Biocultural diversity and food sovereignty: a case study of human-plant relations in northwestern Ethiopia
- 15 Downloads
Based on a case study in the Debark District of northwestern Ethiopia, this article investigates how biocultural diversity provides options for food sovereignty. Following a series of semi-structured interviews with 30 farming families in 28 villages, we describe farmers’ relations with plants, including 1) consumption, 2) exchange, 3) use within food system activities, 4) other benefits, and 5) negative impacts to the food system. Farmers identified 123 plants that play a role within their food system. Although the total number of useful plants is highest for non-domesticated and woody species, the average family named more domesticated and herbaceous species. Non-domesticated plants are rarely consumed as food or sold at the local market; however, they play important roles in other food system activities. We introduce a new Substitutability Index to estimate the number of plants available for specific purposes within categories of use and identify strengths and potential vulnerabilities of the Debark food system. We conclude that programs and policies to expand farmers’ relations with plant diversity, by promoting useful semi- and non-domesticated species and facilitating knowledge exchange among communities, could expand options for food sovereignty as a path toward long-term food security.
KeywordsAmhara Regional State Ethnobotany Human ecology Smallholder farmers Substitutability
We thank the farming families who contributed their Indigenous ecological knowledge to this research, including farmers from the communities of Afaf, Gotit, Dilde, Kidane Mihret, Enkoye Mesq, Derie, Derita, Yekirar, Gana Meda, Dagba, Arba Tensa, Filfilit, Mikara, Koso Mender, Barkayna, Mesqel Aura, Muchache, and Meskelko. The authors gratefully acknowledge Amanuel Berhanie, Yohannes Desalegn, and Fekadu Alem for their skill and enthusiasm as field research assistants. We express our gratitude to the Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute, the Ethiopian National Herbarium at Addis Ababa University, Debark City and Debark District Administrations for their support. The authors also thank the editors and four anonymous reviewers who provided constructive comments to improve the manuscript. Funding for this research was provided by a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship (DGE-0707428), the Food Systems and Poverty Reduction Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (NSF Award #0903371), a Richard Bradfield Research Award from Cornell University, and the Toward Sustainability Foundation.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
- Addis, G., Asfaw, Z., & Woldu, Z. (2013). The role of wild and semi-wild edible plants to household food sovereignty in Hamar and Konso communities, South Ethiopia. Ethnobotany Research & Applications, 11, 251–271.Google Scholar
- Asfaw, Z. (2008). The future of wild food plants in southern Ethiopia: Ecosystem conservation coupled with enhancement of the roles of key social groups. In International symposium on underutilized plants for food security, nutrition, income and sustainable development (Vol. 806, pp. 701–708).Google Scholar
- Bongers, F., Wassie, A., Sterck, F., Bekele, T., & Teketay, D. (2006). Ecological restoration and church forests in northern Ethiopia. Journal of the Drylands, 1(1), 35–44.Google Scholar
- Burnett, K., & Murphy, S. (2014). What place for international trade in food sovereignty? Journal of Peasant Studies, 41(6), 1065–1084. https://doi.org/10.1080/03066150.2013.876995.
- La Via Campesina. (1996). Food sovereignty: A future without hunger. Declaration of Tlaxcala. http://www.acordinternational.org/silo/files/decfoodsov1996.pdf. Accessed 17 August 2018.
- La Via Campesina. (2008). Food Sovereignty for Africa: A Challenge at Fingertips. http://viacampesina.net/downloads/PDF/Brochura_em_INGLES.pdf. Accessed 7 August 2018.
- Lee, R. P. (2013). The politics of international agri-food policy: discourses of trade-oriented food security and food sovereignty. Environmental Politics, 22(2), 216–234. https://doi.org/10.1080/09644016.2012.730266.
- Cooper, P. J. M., Dimes, J., Rao, K. P. C., Shapiro, B., Shiferaw, B., & Twomlow, S. (2008). Coping better with current climatic variability in the rain-fed farming systems of sub-Saharan Africa: An essential first step in adapting to future climate change? Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 126(1–2), 24–35. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2008.01.007.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Edelman, M. (2013). Food sovereignty: Forgotten genealogies and future regulatory challenges. In Food Sovereignty: A Critical dialogue (Vol. 41, pp. 959–978). New Haven.Google Scholar
- Edwards, S., Tadesse, M., & Hedberg, I. (1995). Flora of Ethiopia and Eritrea, Volume 2, Part 2: Cannellaceae to Euphorbiaceae. Addis Ababa and Uppsala, Sweden: The National Herbarium, Addis Ababa University and the Department of Systematic Botany, Uppsala University.Google Scholar
- Edwards, S., Tadesse, M., Demissew, S., & Hedberg, I. (2000). Flora of Ethiopia and Eritrea, Volume 2, Part 1: Magnoliaceae to Falcourtiaceae. Addis Ababa and Uppsala, Sweden: The National Herbarium, Addis Ababa University and the Department of Systematic Botany, Uppsala University.Google Scholar
- FAO. (2014). The State of Food and Agriculture: Innovation in family farming (Vol. 34). Rome: 9789251073179.Google Scholar
- FDRE-PCC. (2008). Summary and Statistical Report of the 2007 Population and Housing Census. Central Statistics Authority. Addis Ababa: Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia Population Census Commission.Google Scholar
- FEWS-NET. (2014). Famine Early Warning System Network: Africa Data Portal. https://earlywarning.usgs.gov/fews/search/Africa. Accessed 2 September 2014.
