN WCPA Young Professionals websites: