Communal farmers’ ecological knowledge and perceptions of grasses in the central Eastern Cape province, South Africa: similarities with field studies and scientific knowledge and their implications
The local ecological knowledge (LEK) and perceptions of grasses were investigated in six semi-arid communal areas in the central Eastern Cape province, South Africa, and compared with field studies and scientific knowledge. Of the total of 21 grasses identified in the field survey, communal farmers had vernacular names only for 11 species. Respondents rated Digitaria eriantha and Pennisetum clandestinum to have the highest (p < 0.05) grazing value. Respondents’ ratings of Eragrostis obtusa and Sporobolus africanus as having similar (moderate) grazing values to Themeda triandra is against the established knowledge. Respondents’ ratings of T. triandra and S. africanus as having higher (p = 0.01) ecological value than the other grasses concur with the scientific knowledge, whereas their nomination of E. obtusa and D. eriantha as providing less ecological benefits than Aristida conjesta disagrees with some ecologists. The study hinted at the complementarity and discrepancies between LEK and scientific knowledge that need ratification. The respondents’ lack of detailed knowledge is suggestive of a gradual eroding of LEK among the local communities that will adversely impact the local people’s ability to implement sustainable rangeland utilisation practice. The current study also recognised farmers’ familiarity as well as training needs that would expound their knowledge and management of grasses.
Keywords: communal grazing, ecological value, forage production, grazing value, semi-arid