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Assoc. Prof Michelle Cocks

Dr Michelle Cocks

Senior Researcher

B Soc Sc  - Rhodes University

B Soc Sc (Hons) Anthropology – Rhodes University

PhD Anthropology - Wageningen University, Netherlands

Tel:  +27 (0)46 6038555

Email: m.cocks@ru.ac.za

Name:                  Dr Michelle Cocks

Phone: +27 (0)46 6038555

Email:                    m.cocks@ru.ac.za

Qualifications:   B Soc Sc  - Rhodes University

B Soc Sc (Hons) Anthropology – Rhodes University

PhD Anthropology - Wageningen University, Netherlands


M. L. (Michelle) Cocks is a Senior researcher in the Anthropology Department, Rhodes University. Her key research interest areas include, natural resource use and the contribution of natural resources to rural livelihoods with a particularly emphasis on the medicinal plant trade. The aim of her PhD research was to contribute towards a better understanding of the concept of bio-cultural diversity under non-traditional conditions. The study assesses the cultural and utilitarian value of wild plants amongst different categories of non-traditional community households in both peri-urban and urban contexts of South Africa, and evaluates factors which contribute to the persistence use of biodiversity for cultural purposes.


Together with her colleague, Tony Dold, in 2009 they initiated their Inkcubeko nendalo - Bio-cultural Diversity Education Program which aims to raise awareness around the close link between cultural diversity and biodiversity amongst school learners as the future preservation of both our cultural heritage (inkcubeko) and bio-diversity (indalo) relies on young people recognizing the importance and value of nature in its broadest sense. In 2009 Dr Cocks was nominated for Women in Science Award and was a joint winner in the category Achiever Award for a Woman Researcher in the Area of Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Local Innovation. In 2012 she co-authored “Voices from the forest” which is a tribute to Eastern Cape plants and animals, Xhosa culture and the environment.


Her current research interests lay in bio-cultural diversity, cultural heritage and communities’ sense of attachment to the natural environment and sense of place in southern Africa.

Specific research themes:

Assessing African environmental perceptions in relation to past and present portrayal and connections to landscape. Implications for bio-cultural diversity and cultural heritage policies

Bio-cultural values and sense of place: implications for personal well-being

Attachment and linkages to seascapes by amaXhosa

Assessing cultural significance of birds, animals and insects to local amaXhosa: Implications for bio-cultural diversity

The impact of ancient cultures on the Eastern Cape vegetation and indigenous knowledge systems.


Post-graduate students currently under supervision

Jamie Alexander (PhD – Anthropology, Rhodes University). Thesis title: Mapping sacred lands: Cultural landscape mapping and perceptions - implications for improved community landscape management, SANPAD funded Untold Stories project (ISER). Co-supervisor – Dr Penny Bernard.

Post-graduate students currently under co-supervision:

Liz Greyling (Masters – Anthropology, Rhodes University). Thesis title: Healing through hybridity: A case study of healers in the Eastern Cape.

Yvette van Wyk (PhD – Botany Department, Rhodes University). Thesis title: An analysis of plant communities at habitation and presence sites indicates the possibility of an anthropogenically influenced pattern of vegetation persisting through time and recognisable in present day indigenous and traditional knowledge systems. Main supervisor – Prof Nigel Barker

Post-graduate supervision

Masters students supervised:

Lydia Lehlogonolo Mogano (Masters – Anthropology, Rhodes University). Thesis title: Unearthing the essence of nature and the perception of the natural landscape among the amaXhosa in the Eastern Cape: An exploratory study. Completed 2013.

Jamie, Alexander (Masters – Anthropology, Rhodes University).  Thesis title: Stories from forest, river and mountain: Exploring children’s cultural environmental narratives and their role in the transmission of cultural connection to and protection of biodiversity. Completed 2011 distinction.

Masters students co-supervised:

Gareth McAlister (Masters – Anthropology, Rhodes University). Thesis title: “You don’t love your mother just because she feeds you”: amaXhosa and woodlands in the Peddie district, Eastern Cape. Completed 2013.


