Human Ecology

, Volume 36, Issue 4, pp 569–580 | Cite as

Ethnobotanical Knowledge and Crop Diversity in Swidden Fields: A Study in a Native Amazonian Society

  • Victoria Reyes-García
  • Vincent Vadez
  • Neus Martí
  • Tomás Huanca
  • William R. Leonard
  • Susan Tanner


Crop diversity protects food consumption in poor households within developing nations. Here we estimate the association between crop diversity on swidden fields and ethnobotanical knowledge. We conducted research among 215 male household heads from a native Amazonian society. Using multivariate regressions, we found higher crop diversity among households that depend on agricultural production for household consumption. We also found a statistically significant and positive, but low, association between the ethnobotanical knowledge of the male household head and crop diversity. Doubling the stock of ethnobotanical knowledge of the male household head is associated with a 9% increase in the number of crops sown by a household. The association remained after we controlled for the household level of market exposure, but vanished after we controlled for the social capital of the male household head. Future research should compare the association between ethnobotanical knowledge and crop diversity across different agricultural systems (i.e., home gardens, fallow fields).


Household food consumption Indigenous people Latin America Ethnobotanical knowledge Crop diversity Swidden agriculture 



Research was funded by grants from the program of Cultural Anthropology of the National Science Foundation (BCS-0134225 and BCS-0322380). We thank E. Conde, M. Aguilar, P. Pache, E. Tayo, J. Cari, M. Roca, D. Pache, and J. Pache, for help collecting the information and for logistical support. We thank R. Godoy for comments to previous versions of this article and ICRISAT-Patancheru for providing office facilities to Reyes-García. Preliminary results of this paper were presented at the 9th Conference of the International Society for Ecological Economics, Delhi (India), 15–18 December 2006.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Victoria Reyes-García
    • 1
    • 2
  • Vincent Vadez
    • 3
  • Neus Martí
    • 4
  • Tomás Huanca
    • 5
  • William R. Leonard
    • 6
  • Susan Tanner
    • 7
  1. 1.ICREA and Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia AmbientalsUniversitat Autònoma de BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.Heller School for Social Policy and ManagementBrandeis UniversityWalthamUSA
  3. 3.Crop Physiology LaboratoryICRISAT-PatancheruAndhra PradeshIndia
  4. 4.Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia AmbientalsUniversitat Autònoma de BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain
  5. 5.Centro de Investigación Boliviana y Desarrollo Socio IntegralBeniBolivia
  6. 6.Department of AnthropologyNorthwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA
  7. 7.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA

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