Buchu (Agasthoma spp.) occurs only in South Africa and predominantly in the Cederberg to Groot Winterhoek Mountains including the Piketberg.
Buchu maintains a Least Concern status on the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) Red List of threatened species and does not have any detrimental findings. The main threats to the natural resource include poaching, illegal harvesting and deforestation for farmland and residential development. Wildfires can have a negative impact on wild sub-populations, but wild Buchu seems to be unaffected by climate change. The BMP for Buchu is still under development by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE). A Resource Assessment was done in 2016, which indicates that both A betulina and A crenulata are of least concern.
The domestication of Buchu was done to intensify production for a demanding market that promotes high competition among producers and to prevent resource depletion. Both Buchu species were extensively wild harvested in the past, but have recovered and are mostly cultivated for commercial purposes. A betulina is mostly cultivated to ensure consistency in market quality requirements and A crenulata is harvested to a much lesser extent. Apart from removing harvesting pressure from wild populations, the cultivation of wild products holds a number of economic advantages.
In the past, both species were heavily impacted by harvesting but recovered well as preference in trade is given to cultivated species and not wild subpopulations. The harvesting of wild Buchu populations on some of the community land in the Western Cape is governed by a stewardship management agreement between the community and Cape Nature to ensure that sustainable harvesting regimes are followed. Although quite a few community members have been trained in cultivation practices of domesticated Buchu, the cultivation of Buchu on a commercial scale by communities has so far not succeeded.
Land degradation and habitat loss are the main environmental concerns associated with Buchu cultivation, as Buchu needs be planted in soil that has not been cultivated before. As a result, newly planted crops have resulted in the removal of naturally occurring mountain fynbos and possibly the heavily threatened renosterveld.
RIGHT TO USE AND ACCESS TO RESOURCES
The Buchu sector reflects a high degree of vertical integration with not much prospects for newcomers to compete on price or quantity and quality of raw material supply. To ensure consistent quality, the five largest processing companies have their own large-scale farming operations and established market connections, as well as sophisticated technologies, relevant skills and financial resources.