The Cultural Use of the Wild Olive Tree by the amaXhosa People in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa


  • Michelle Linda Cocks Rhodes University
  • Anthony Patrick Dold Rhodes University



bio-cultural diversity, amaXhosa, South Africa, Wild Olive tree


The cultural meanings of harvested plants have for the most part been ignored in academic research on non-timber forest products (NTFPs) in southern Africa. Historically scientists have tended to ignore the complex relationships between nature and culture. Given the country’s unique political and economic past and the current search for sustainable use of natural resources, a focus on the convergence of natural science and cultural diversity is important at this time. Empirical data on cultural practices is being collected in order to develop fresh and relevant insights into the complex relationships between culture and biodiversity. The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate that the concept of culture needs to be brought into our understanding of the role of NTFPs. We document the use and value of a specific tree, Olea europaea L. subsp. africana (Mill.) P.S. Green, called Umnquma in the Xhosa language, for cultural purposes, by both rural and urban households.

Author Biographies

Michelle Linda Cocks, Rhodes University

Institute of Social and Economic Research, Senior Research Officer

Anthony Patrick Dold, Rhodes University

Selmar Sconland Herbarium, Herbarium Curator


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How to Cite

Cocks, M. L., & Dold, A. P. (2008). The Cultural Use of the Wild Olive Tree by the amaXhosa People in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 2(3), 292–308.