South African Journal of Science
On-line version ISSN 1996-7489
ANTHONY, Brandon P. and BELLINGER, Edward G.. Importance value of landscapes, flora and fauna to Tsonga communities in the rural areas of Limpopo province, South Africa. S. Afr. j. sci. [online]. 2007, vol.103, n.3-4, pp. 148-154. ISSN 1996-7489.
Many parts of the former homeland areas of South Africa are believed to be experiencing environmental scarcity, and are increasingly vulnerable to resource over-exploitation. Frequently, these areas are adjacent to formally protected areas and present unique challenges in integrating biodiversity conservation and sustaining livelihoods, especially for resource-dependent rural communities. Although studies have been undertaken on the use of various plants by Tsonga communities, and the economic value of specific taxa, no investigation on the relative importance value that considers both wild flora and fauna, together with landscapes, has been carried out previously in the former Gazankulu homeland. We used a weighted ranking exercise for nine focus groups within three rural villages bordering the Kruger National Park, which are largely dependent on wild resources, to assess the relative importance of landscape units and species-level biodiversity. Landscape units, particularly forest/bush and river/stream, were found to be extensively used in meeting community needs, across a range of resource use categories including maintaining socio-cultural norms. Moreover, landscape units vary among villages and age/gender regarding how they contribute to sustaining livelihoods. In total, 162 taxa were identified, with two taxa (Sclerocarya birrea subsp. caffra; Ficus spp.) exploited in up to seven use categories. Sclerocarya birrea, Combretum imberbe and Colophospermum mopane were the most highly valued species among those surveyed, contributing 22% to the overall value of wild flora and fauna in the area. Of those identified, 28 faunal (60%) and 10 floral (8.7%) taxa are listed in either IUCN, national or provincial protected species schedules. Based on combined Local Users Value scores, over 20% of all biodiversity value for local communities comes from protected tree species. Similarly, faunal taxa with enhanced protection constitute almost 12% of all local biodiversity value. In developing strategies for resource conservation, it is necessary to recognize this widespread use of the natural environment and the wild products, including those under formal protection, exploited by local people.