What Is the Most Efficient Methodology for Gathering Ethnobotanical Data and for Participant Selection? Medicinal Plants as a Case Study in the Peruvian Andes

Abstract

What Is the Most Efficient Methodology for Gathering Ethnobotanical Data and for Participant Selection? Medicinal Plants as a Case Study in the Peruvian Andes. The loss of traditional knowledge (TK) invariably continues worldwide and there is an urgent need to document and safeguard it before it vanishes. Researchers need efficient methods to document TK, taking fieldwork time and costs into account. In this study, we focused on medicinal plants to compare (1) the information provided by 600 expert and general participants from 12 localities in northern Peruvian Andes; and (2) the information gathered in semi–structured and structured interviews with 81 informants at two localities in the same area. We found that expert informants reported 91% of medicinal species and 67% of medicinal indications in less than half the time than was required to gather information from general informants. Using structured interviews yielded an increase of 18% of medicinal species and 21% of medicinal indications, but the time spent interviewing was 100% higher than in the semi–structured interviews. Overall, since time and costs are key factors often limiting ethnobotanical research, we suggest focusing on interviews with expert informants to gain efficiency. Regarding the interview method, the most efficient use of structured interviews would be in the cases or areas where (some) ethnobotanical data have been reported previously. If a researcher starts a new project and little or no previous TK data exist for a given area, we would recommend the use of semi–structured interviews. However, the available time and budget will always be key factors to be taken into account in order to select the best methodology of any TK study. ¿Cuál es la metodología más eficiente para recopilar datos etnobotánicos y para la selección de participantes? Las plantas medicinales como un estudio de caso en los Andes peruanos. La pérdida del conocimiento tradicional (CT) continúa invariablemente en todo el mundo, por lo que hay una necesidad urgente de documentarlo y rescatarlo antes de que desaparezca. Los investigadores necesitan métodos eficientes para documentar el CT, teniendo en cuenta el tiempo y el coste del trabajo de campo. En este estudio, nos enfocamos en plantas medicinales para comparar (1) la información obtenida de 600 participantes expertos y generales en 12 localidades del norte de los Andes peruanos; y (2) la información recopilada de entrevistas semiestructuradas y estructuradas con 81 informantes de dos localidades en la misma área. Documentamos que los informantes expertos conocían el 91% de las especies medicinales y el 67% de las indicaciones medicinales, dedicando menos de la mitad del tiempo que se requirió para documentar la misma información con los informantes generales. Al utilizar entrevistas estructuradas, obtuvimos un aumento del 18% de las especies medicinales y del 21% de las indicaciones medicinales, pero el tiempo dedicado fue 100% mayor que con respecto a las entrevistas semiestructuradas. En conjunto, dado que el tiempo y el coste son factores clave que a menudo limitan la investigación etnobotánica, sugerimos enfocar las entrevistas con los informantes expertos para ganar eficiencia. Respecto al método de entrevista, el uso más eficiente de entrevistas estructuradas se daría en los casos o áreas donde se han registrado (algunos) datos etnobotánicos previamente. Si un investigador inicia un nuevo proyecto y existen pocos o ningún dato previo de CT para un área determinada, recomendaríamos el uso de entrevistas semiestructuradas. Sin embargo, el tiempo disponible y el presupuesto siempre serán factores clave a tener en cuenta para seleccionar la mejor metodología de cualquier estudio sobre CT.

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Acknowledgments

We are grateful to the 600 participants from the 12 Peruvian localities who shared their knowledge and time with us, and doubly grateful to the 81 informants who were interviewed twice or more times. We are also grateful to the political authorities of all the localities that allowed us to conduct the study. We thank Rainer Bussmann and three anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on the manuscript. This work was supported by Universidad Nacional Toribio Rodríguez de Mendoza and Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. M. J. Macía received support from the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness, grant number CGL2016–75414–P.

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Submitted 19 June 2020

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Corroto, F., Macía, M.J. What Is the Most Efficient Methodology for Gathering Ethnobotanical Data and for Participant Selection? Medicinal Plants as a Case Study in the Peruvian Andes. Econ Bot (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12231-021-09514-7

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Keywords

  • Biocultural conservation
  • Cultural ecosystem services
  • Expert informants
  • Livelihood
  • Quantitative ethnobotany
  • Semi–structured vs. structured interviews
  • Sustainability
  • Traditional knowledge