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“How do I use this Leaf?”: Ethnobotanical conservation and knowledge retention, Mwamgongo, Tanzania.

Authors: Maria Fadiman*, Florida Atlantic University, Grace Gobbo, Botanical Advisor
Topics: Cultural Geography, Human-Environment Geography, Environment
Keywords: Africa, Ethnobotany, Forests, Culture
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

People use plants throughout the world, and in every corner of the globe when elders pass away, their knowledge dies with them. This phenomenon is especially important in regions where natural areas are threatened. In Tanzania, next to Gombe, the park in which Jane Goodall and her organization research chimpanzees is the village of Mwamgongo. Previously, in an effort to promote conservation of the miombo woodland and to protect cultural knowledge, we made an ethnobotanical booklet. For this current project, we returned to the area focusing not just on creating a tri-lingual record of plant use and cultural importance for the community, we also focused on empowering the village youth to be the caretakers and promoters of their own cultural heritage and ecosystem protection. We conducted informal and semi-structured interviews with ethnobotanical experts from the older generations. We also held afterschool workshops with village children, where we taught them how to interview their own elders, collect botanical specimens, and to make their own mini-herbaria. Through working with multiple generations, the information stays alive and the connection to the environment has a better chance of remaining important. We made the collaborative book with the community, the children learned skills to keep their own information alive and other classes asked to do similar projects. Incentivizing people to protect their own environment can be more effective than outsiders trying to do it for them.

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