Utilisation of indigenous plant foods in the urban and rural communities
In South Africa, malnutrition and poverty often co-exist with urbanization, which is associated with significant dietary change mostly due to neglect of indigenous foods and loss of indigenous knowledge. The article is based on a study that was aimed at assessing the availability, cultivation, consumption and general knowledge about indigenous plant foods in rural and urban communities. A comparative study was conducted in rural and urban populations of the North West Province of South Africa. Data were collected using a questionnaire (n=396 households), key informant interviews (n=4) and four focus groups. The rural area had more plant food available and consumed than the urban area, and fewer species were used as edible food material than expected. Consumers noted a decline in the availability of the species. The main reasons attributed to this decline were
insufficient rainfall, poor soil quality, deforestation and over harvesting. Consumption of indigenous foods was influenced by price, culture, seasonality/availability, accessibility and diversity in markets. The elderly were more knowledgeable compared to the younger age groups and knowledge was widely distributed in rural areas. The study revealed that
there was no cultivation of indigenous crops in the urban areas. In the rural areas, cultivation of indigenous crops was limited to a number of species and restricted to household consumption.
Keywords: Indigenous knowledge, consumption, indigenous and traditional plant foods, cultivation, consumer.