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Abe Bailey nature reserve near Khutsong: medicinal plants, food gardens and a season of urban protest

Taylor, S.J.
Acta horticulturae 2013 no.1007 pp. 641-648
biodiversity, conservation areas, greenhouses, landscapes, medicinal plants, outreach, socioeconomic development, surveys, vegetable gardens, violence, youth, South Africa
The protected areas of South Africa are strategically important in meeting global and national biodiversity conservation targets, as well as contributing to socio-economic development in local areas. Often this latter deliverable is difficult as the protected areas are small and the communities outside are large, as was the case with Abe Bailey nature reserve, situated in a peri-urban setting outside Carletonville’s (Gauteng Province, South Africa) largest township, Khutsong. Rapid Rural Appraisal workshops were held in 2000 with community groups in Khutsong (youth, aged, shack dwellers, home based care, traditional healers) to determine their needs in relation to the nature reserve. A social survey was also undertaken to fully understand the dynamics of the Khutsong community as the relationship between community and nature reserve had previously been hostile. The output was an outreach programme that included establishing a buffer-zone between Khutsong and nature reserve; a system of vegetable garden allotments set up along the boundary of the park and township; a medicinal plant cultivation project; and a donor-funded medicinal plant ‘rescue’ scheme with greenhouse tunnels set up in the nature reserve. Between 2003 and 2008, disaster struck Khutsong in the form of the border demarcation protests resulting in substantial violence and damage to property in the area. This violence stalled all the Abe Bailey community projects. Substantial investment would be needed to activate these projects again. This situation indicates the struggle that protected areas on the border of large urban settlements face with service delivery protests a feature of the South African urban landscape at present. This paper outlines the steps taken to establish these projects, as well as the outcomes and future of these projects.