Original Research: Indigenous knowledge systems

The affordances of ethnobotanical research in the 21st century

Ben-Erik van Wyk
Suid-Afrikaanse Tydskrif vir Natuurwetenskap en Tegnologie | Vol 34, No 1 | a1349 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/satnt.v34i1.1349 | © 2015 Ben-Erik van Wyk | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 08 June 2015 | Published: 30 November 2015

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Ben-Erik van Wyk, Department of Botany and Plant Biotechnology, University of Johannesburg, South Africa

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Critics of ethnobotanical research may ask the question what the relevance is of documenting the indigenous knowledge of different cultural groups. This article focuses on the value and advantages of ethnobotanical research in the 21st century. The context is quantitative ethnobotanical surveys conducted in South Africa in recent years. For the discussion of the Matrix Method that was developed by Van Wyk and De Beer, reference is made to such surveys in the Hantam, Calvinia district in the Northern Cape, and the Kamiesberg in Namaqualand. The practical implications of ethnobotanical studies are discussed, specifically referring to legal aspects and issues of intellectual property rights. The affordances of ethnobotanical research are then considered, in (1) the development and commercialisation of products; (2) the empowerment of members of the community and the role of eco-tourism in socio-economic development, and (3) education. The cultural implications of ethnobotany is discussed next, such as found in (4) the arts, (5) music, (6) cuisine, (7) writing and poetry, (8) onomastics (the origin of place names – with the name ‘Hantam’ as specific example). Lastly, the focus is on a marginalised and often neglected aspect of ethnobotanical research, namely the magical uses of charm plants.


inheemse kennis; Matriks-metode; kwantitatiewe etnobotaniese opnames


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