Advertisement

AMBIO

, Volume 43, Issue 3, pp 288–296 | Cite as

Local Perceptions of Changes in Traditional Ecological Knowledge: A Case Study from Malekula Island, Vanuatu

  • Joe McCarter
  • Michael C. Gavin
Report

Abstract

Traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) is a critical global resource that may be eroding amid social and environmental change. Here, we present data on local perceptions of TEK change from three communities on Malekula Island in Vanuatu. Utilizing a structured interview (n = 120), we find a common perception of TEK loss. Participants defined two key periods of TEK erosion (roughly 1940–1960 and 1980–present), and noted that TEK decline was driven both external (e.g., church) and internal (e.g., shifting values) processes. Erosion was perceived to more comprehensive in the worldview domain than in aspects of ethnobiological knowledge and practice. These data indicate the perceived fragility of TEK systems and the complexity of TEK change. TEK systems are critical to natural resource management, and data such as these will assist in designing nuanced responses to the ongoing loss of cultural knowledge and practice.

Keywords

Traditional ecological knowledge Cultural change Trend analysis Vanuatu Malekula 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We wish to acknowledge the generous assistance of collaborators and friends on Malekula. JM is grateful for financial backing from NZAID, Education New Zealand, the JL Stewart Foundation, and the Ryoichi Sasakawa Young Leader’s Fellowship between 2008 and 2012. This work was completed while both authors were based at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.