Co-authored book

Dold, T & Cocks, M.L. 2012. Voices of the forest. Jacana Press.

Book chapters

Cocks, M.L. 2000. Empowering communities to manage natural resources: Where does the power lie? Fish River case study, Eastern Cape, South Africa. In: Empowering Communities to Manage Natural Resources: Case studies from southern Africa. (eds) Shackleton, S. & Campbell, B. On behalf of the SADC Natural Resources Management Program. Funded by USAID’s Regional Centre for Southern Africa’s SADC NRM Project. The European Union’s Action in Favour of Tropical Forests” Project CSIR’s Common Property STEP Project.

Cocks, M.L., Dold, A.P. & Grundy, I.M. 2004. The medicinal plant trade in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. In The Use and Socio-Economic Value of Indigenous Forest and Woodland Resources in South Africa. (eds). Lawes, M.; Eeley, H.; Shackleton, C. & Geach, B. University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, Scottsville.

White, R.M., Cocks, M.L., Herbert, D.G. & Hamer, M.L. 2004. Traditional medicine: the use of products from forest-dwelling animals in southern Africa. In: The Use and Socio-Economic Value of Indigenous Forest and Woodland Resources in South Africa. (eds). Lawes, M.; Eeley, H.; Shackleton, C. & Geach, B. University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, Scottsville.

Cocks, M.L. & Dold, A.P. 2004.The informal trade of Cassipourea flanaganii as a cosmetic in South Africa.  In Forest products, livelihoods and conservation: Case studies of NTFP systems. Volume 2 – Africa. (eds). Sunderland, T. & Ndoye, O. Indonesia Press. pp 73–90.

Cocks, M.L, & Dold, A.P. 2004. UmMemezi cosmetic bark. In: Riches of the Forest: For health, life and spirit in Africa. (eds). López, C. & Shanley, P. SMK Desa Putera, Indonesia. pp 37–40.

Dold, T. & Cocks, M.L. 2005. The trade of medicinal plants in South Africa. In: National Agricultural Directory – South Africa ed 1. Rainbow SA, South Africa.

Wiersum, K.F., Dold, A.P., Husselman, M. & Cocks, M.L. 2006. Cultivation of medicinal plants as a tool for biodiversity conservation and poverty alleviation in the Amatola Region, South Africa. In R.J. Bogers, L.E. Craker and D.Lange (eds), Medicinal and Aromatic Plants, 43 – 57.  Springer, Netherlands. http://library.wur.nl/frontis.

Shackleton, S.E., Cocks, M.L., Dold, A.P., Kaschula, S., Kokwe, G., Mbata, K. & von Maltiz, G. 2010.  Chapter 5: Non-wood forest products: Description, use and management.  In: E.N. Chidamayo and D. J. Gumbo (eds). The Dry Forests and Woodlands of Africa: Managing for products and services. Earthscan, London.

Cocks, M.L. 2010. What is Bio-cultural diversity? A Theoretical Review. In D. G. Bates and J. Tucker (eds). Human Ecology: Contemporary Research and Practice. Springer New York Dordrecht Heidelberg Londo

Cocks, M.L., Lopez, C. & Dold, T. 2010. Cultural importance of natural resources: Enduring in a modern world. In S.E. Shackleton, C.M. Shackleton and P. Shanley (eds), Non-timber forest products in the global context. Springer-Verlag, Amsterdam.

Cocks, M.L., Husselman, M & Dold, A.P. 2011. Born-frees and worn trees: Understanding opportunities to cultivate medicinal plants, in the context of declining home garden use within the Amatola region, South Africa. In: P. Hebink, C. Shackleton (eds) Reforming Land and Resource Use in South Africa. Impact on livelihoods. Routledge, New York.

Cocks, M.L., & Dold, A.P. 2012. Perceptions and values of local landscapes: Implications for bio-cultural diversity conservation and intangible heritage. In: B. Arts, S. van Bommel, M. Ros-Tonen, G. Verschoor (eds) Forest people interfaces. Wageningen Academic Publishers.

