Map of the Limpopo
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Traditional Uses of the Environment
Largely as a result of poverty and pressures for economic development, the environment remains the traditional source of livelihood for millions of people who depend on it for their basic needs such as food, shelter and medicine.
The basin has also been of critical importance to the people because of its variety of wild fauna and flora used by communities for spiritual and medicinal purposes. Many species of birds, lizards, insects, trees, and mammals are preserved because they are sacred, while others are conserved because of their medicinal value. Currently, a plant widely found in the basin is being researched because of its many medicinal properties, including efficacy in the treatment of cancer. A number of other wild herbs are used in the treatment of AIDS-related illnesses. Hypoxicide, the chemical extract of the plant Hypoxis has been shown to inhibit the growth of tumour cells and also has anti-inflammatory properties.
Game meat, traditionally obtained through hunting, is a major source of protein for the people of the basin. There are however concerns about unsustainable and uncontrolled offtakes in most parts of the basin.
In Zimbabwe and some parts of Botswana and South Africa, the introduction of community-based programmes such as the Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE) have worked positively to meet the challenges for sustainable use of wildlife resources.
Another important source of food and income for the inhabitants is the mopane worm. In parts of Zimbabwe’s Gwanda and south-east Botswana, a household can raise about US$450 per year from the sale of the worms. However, there is need to improve the harvesting, processing and marketing of forestry resources such as mopane worms in order to increase the income derived from them.
The environment is also a major source of other commercial projects such as the development of marula, which are undertaken by communities for both local consumption and commercial trade. The marula tree is in fair abundance in the basin. Each tree can produce as much as 810 kg of fruit per year depending on the season. Besides producing wine, the fruit can also be used in the production of jam (from the fleshy part) and butter/oil from the seed.
Woodcarving is another fast growing industry in the basin whose economic contribution and environmental effects are often ignored or underrated. A visit to Beitbridge, Gaborone, Messina and Maputo shows a lot of roadside production and trade of carved products, which are carried out by residents of the basin. Woodcarving has always been a traditional speciality by local communities in the basin, and has been carried out mainly for the production of utilitarian items such as spoons, plates, hoe-handles, walking sticks and several other practical and spiritual objects.