Developing natural product value chains is not only significant to large, international markets but can become an innovative way for local communities to design their own futures. There is a global shift toward herbal remedies, tonics and natural medicine. Local and international markets are progressively looking towards natural and organic products versus synthetic. We explore the process of converting a project initiated by the Bitou Municipality, Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning and two local communities, into viable natural product businesses by exploring their value chains.
Central to this project’s rationale is the powerful nexus between ecological restoration, food security, and high-value natural medicine development. It has future capacity to provide commercial assets to two impoverished communities, enabling them to engage in bio-trade and bioprospecting, establish ethical biotrade initiatives and support development of ancillary services for bio-prospecting products such as packaging, distribution and selling – in doing so, creating a sustainable local economy that generates ongoing revenue and jobs. The three agro-commodities – vegetables, Honeybush and Sceletium, under development in the Kranshoek and Harkerville community project sites respectively, represent a strong case for commercial viability, and significant potential for social impact.
Of critical significance is the understanding that this natural products focus not only brings an immediate and short-term revenue stream into the communities, but that it has the potential to assist these communities in generating ongoing upliftment opportunities for themselves, in a systemic and sustainable manner.