Journal articles

Dold, A. & Cocks, M.L. 1999. Preliminary list of Xhosa plant names from the Eastern Cape, South Africa. Bothalia 29: 267–292.

Cocks, M.L. & Dold, A.P. 2000. The role of ‘African Chemists’ in the health care system of the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. Social Science & Medicine 51: 1505–1515.

Dold, A. & Cocks, M.L. 2000. Indigenous Plant Use of the amaXhosa People on the eastern border of the Great Fish River Reserve, Eastern Cape. Annals of the East Cape Museums 1: 26-53.

Dold, A. & Cocks, M.L. 2000. The medicinal use of some weeds, problem and alien plants in the Grahamstown and Peddie Districts of the Eastern Cape, South Africa. South African Journal of Science 96: 467–475.

Cocks, M.L.; Dold, A.P. & Grundy, I. 2001. Challenges facing a community structure to implement CBNRM in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. African Studies Quarterly 5,3: [online] URL: http://web.africa.ufl.edu/asq/v5/v5i3a4.html

Dold, A. & Cocks, M.L. 2001. Traditional veterinary medicine in the Alice district of the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa. South African Journal of Science 97: 375–379.

Cocks, M.L. & Møller, V. 2002. Use of indigenous and indigenised medicines to enhance personal well-being: a South African case study. Social Science and Medicine 54: 387–97.

Cocks, M.L. & Wiersum, K.F. 2002. The significance of biodiversity to rural households in Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. Forests, Trees and Livelihoods. 13: 39–58.

Dold, A.P. & Cocks, M.L. 2002. The trade in medicinal plants in the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa. South African Journal of Science 98, November/December.

Cocks, M.L. & Dold, A.P. 2004. A new broom sweeps clean. The economic and cultural value of grass brooms in the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa. Forests, Trees and Livelihoods. 14: 33-42.

Paumgarten, F.; Shackleton, C. & Cocks, M.L. 2005. Growing of trees in home-gardens by rural households in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo provinces, South Africa. International Journal of Sustainable Development and World Ecology 12: 1-19.

Pote, J., Shackleton, C.M., Cocks, M.L. & Lubke, R. 2006. Fuelwood harvesting and selection in Valley Thicket, South Africa. Journal of Arid Environments, 67: 270-287.

Cocks, M.L. 2006. Bio-cultural diversity: Moving beyond the realm of ‘indigenous’ and ‘local’ people, Human Ecology 34(2): 185-200.

Cocks, M.L.; Bangay, L.; Wiersum, K.F. & Dold, A.P. 2006. Seeing the wood for the trees: the role of woody resources for the construction of gender specific household cultural artefacts in non-traditional communities in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. Environment, Development and Sustainability 8:519–533.

Cocks, M.L. & Dold, A.P. 2006. Conservation of bio-cultural diversity: the role of medicinal plants in Xhosa culture. Journal of Ethnobiology 26 (1): 60-80.

Shackleton, C.M.; Paumgarten, F. & Cocks, M.L. 2008. Household attributes promote diversity of tree holdings in rural areas, South Africa. Agroforestry Systems 72:221-230.

Cocks, M.L.; Bangay, L.; Shackleton, C.M. & Wiersum, K.F. 2008. ‘Rich man poor man’ – inter household and community factors influencing the use of wild plant resources amongst rural households in South Africa. International Journal of Sustainable Development of World Ecology 15(3): 198-211.

Cocks, M.L. & Dold, A.P. 2008. The cultural use of the Wild Olive tree by the amaXhosa people in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. International Journal of Religion, Nature and Culture 2(3): 292-308.

Cocks, M.L., Dold, A.P. & Vetter, S. 2012. ‘God is my forest’ – Xhosa cultural values provide untapped opportunities for conservation. S Afr J Sci. 2012;108(5/6), 1-8.

Cocks, M.L., Alexander, J. & Dold, T. 2012. Inkcubeko Nendalo: A Bio-cultural Diversity Schools Education Project in South Africa and its Implications for Inclusive Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) Sustainability. Journal of Education for Sustainable Development 6: 241-252.

Last Modified: Wed, 04 Jul 2018 13:54:47 SAST