Traditional wild vegetables gathered by four religious groups in Kurram District, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, North-West Pakistan

Abstract

Studying how traditional knowledge regarding wild food plants and particularly wild vegetables changes over time and space is crucial for understanding which socio-ecological variables may have an influence on traditional foraging behaviors. Recent work has found that religious affiliation may play a central role since, in specific cultural contexts, religion shapes kinship relations and consequently the vertical transmission of traditional knowledge and practices. In order to further test this hypothesis, a field ethnobotanical study specifically focusing on wild vegetables was conducted among four religious communities (Shias, Sunnis, Christians, and Sikhs) in Kurram District, North-West Pakistan. Results show that a remarkable bio-cultural heritage comprising fifty-five folk wild food taxa survives today; most of the wild plants were however quoted by few informants, suggesting that this traditional knowledge system is possibly under threat. More than the half of the quoted wild vegetables were not yet reported so far in the Pakistan wild food ethnobotanical literature. The most commonly gathered wild vegetables were Amaranthus viridis L., Margarospermum officinale L., Malva neglecta Wallr., Portulaca oleracea L., and Rumex dentatus L. Most of the recorded wild vegetables were quoted by Shia and, to less extent, by Sunni community members, while Christians and Sikhs showed an extremely restricted wild plant food repertoire. These differences may be related to the different history and socio-economic conditions of the considered religious groups,  to geographical/ecological factors and probably to the very specific origin of the Shia groups (Turi tribe) of the region, which moved from Western Asia a few centuries ago. Moreover, a remarkable portion of the quoted wild vegetables are perceived to have specific medicinal properties. A serious reconsideration of the recorded wild food plant resources, especially also within educational platforms, could be crucial for fostering culturally-appropriate food security strategies in marginal areas of Pakistan.

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Acknowledgements

This research work is the part of Bachelor of Science research work of first and second author. We are very thankful to the rural communities of the study area for their hospitality and support and for sharing their knowledge. This project would never have been possible without their cooperation. We offer sincere and deep thanks to all of the people around us who contributed and provided help throughout the study. Special thanks are also due to the University of Gastronomic Sciences, Pollenzo, Italy, which partially funded the research.

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Wasim Abbas and Wajid Hussain collected the data and wrote initial manuscript. Wahid Hussain supervised the project. Lal Basdshah helped in data analysis, Kamal Hussain helped to make the map of the research area. Andrea Pieroni contributed in designing the study as well as in data analysis and cultural interpretation.

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Correspondence to Wahid Hussain.

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Abbas, W., Hussain, W., Hussain, W. et al. Traditional wild vegetables gathered by four religious groups in Kurram District, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, North-West Pakistan. Genet Resour Crop Evol 67, 1521–1536 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10722-020-00926-3

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Keywords

  • Ethnobotany
  • Pakistan
  • Kurram
  • Wild food plants
  • Religious groups