ABSTRACT

Pterocarpus a ngolensis DC., commonly know as kiaat, African teak or wild teak, is one of the most valuable hardwood species in the dry forests of east and southern Africa (Vermeulen, 1990). Indeed, its excellent quality wood and high market value have led to its overexploitation in many regions (Vermeulen, 1990; Mushove, 1996). In South Africa this species has a relatively restricted geographic distribution, occurring only in eastern KwaZulu-Natal and narrowly delimited parts of Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces in the north-east of the country. In Limpopo it provides the basis for the local woodcraft industry. Carvers and furniture makers in the rural municipality of Bushbuckridge have been harvesting kiaat for decades from the extensive communal lands surrounding their villages, turning it into a range of utilitarian goods that they sell in external markets (Shackleton and Steenkamp, 2004; Shackleton 2005a). For these few hundred entrepreneurs this species forms the mainstay of their livelihoods and is critical to their ability to earn an income. The industry is not a lucrative one and generally incomes are modest1 with many producers only just getting by (Shackleton, 2005a). The high costs associated with harvesting and marketing are the main factors limiting profits.