Traditional ecological knowledge and medicinal plant diversity in Ecuadorian Amazon home gardens
Carrasco, Juan Carlos
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Medicinal plants are an ecosystem service directly implicated in human well-being. In many rural communities, they constitute a main treatment for disease or a source of disease prevention. Here, we review traditional knowledge of medicinal plants, the benefits they provide when cultivated in home gardens,
and the determinants of knowledge about their uses in a rural parish in Amazonian Ecuador, where two ethnic groups prevail: indigenous Shuar and settled mestizos. Among 138 garden owners interviewed in 11 communities, a broad knowledge of 104 pharmacological properties across 145 medicinal plant species is retained. Several species play a specific role for a particular culture; therefore, the importance ranking of medicinal plants is different between the two main cultures. Traditional knowledge of medicinal uses is also influenced by ethnicity as well as generational age of the gardeners. Knowledge seems to have been lost in people of younger generations, who cultivated fewer species and knew less about properties of medicinal plants. Although men cultivate more diverse gardens, the role for women in the conservation of agrobiodiversity in home gardens appears crucial, as they are identified as the main source for transmission of traditional knowledge about medicinal plants. Our study highlights the importance of integrated land use management that respects different social aspects (i.e., culture, gender, health and well-being) related to conservation of biodiversity and traditional knowledge in agroecosystems.