Cultivation of Medicinal Plants by Smallholder Farmers in South Africa: Constraints to Commercialization
South Africa has an abundant heritage of valuable indigenous plants with recognized medicinal value. The reported critical over-harvesting of wild populations is considered an urgent issue for biodiversity conservation. Growing demand for therapeutic products from indigenous medicinal plants have led to increased interest in its cultivation. Cultivation of these indigenous medicinal plants represent a viable option for improving smallholder farmers’ livelihoods, as well as sustaining the
... as sustaining the availability of these resources for future generations. Serious bottlenecks however exists for subsistent farmers in the cultivation of these valuable plants. It was pertinent to probe whether the cultivation of medicinal plants provide feasible solutions to rural poverty, while effectively conserving threatened indigenous biodiversity. The paper employed a comprehensive review of existing literature to explore relevant issues constraining smallholder farmers from involvement in a potentially lucrative medicinal plants value-chain. Findings indicate challenges such as inadequate domestication of valuable plants species, continued over-harvesting from wild populations, poor knowledge of required agronomic practices, low efficacy perception regarding derivatives from cultivated plants, among a multitude of others. These constraints exists alongside the conservation-oriented strategy driven by international conservation agencies and wholly adopted by the South African government. Recommendations to improve smallholder involvement in the cultivation of medicinal plants include support to research and extension, targeted inducement to smallholders, contracting and off-take agreements, aimed at promoting an alternative poverty-alleviation-focused economic development strategy. The review adds to the conceptual discourse related to plant diversity, resource conservation, poverty alleviation and economic development within the medicinal plants value-chain.