Taboo and Political Authority in Conservation Policy

A Case Study of the Licuati Forest in Maputaland, Mozambique


  • Samira A Izidine Department of Botany, National Institute of Agricultural Research
  • Stefan J Siebert Department of Botany, North-West University
  • Abraham E van Wyk Department of Botany, University of Pretoria
  • Alphaeus M Zobolo Department of Botany, University of Zululand



Sacred sites, conservation


In Mozambique, food shortages caused by years of civil war, an insatiable need for cheap sources of energy and a burgeoning human population have placed considerable pressure on the environment through unsustainable harvesting of natural resources. Many threatened forests lie within the development zone of Maputo. The Licuáti Forest Reserve [LFR] is one such area, originally established to ensure sustainable harvesting of valuable timber trees. The LFR is also of great cultural significance to the Ronga people, as it contains a sacred forest. In recent years, deforestation in and around the LFR has been taking place at 1.1% per annum because the enforcement of laws to counter illegal extraction has been weak, resulting in changes in forest structure and a decline in the diversity of large tree species. Urbanisation has resulted in the breakdown of cultural taboos and threatens not only the loss of plant resources in the LFR, but also the indigenous knowledge systems of the Ronga. The conservation status of the sacred area under threat was evaluated by use of a questionnaire, and the needs of the community determined to highlight important issues. This study revealed that traditional values and cultural rites of sacred groves could be incorporated into national sustainable development plans. This study also recognizes how local elites have particular interests in the conservation of sites that legitimize their status. Preservation of the cultural significance of sacred forests can therefore not stand apart from local politics, sustainable harvesting and conservation management.

Author Biographies

Samira A Izidine, Department of Botany, National Institute of Agricultural Research

to be supplied

Stefan J Siebert, Department of Botany, North-West University

to be supplied

Abraham E van Wyk, Department of Botany, University of Pretoria

to be supplied

Alphaeus M Zobolo, Department of Botany, University of Zululand

to be supplied


Adamo, A., F. Barbosa, P. Dutton, P. Gagnaux, and S. Dutton. 1997. Plant Resources with Some Observations on Achieving Sustainability (Maputo: DNFFB).

Bandeira, S.O., J.C. Hatton, P. Munisse, and S.A. Izidine. 1994. ‘The Ecology and Conservation Status of Plant Resources in Mozambique’, in B.J. Huntley (ed.), Botanical Diversity in Southern Africa, Strelitzia 1 (Pretoria: National Botanical Institute): 105–15.

Black, R., and E. Harrison. 2000. ‘Implementing CBNRM in M’punga’, University of Sussex Briefing MZ09. Online: (accessed 3 September 2008).

Botha, G.A. 1997. Maputaland: Focus on the Quaternary Evolution of the South-east African Coastal Plain, Field Guide and Abstracts (Pretoria: Council for Geoscience).

Brouwer, R., and D.M. Magane. 1999. ‘The Charcoal Commodity Chain in Maputo: Access and Sustainability’, Southern African Forestry Journal 185: 27–34.

Bruton, M.N., and K.H. Cooper. 1980. Studies on the Ecology of Maputaland (Grahamstown: Rhodes University and Wildlife Society of South Africa).

Davis, S.D., V.H. Heywood, and A.C. Hamilton. 1994. Centres of Plant Diversity: A Guide and Strategy for their Conservation (Cambridge: IUCN).

Groombridge, B., and M.D. Jenkins. 2002. World Atlas of Biodiversity (Berkeley: University of California Press).

Instituto Nacional de Estatística (INE). 1997. II Recenseamento geral da população e habitação—resultados definitivos, província de Maputo (Maputo: Instituto Nacional de Estatística).

Izidine, S.A. 2003. ‘Licuáti Forest Reserve, Mozambique: Flora, Utilization and Conservation’. MSc diss., University of Pretoria, South Africa.

Izidine, S.A., and S.O. Bandeira. 2002. ‘Mozambique’, in J.S. Golding (ed.), Southern African Plant Red Data Lists (Network Report 14: 43-60; Pretoria: SABONET).

Izidine, S.A., I. Nhantumbo, and J.S. Golding. 2004. Integration of Red Data Lists Concepts into the Policy Framework in Mozambique (Network Report 23: 1-19; Pretoria: SABONET).

Izidine, S.A., S.J. Siebert, and A.E. Van Wyk. 2003. ‘Maputaland’s Licuáti Forest and Thicket: Botanical Exploration of the Coastal Plain South of Maputo Bay, with an Emphasis on the Licuáti Forest Reserve’, Veld and Flora 89: 56-61.

———. 2005. ‘Licuáti Forest Reserve Deserves Special Status’, SABONET News 9: 11-15.

Khumbongmayum, A.D., M.L. Khan, and R.S. Tripathi. 2005. ‘Sacred Groves of Manipur, Northeast India: Biodiversity Value, Status and Strategies for their Conservation’, Biodiversity and Conservation 14: 1541-82. doi:10.1007/s10531-004-0530-5.

Kirkwood, D., and J.J. Midgley. 1999. ‘The Floristics of Sand Forest in Northern Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa’, Bothalia 29: 293-304.

