The Agricultural Research Council (ARC), in partnership with the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE), through the Biodiversity Economy and Sustainable Use Directorate in the Biodiversity and Conservation branch, is implementing Output 1.2 (Bioprospecting Research and Development in the Northern Cape is supported, boosting the local bioprospecting economy and establishing a strategically located 'Bioproducts Development Hub) of the United Nations Development Programme ̶ Global Environment Facility (UNDP-GEF) funded project entitled 'Development of Value Chains for Products derived from the Genetic Resource in compliance with the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit-Sharing and the National Biodiversity Economy Strategy' Project number: PIMS #5686.
This output seeks to establish a Bioprospecting Research and Development Hub in the Northern Cape Province to boost the local bioprospecting economy in the Province. The R&D Hub will focus on germplasm collection, characterization, and maintenance, as well as propagation and cultivation research aimed at developing techniques/technologies to be implemented in local communities interested in cultivating selected priority indigenous species.
The distribution of many indigenous medicinal plants is declining due to habitat loss, amongst other factors, which is mainly caused by the expansion of land use for agricultural, settlement, and other developmental purposes. The increasing harvesting pressure is exacerbating the population decline, especially in the case of species where the underground parts are unsustainably harvested.
Targeted primary plant species
1. Sutherlandia frutescens (L.) R.Br. (Family: Fabaceae)
Common names: Cancer bush, balloon pea, kankerbos, lerumo-la-madi, musa-pelo
Figure 1. Sutherlandia frutescens plant with red flowers, seed pods, and seeds.
Sutherlandia frutescens is indigenous to southern Africa and has been used in traditional medicine as an antidiabetic, antistress, and antituberculosis agent, and for pain relief. It is also used in the management of cancer and HIV/AIDS. Sutherlandia frutescens has a wide distribution occurring in the Western Cape, Northern Cape, North West, Free State, and KwaZulu-Natal Provinces of South Africa. It is an ingredient of many herbal supplements in the market.
2. Harpagophytum procumbens (Burch.) DC ex Meisn. (Family: Pedaliaceae)
Common names: Devil's claw, wood spider, grapple plant, sengaparile
Harpagophytum procumbens is another species indigenous to southern Africa, growing naturally in Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa. In South Africa, the species grows naturally in the North-West, Northern Cape, and western part of the Free State. Harpagophytum procumbens is reported to have anti-inflammatory effect, used for the treatment of arthritis, and historically used to treat a wide range of conditions including fever, malaria, and indigestion.
3. Sceletium tortuosum (L.) N.E. Br. (Family: Aizoaceae)
Common names: Kanna, kougoed
Sceletium tortuosum is a succulent medicinal herb indigenous to South Africa. The aerial parts of the species are used for the relief of pain and toothache, and as hunger suppressant. A number of products made from S. tortuosum are used to treat central nervous system-related disorders. Sceletium tortuosum is naturally distributed in the south-western parts of South Africa, especially in the Western Cape, Northern Cape, and Eastern Cape Provinces.