For over ten years, FNP has been cooperating with Rhodes University in South Africa on biocultural research. This research focused initially on the cultural use of mainly botanical species, but has been gradually extended to include cultural landscapes, as well as the relation between biocultural experiences and well-being.
Recently, South African researchers (Dr. M. Cocks of the Anthropolgy department and Prof. C. Shackleton of the Environmental Science department) have started a new research project on the role and significance of urban green spaces, especially in newly established housing estates for black urban migrants, called: ‘A place to belong: urban planning, housing and greening’. The start of this new project coincided with FNP’s participation in the European research programme GREENSURGE, which focuses on urban green infrastructure in Europe. As both research projects focus explicitly on the relevance of biocultural diversity in planning urban green spaces, an opportunity has arisen for scientific interaction and discussion on the role and significance of urban green spaces in different parts of the world. This led to Dr. Freerk Wiersum, FNP guest researcher and scientific advisor of the GREENSURGE programme, visiting Rhodes University from February 17-25. He was at several of the urban research locations and also presented the research on biocultural diversity in the GREENSURGE project to the research team and other interested persons. During the presentation and following discussion, special attention was given to the dual characteristics of urban green spaces as biocultural heritage sites for different socio-cultural groups of the multi ethnic urban population on the one hand, and as representations of creativity in crafting new hybrid forms of biocultural that transcend the old cultural divides among various urban groups on the other. Options for further interaction between the two research projects were also discussed.