Environment, Development and Sustainability

, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 609–625 | Cite as

Biocultural diversity in traditional rice-based agroecosystems: indigenous research and conservation of mavo (Oryza sativa L.) upland rice landraces of eastern Indonesia

  • Jeanine M. Pfeiffer
  • Sisilia Dun
  • Bonafantura Mulawarman
  • Kevin J. Rice
Original Paper


Traditional crop landraces play dynamic roles in the expression of native biological and cultural diversity via their central position in the genetic resource base, agroecosystems and social heritage of indigenous peoples. Farmer varieties provide farmers with an “agricultural survival kit” for household welfare and for adaptation to changing conditions. These varieties meet local cultural practices and environmental constraints, and play an intrinsic role in cultural survival by constituting a living repository of ancestral customs including cultivar-specific recipes, songs, handicrafts, stories of origin, and unique planting, harvesting, processing, and storage rituals and techniques. The centrality of rice in Southeast Asian agricultural and social systems, contrasted with the significant erosion of rice-based biological and cultural diversity in native communities, calls for increased attention to the links between traditional rice varieties and indigenous rice-based customs. This study represents the research efforts of rice farmers pertaining to the Tado clan, a Kempo Manggarai community on Flores␣Island, in association with USA academicians. Research results demonstrate: (i) a complex suite of upland rice-based ethnobotanical traditions; (ii) significant and␣dynamic regional flux and dissemination of “old” and “new” landraces; (iii)␣community-level maintenance of distinct genotypes across a range of microenvironments; (iv) localized “extinctions” of ancestral landraces within 1–2 generations and a concomitant loss of related traditions; and (v) the contributions of a collaborative (indigenous and academic) approach to ethnographic and agronomic research.


Agroecology Biocultural diversity Community participatory research Farmer Indonesia Landraces Manggarai Oryza sativa Rainfed Upland rice 


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This study was funded by the University of California Pacific Rim Research Grant No. 03T-PRRP-3-25 and the ECO-SEA Southeast Asian Indigenous Scholarship Fund, and conducted under the auspices of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI). Our work was made possible by the participation of the Tado Clan Chief (Tua Golo Beo Tado), the Tado Council of Elders (tua batu ciok dan tua-tua mukang) and several hundred farming households in the Tado community. We acknowledge our institutional counterparts at the Herbarium Bogoriense, Research Center for Biology, Indonesian Institute of Science (LIPI). Our research associates in the Tado Community Research and Education Center (Pusat Penelitian dan Pendidikan Masyarakat Tado): Andreas Ance, Agustinus Angkol, Aloysius Sta Belamo, Ermilinda Elvi, Bernadeta Erni, Raymunda Mia, Maria Fatima Nely, Martina Semian, Zakarias Sudirman, Anselmus Sumargani, and Yeremias Uril assisted with data collection and processing at critical junctures. Irene Wibawa and Bapak Matheus Hadip provided administrative and technical support. We are thankful to David Cleveland, Daniela Soleri, Himawan Hariyoga, Daniel Potter and two anonymous reviewers for their comments on earlier drafts of the manuscript. The opinions expressed in this paper, and any errors or omissions, are the responsibility of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeanine M. Pfeiffer
    • 1
    • 2
  • Sisilia Dun
    • 3
  • Bonafantura Mulawarman
    • 3
  • Kevin J. Rice
    • 2
  1. 1.Ethnobotanical Conservation Organization for South East Asia (ECO-SEA)DavisUSA
  2. 2.Science and Society ProgramUniversity of California at DavisDavisUSA
  3. 3.Department of Plant SciencesUniversity of California at DavisDavisUSA

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