Sustainable Livelihoods Foundation
Published: 15 November 2015
Last edited: 24 February 2022
remove_red_eye 6832 Views


Herbanisation is an open access, medicinal street garden project in Cape Town, South Africa. The project aims to green streetscapes in economically marginalized areas while contributing to the livelihoods of local Rasta/Khoi herbalists and reconnecting community members with medicinal plants. Herbanisation gardens currently include 1,600 plants in Seawinds, Cape Town, and are set to reach 4,500 by mid-2015.


East and South Africa
Scale of implementation
Green spaces (parks, gardens, urban forests)
Urban ecosystem and build environment
Health and human wellbeing
Indigenous people
Local actors
Outreach & communications
Sustainable livelihoods
Traditional knowledge
Lack of alternative income opportunities
Lack of public and decision maker’s awareness
Unemployment / poverty


Cape Town, South Africa


reconciling stakeholders and connecting communities with local nature Herbanisation is an attempt to build communication between antagonistic stakeholders in the conservation and use of medicinal plants in Cape Town while connecting people with local nature.The open access, medicinal street gardens created as part of the solution are situated in economically marginalised areas of the city which are often faced with high unemployment, gangsterism, and poor health.


Seawinds residents, of low income Cape Flats township in Cape Town Rasta/Khoi herbalists

How do the building blocks interact?

1. The establishment of relationships with local champions is preceded by a long-term engagement in a neighbourhood or community. This presence in the area allows communication, shared understanding and trust to unfold and for potential champions to be identified. 2. Once all the partners in the project are aware of the obstacles faced, a roadmap can be sketched toward a solution - in this case, a series of gardens. 3. The process of planning, preparing and planting the gardens serves as a vehicle to engage local champions with other key individuals in government, the neighbourhood and associated organisations. 4. Using open access principles invites further engagement from people in the area with the gardens. These direct interactions meet our aim of connecting people to local nature through plants, building relationships and improving health and wellbeing.


1. Herbanisation has already resulted in groundbreaking engagement between Rasta herbalists, conservation bodies and local botanical organisations. In addition, the project is strengthening linkages between park activities and urban conservation efforts, making local nature a key driver of urban renewal efforts. 2. Many Seawinds residents and local traditional healers harvest from the Herbanisation street gardens in order to treat themselves and their families. Not only does this contribute to the health and wellbeing of the local community, it also empowers individuals to take their health into their own hands and to feel proud of their role as indigenous knowledge bearers. 3. The Seawinds garden site is currently home to the Cape Dwarf chameleon (rare), Western Leopard Toad (endangered) and Cape Flats Conebush (critically endangered), demonstrating a clear positive impact for local biodiversity. Herbanisation also contributes to local biocultural resilience.


The Herbanisation planting event in July 2014 brought together a wide group of herbalists, Rastas, conservation professionals, environmental activists and local residents in a collaborative effort to build a lasting positive impact with respect to local nature. Regardless of their individual motives for attending the day – to grow more herbs for markets, plant indigenous species or create green spaces in otherwise neglected urban landscapes; the project was able to initiative important and potentially lasting linkages between these worlds. Through such linkages the ongoing processes of conserving unique biodiversity and fostering cultural and economic needs can be addressed. The project serves as a pilot, but equally demonstrated to many participants for the first time that their interests have more in common than they initially thought. For Neville and the Khoi-Rastas this has meant, for the first time, that their voices have been considered and that their story as (little considered) indigenous people can be brought to the light of day. For Rasta individuals such as Benji who trade with medicinal plants every day, it was a chance to see the perspectives of others and gain better understanding of a country that commonly views their practices and behaviour to be at best, eccentric, and at worst criminal. Conversely the day revealed to conservation officials the true nature of the identity and life of the Khoi-Rastas, and how their cultural outlook is a positive impact compared to the rife social decay and criminality that surrounds their communities, and that they share a love for nature that runs deeper than many had previously considered. Neville has since met with many conservation groups including Cape Nature and City of Cape Town Conservation – organisations that have traditionally avoided such interactions. He has given presentations, taken tour groups around the garden and instructed university students on aspects of Khoi life and herbalism from a unique and genuine perspective. Herbanisation has taken a powerful voice in the Khoi Commmunity and given it reach into mainstream Cape Town, which brings about the kinds of changes necessary for building an inclusive South Africa and sows the seeds of genuine efforts towards sustainable development.

Contributed by

andrew.reid@livelihoods.org's picture

Andrew Reid The Sustainable Livelihoods Foundation

Other contributors

The Sustainable Livelihoods Foundation