The economic benefits generated by wetlands and the costs associated with their degradation or loss are frequently overlooked. This often leads to decisions that stimulate wetland conversion and degradation. An important step towards correcting this situation and countering this neglect is to establish the true values of a wetland's ecosystem goods and services. This study attempts to estimate the direct use values of native plants, such as palm leaves for basketry, grass for thatching, fuelwood, edible fruits and plant parts used by three villages adjacent to the Okavango Delta during the 2003 calendar year. Other sources of ecosystem goods and services, such as fishing, floodplain farming and tourism, were not considered in this study. The average annual value per household of these harvested resources is generally higher than that of similar resources found in other southern African wetlands, owing to higher consumption rates. The overall total direct use value of plant resources, including household income contributions "in kind", was estimated at US$1 434 per household for 2003 (or US$43.41/ha). This value is almost equal to the average household financial income of US$1 416/year. The net present value of the overall benefit from the direct use of the vegetative resources is estimated at US$101.9 million. This clearly indicates the value of the use of natural resources and their contribution to livelihoods and quality of life. This value is so significant that economic development planners ought to incorporate it into development planning. They should not conceive infrastructure development that would jeopardise the communities' access to these natural resources without any well-developed mitigation strategy.