The influence of Opuntia ficus-indica on human livelihoods in Southern Africa

Moleseng Claude Moshobane*, Joshua O. Olowoyo, Lorraine Middleton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Opuntia ficus-indica, commonly known as prickly pear, is a widely distributed plant originating in central America. Its wide distribution and popularity as a cultivated plant are due to the sweetness of its fruits. Here, the role of O. ficus-indica in the livelihoods of people in Limpopo Province, South Africa, was investigated. Roadside traders of prickly pear were surveyed 2019–2020 using paper-based questionnaires and a convenience sampling strategy. Evidence of O. ficus-indica trading as a means to generate income was uncovered. Notably, none of the traders knew about invasive species. Future studies should seek to understand the motivations of purchasers. The extent to which rural communities use this species for food security and poverty alleviation is not fully understood. Summary: The Opuntia ficus-indica (whose fruits are traded in South Africa) is a species that is classified according to the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (10/2004) Alien and Invasive Species (NEM:BA A&IS) regulations as an invasive species. This study sought to provide an understanding of the socio-economic value of O. ficus-indica and the characteristic profiles of the people who trade with O. ficus-indica in the Limpopo Province of South Africa. A convenience sampling strategy was conducted along trading roads in Limpopo province, and the data were collected by surveying traders' attitudes toward the prickly pear trade using questionnaires. Our findings show that at the time of sampling 72 traders participated in prickly pear trading along the roadside. Unemployment is cited as the primary reason for their involvement in trading. O. Ficus-indica is an important fruit for rural communities in Limpopo province. It helps communities living below the poverty line to generate income and to support their livelihoods. Our study highlights the need for the establishment of a Prickly Pear Traders' Agency in order to promote the trade of O. ficus-indica as a measure to generate income, alleviate poverty, and ensure food security. The paper concludes with recommendations for local government support for O. ficus-indica traders through the formalization of the trade and through monetary support.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)451-462
Number of pages12
JournalPlants People Planet
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022


  • National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (NEM:BA)
  • alien plant species
  • fruit trade
  • invasive alien species
  • prickly pear
  • wild fruits


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