The concept of biocultural diversity, originally used to describe indigenous people and their ways of using and managing natural resources, has more recently been applied within the urban context to understand the variability of interactions between humans and nature. Significant progress has been made internationally in acknowledging the need to preserve and maintain green spaces in urban environments. Current efforts to address the need for greening urban areas in South Africa primarily focus on the establishment and maintenance of botanical gardens and parks as well as various green belts within the urban landscape. South Africa's urban areas are overwhelmingly shaped by the historical segregation of space and stark disparities in wealth. The distribution, quality, and extent of urban green spaces reflect this. Many township dwellers do not have access to these amenities and their interactions with nature are thus usually constrained to access to municipal commonages. This article explores how areas of natural vegetation in municipal commonages on the outskirts of urban centers in South Africa continue to offer places of cultural, spiritual, and restorative importance to Xhosa-speaking township dwellers. A case study from Grahamstown, an urban center in the Eastern Cape with a population of around 80,000, illustrates how ability to access and move through such places contributes to people's well-being, identity formation, and shared heritage. A case is made for adopting a biocultural diversity approach to spatial planning and urban development within the South African context.
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Vol. 36 • No. 4