Mangue, P. 1999. ‘Community Use and Management of Licuáti Reserve and Surrounding Areas’, in P.V. Desanker and L. Santos (eds.), Workshop on Integrated Analysis and Management of Renewable Natural Resources in Mozambique. Online: (accessed 28 May 2008).

Matthews, W.S., A.E. Van Wyk, and N. Van Rooyen. 1999. ‘Vegetation of the Sileza Nature Reserve and Neighbouring Areas, South Africa, and its Importance in Conserving the Woody Grasslands of the Maputaland Centre of Endemism’, Bothalia 29: 151-67.

Matthews, W.S., A.E. Van Wyk, N. Van Rooyen, and G.A. Botha. 2001. ‘Vegetation of the Tembe Elephant Park, Maputaland, South Africa’, South African Journal of Botany 67: 573-94.

Midgley, J.J., R.M. Cowling, A.H.W. Seydack, and G.F. Van Wyk. 1997. ‘Forests’, in R.M. Cowling, D.M. Richardson, and S.M. Pierce (eds.), Vegetation of Southern Africa (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press): 278–99.

Mishra, B.P., O.P. Tripathi, R.S. Tripathi, and H.N. Pandey. 2004. ‘Effects of Anthropogenic Disturbance on Plant Diversity and Community Structure of a Sacred Grove in Meghalaya, Northeast India’, Biodiversity and Conservation 13: 421-36. doi:10.1023/B:BIOC.0000006509.31571.a0.

Mitchell, J.C. 1961. ‘Chizere’s Tree: A Note on a Shona Land-shrine and its Significance’, NADA: The Southern Rhodesia Native Affairs Department Annual 38: 28-35.

Moll, E.J. 1978. ‘The Vegetation of Maputaland: A Preliminary Report of the Plant Communities and Their Present and Future Conservation Status’, Trees in South Africa 29: 35-58.

Mucina, L., and M.C. Rutherford. 2005. Vegetation Map of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland (Pretoria: South African National Biodiversity Institute).

Pereira, C.R., R. Brouwer, M. Monjane, and M. Falcão. 2001. CHAPOSA: Charcoal Potential in Southern Africa—Research Project in Mozambique (Maputo: European Union).

Richardson, D.M., and B.W. van Wilgen. 2004. ‘Invasive Alien plants in South Africa: How Well Do We Understand the Ecological Impacts?’ South African Journal of Science 100: 45-52.

Schultze, R.E. 1982. Agrohydrology and Agroclimatology of Natal (Agricultural Catchments Research Unit Report 14; Pietermaritzburg: University of Natal).

Sheridan, M.J., and C. Nyamweru (eds.). 2008. African Sacred Groves: Ecological Dynamics and Social Change (Oxford: James Currey; Athens, OH: Ohio University Press).

Sillitoe, P. 1998. ‘The Development of Indigenous Knowledge: A New Applied Anthropology’, Current Anthropology 39: 223-52. doi:10.1086/204722.

Soto, B., S.M. Munthali, and C. Breen. 2001. ‘Perceptions of the Forestry and Wildlife Policy by the Local Communities Living in the Maputo Elephant Reserve, Mozambique’, Biodiversity and Conservation 10: 1723-38. doi:10.1023/A:1012005620906.

Sousa, A.G. 1968. Reserva Florestal do Licuáti (Comunicações 13: 1-31; Maputo: Instituto de Investigação Agronómica de Moçambique).

Smith, E.A., and M. Wishnie. 2000. ‘Conservation and Subsistence in Small-scale Societies’, Annual Review of Anthropology 29: 493-524. doi:10.1146/annurev.anthro.29.1.493.

Smith, T.J. 2005. Important Plant Areas in Southern Africa (Network Report 39: 1-52; Pretoria: SABONET).

Steenkamp, Y., B. Van Wyk, J. Victor, D. Hoare, G. Smith, T. Dold, and R. Cowling. 2005. ‘Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany’, in R.A. Mittermeier, P. Robles-Gil, M. Hoffman, J. Pilgrim, T. Brooks, C. Goettsch Mittermeier, J. Lamoreux, and G.A.B. da Fonseca (eds.), Hotspots Revisited: Earth’s Biologically Richest and Most Threatened Terrestrial Ecoregions (Washington: Conservation International).

Van Wyk, A.E. 1996. ‘Biodiversity of the Maputaland Centre’, in L.J.G. Van der Maesen, X.M. Van der Burgt, and J.M. Van Medenbach de Rooy (eds.), The Biodiversity of African Plants (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic): 198–207.

Van Wyk, A.E., and G.F. Smith. 2001. Regions of Floristic Endemism in Southern Africa (Hatfield, Pretoria: Umdaus Press).

Zobolo, A.M., and Q.N. Mkabela. 2006. ‘Traditional Knowledge Transfer of Activities Practiced by Zulu Women to Manage Medicinal and Food Plant Gardens’, African Journal of Range and Forage Science 23: 77-80.



How to Cite

Izidine, S. A., Siebert, S. J., van Wyk, A. E., & Zobolo, A. M. (2008). Taboo and Political Authority in Conservation Policy: A Case Study of the Licuati Forest in Maputaland, Mozambique. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 2(3), 373–390.

Similar Articles

You may also start an advanced similarity search for this article.