- Friends of the Earth International. (2003). Trade and People’s Food Sovereignty. https://www.foei.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/newfinallowres.pdf. Accessed 5 Feb 2019.
- Friis, I., Demissew, S., & Breugel, P. (2011). Atlas of the potential vegetation of Ethiopia. Addis Ababa: Addis Ababa University Press and Shewa Press.Google Scholar
- Guinand, Y., & Lemessa, D. (2000). Wild-food plants in southern Ethiopia: Reflections on the role of “famine-foods” at a time of drought. United Nations Development Programme, Emergencies Unit for Ethiopia.Google Scholar
- Hedberg, I., & Edwards, S. (1989). Flora of Ethiopia, Volume 3: Pittosporaceae to Araliaceae. Addis Ababa and Uppsala, Sweden: The National Herbarium, Addis Ababa University and the Department of Systematic Botany, Uppsala University.Google Scholar
- Hedberg, I., Edwards, S., & Nemomissa, S. (2003). Flora of Ethiopia and Eritrea, Volume 4, Part 1: Apiaceae to Dipsacaceae. Addis Ababa and Uppsala, Sweden: The National Herbarium, Addis Ababa University and the Department of Systematic Botany, Uppsala University.Google Scholar
- Hedberg, I., Kelbessa, E., Edwards, S., Demissew, S., & Persson, E. (2006). Flora of Ethiopia and Eritrea, Volume 5: Gentianaceae to Cyclocheilaceae. Addis Ababa and Uppsala, Sweden: The National Herbarium, Addis Ababa University and the Department of Systematic Botany, Uppsala University.Google Scholar
- Kassam, K.-A. S. (2009). Biocultural diversity and indigenous ways of knowing: Human ecology in the Arctic. Calgary: University of Calgary Press.Google Scholar
- Kelbessa, E., & Demissew, S. (2014). Diversity of vascular plant taxa of the flora of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Ethiopian Journal of Biological Sciences, 13(1S), 37–45.Google Scholar
- Martin, G. (2004). Ethnobotany: A methods manual. New York: Chapman & Hall.Google Scholar
- Mburu, S. W., Koskey, G., Kimiti, J. M., Ombori, O., Maingi, J. M., & Njeru, E. M. (2016). Agrobiodiversity conservation enhances food security in subsistence - based farming systems of eastern Kenya. Agriculture & Food Security, 5, 1–10. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40066-016-0068-2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- McMichael, P. (2010). Food sovereignty in movement: Addressing the triple crisis. In H. Wittman, A. A. Desmarais, & N. Wiebe (Eds.), Food Sovereignty: Reconnecting Food, Nature & Community (pp. 168–185). Oakland: Food First Books.Google Scholar
- MOARD. (2005). Major agro-ecological zones of Ethiopia. Addis Ababa: Forestry, Land Use, and Soil Conservation Department.Google Scholar
- Puff, C., & Nemomissa, S. (2005). Plants of the Simen: A flora of the Simen Mountains and surroundings, northern Ethiopia (Scripta Bo.). Meise: National Botanical Garden of Belgica.Google Scholar
- Ruelle, M. L., Morreale, S. J., & Kassam, K. S. (2011). Practicing food sovereignty: Spatial analysis of an emergent food system for the standing rock nation. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 2(1), 163–179. https://doi.org/10.5304/jafscd.2011.021.005.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Tadesse, M. (2004). Flora of Ethiopia and Eritrea, Volume 4, Part 2: Asteraceae (Compositae). (I. Hedberg, I. Friis, & S. Edwards, Eds.). Addis Ababa and Uppsala, Sweden: The National Herbarium, Addis Ababa University and the Department of Systematic Botany, Uppsala University.Google Scholar
- Teketay, D., Senbeta, F., Maclachlan, M., Bekele, M., & Barklund, P. (2010). Edible Wild Plants in Ethiopia. Addis Ababa. Addis Ababa: University Press.Google Scholar
- The Plant List. (2013). Version 1.1. http://www.theplantlist.org. Accessed 3 November 2016.
- Vavilov, N. I. (1951). The origin, variation, immunity and breeding of cultivated plants: Selected writings of N. I. Vavilov. Chronica Botanica (Vol. 13). Waltham: Chronica Botanica Co.. https://doi.org/10.2134/agronj1952.00021962004400020016x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Walsh-Dilley, M., Wolford, W., & McCarthy, J. (2016). Rights for resilience: Food sovereignty, power, and resilience in development practice. Ecology and Society, 21(1). https://doi.org/10.5751/ES-07981-210111.
- Wittman, H., Desmarais, A., & Wiebe, N. (2010). The origins and potential of food sovereignty. In Food Sovereignty: Reconnecting Food, Nature & Community (pp. 1–16).Google Scholar
- WLRC. (2015). EthioGIS II. Water & Land Resources Information System (WALRIS). Addis Ababa: Water and Land Resource Center.Google Scholar
- WorldClim. (2015). WorldClim: Global Climate Data. http://worldclim.org/. Accessed 2 September 2015.