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Socio-cultural profile of Bapedi traditional healers as indigenous knowledge custodians and conservation partners in the Blouberg area, Limpopo Province, South Africa


Socio-cultural profile of Bapedi traditional healers as indigenous knowledge custodians and conservation partners in the Blouberg area, Limpopo Province, South Africa



Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 11: 49



ISSN/ISBN: 1746-4269

PMID: 26048038

DOI: 10.1186/s13002-015-0025-3

Bapedi traditional healers of Blouberg are custodians of indigenous knowledge on medicinal plants of this region. They provide primary health care to a large number of people in the Blouberg area of South Africa. There is concern that this profession is dying out, which may be detrimental to the Blouberg community and to biodiversity conservation in the area. Thirty two healers and 30 community members were interviewed between March 2011 and July 2013 around Blouberg Mountain in the Blouberg Municipality. A semi-structured questionnaire was used to elucidate socio-cultural and demographic variables and healing customs of practicing healers. Attitudes to sustainable management of medicinal plants were captured. A second semi-structured questionnaire was used to gather information on community members' views of traditional healers and their practices. Sixty seven percent of interviewed community members visited traditional healers. Female traditional healers dominated (80%) the profession. Sixty four percent of the healers have no formal education, with only 4% having secondary school education. Seventy nine percent of healers see between 15 and 20 patients per month. Clinics and a hospital in the vicinity have resulted in a shift by the community from using tradition-based healing to that of allopathic health care. Most interviewed traditional healers (71%) are in favour of conservation actions to prevent over-harvesting, as 86% believe that indiscriminate collecting is compromising the flora of the area. Most (93%) are willing to use cultivated plants. State health care has negatively influenced the practice of traditional healing as patients now first consult government health centres before turning to traditional healers. In the past, traditional healing has been ignored because, as an oral history, it could not be included in school curricula or government policy documents. Those traditional healers who learn to write will have the skills to document and safeguard their own knowledge. This can help to prevent the erosion of knowledge around Blouberg's medicinal plants and support the conservation of natural resources in the area. Adult learning programmes might therefore be worth implementing amongst healers.

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Accession: 058873251

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