References

  1. Agrawal, A. 2002. Indigenous knowledge and the politics of classification. International Social Science Journal 54: 287–298.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baeraleo, S. 2010. Teaching indigenous knowledge and resource management in the primary school. Port Vila: The Vanuatu National Cultural Council.Google Scholar
  3. Berkes, F. 2012. Sacred ecology: Traditional ecological knowledge and resource management, 3rd ed. London: Taylor and Francis.Google Scholar
  4. Berkes, F., J. Colding, and C. Folke. 2000. Rediscovery of traditional ecological knowledge as adaptive management. Ecological Applications 10: 1251–1262.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bernard, H.R. 1998. Handbook of methods in cultural anthropology. Walnut Creek: AltaMira Press.Google Scholar
  6. Bolton, L. 2003. Unfolding the Moon: Enacting Women’s Kastom in Vanuatu. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.Google Scholar
  7. Borgatti, S. 1996. Anthropac 4. Natick: Analytic Technologies.Google Scholar
  8. Boster, J. 1986. Exchange of varieties and information between Aguaruna Manioc cultivators. American Anthropologist 88: 429–436.Google Scholar
  9. Bradacs, G., J. Heilmann, and C. Weckerle. 2011. Medicinal plant use in Vanuatu: A comparative ethnobotanical study of three islands. Journal of Ethnopharmocology 137: 434–448.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Brosi, B., M. Balick, R. Wolkow, R. Lee, M. Kostka, W. Raynor, R. Gallen, A. Raynor, et al. 2007. Cultural erosion and biodiversity: Canoe-making knowledge in Pohnpei, Micronesia. Conservation Biology 21: 875–879.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Case, R.J., G.E. Pauli, and D. Soejarto. 2005. Factors in maintaining indigenous knowledge among ethnic communities of Manus Island. Economic Botany 59: 356–365.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Deacon, A.B. 1934. Malekula: A vanishing people in the New Hebrides. London: George Routledge.Google Scholar
  13. Ford, J., and D. Martinez. 2000. Traditional ecological knowledge, ecosystem science, and environmental management. Ecological Applications 10: 1249–1250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Godoy, R., N. Brokaw, D. Wilkie, D. Colon, A. Palermo, S. Lye, S. Sei, et al. 1998. Of trade and cognition: Markets and the loss of folk knowledge among the Tawahka Indians of the Honduran Rainforest. Journal of Anthropological Research 54: 219–234.Google Scholar
  15. Godoy, R., V. Reyes-Garcia, J. Broesch, I. Fitzpatrick, P. Giovanninni, M. Rodriguez, T. Huanca, et al. 2009. Long-term (secular) change of ethnobotanical knowledge of useful plants: Separating cohort and age effects. Journal of Anthropological Research 65: 51–67.Google Scholar
  16. Greenfield, P.M., A.E. Maynard, and C.P. Childs. 2000. History, culture, learning, and development. Cross-Cultural Research 34: 351–374.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Haccius, J. 2011. The interaction of modern and custom land tenure systems in Vanuatu. State, society and governance in Melanesia: Discussion Paper 2011/1. Canberra: ANU School of International, Political, and Strategic Studies.Google Scholar
  18. Hickey, F.R. 2006. Traditional marine resource management in Vanuatu: Acknowledging, supporting and strengthening indigenous management systems. SPC Traditional Marine Resource Management 11–23. http://www.sprep.org/att/irc/ecopies/countries/vanuatu/92.pdf.
  19. International Society of Ethnobiology. 2006. ISE Code of Ethics (with 2008 Additions). http://ethnobiology.net/code-of-ethics/code-in-english/.
  20. Johannes, R. 1998. The case for data-less marine resource management: Examples from tropical nearshore finfisheries. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 13: 243–246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kumar, S. 2002. Methods for community participation: A complete guide for practitioners. Warwickshire: Intermediate Technology Publications Ltd.Google Scholar
  22. Lynch, J., and T. Crowley. 2001. Languages of Vanuatu. Canberra: Pacific Linguists.Google Scholar
  23. MacClancy, J. 2002. To kill a bird with two stones. Port Vila: Vanuatu Cultural Centre.Google Scholar
  24. Maffi, L., and E. Woodley. 2010. Biocultural diversity conservation: A global sourcebook. London: Earthscan.Google Scholar
  25. McCarter, J., and M.C. Gavin. 2011. Perceptions of the value of traditional ecological knowledge to formal school curricula: Opportunities and challenges from Malekula Island, Vanuatu. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 7: 38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Nettle, D., and S. Romaine. 2000. Vanishing voices: The extinction of the world’s languages. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Niroa, J. 2004. Why we need to re-think Vanuatu education. In Re-thinking Vanuatu education together, ed. K. Sanga, J. Niroa, K. Matai, and L. Crowl. Port Vila: University of the South Pacific.Google Scholar
  28. Pfeiffer, J.M., and R.J. Butz. 2005. Assessing cultural and ecological variation in ethnobiological research: The importance of gender. Journal of Ethnobiology 25: 240–278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Quinlan, M. 2005. Considerations for collecting freelists in the field: Examples from ethnobotany. Field Methods 17: 219–237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Quinlan, M., and R. Quinlan. 2007. Modernization and medicinal plant knowledge in a Caribbean horticultural village. Medicinal Anthropology Quarterly 21: 169–192.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Regenvanu, R. 2005. The changing face of ‘Custom’ in Vanuatu. People and Culture in Oceania 20.Google Scholar
  32. Reyes-Garcia, V., V. Vadez, E. Byron, L. Apaza, W. Leonard, E. Perez, and D. Wilkie. 2005. Market economy and the loss of folk knowledge of plant uses: Estimates from the Tsimane’ of the Bolivian Amazon. Current Anthropology 46: 651–656.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Reyes-Garcia, V., N. Marti, T. McDade, S. Tanner, V. Vadez, and N. Martí. 2007. Concepts and methods in studies measuring individual ethnobotanical knowledge. Journal of Ethnobiology 27: 182–203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Singh, R.K., J. Pretty, and S. Pilgrim. 2010. Traditional knowledge and biocultural diversity: Learning from tribal communities for sustainable development in Northeast India. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management 53: 511–533.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Smith, J. 1993. Using ANTHROPAC 3.5 and a Spreadsheet to Compute a Freelist Salience Index. Cultural Anthropology Methods Letter 5: 1–3.Google Scholar
  36. Tacconi, L., and J. Bennett. 1993. The forests of Vanuatu: An overview of their environmental and economic status. Sydney: Vanuatu Forest Conservation Research Reports: University of New South Wales.Google Scholar
  37. Tonkinson, R. 1982. National identity and the problem of Kastom in Vanuatu. Mankind 13: 306–315.Google Scholar
  38. Vanuatu Ministry of Education. 2010. Vanuatu National Curriculum Statement (Edited Draft). Port Vila: Ministry of Education.Google Scholar
  39. Vari-Bogiri, H. 2005. A sociolinguistic survey of Araki: A dying language in Vanuatu. Journal of Multilingual Multicultural Development 26: 52–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. VNSO (Vanuatu National Statistics Office). 2012. Alternative indicators of well-being for Melanesia: Vanuatu Pilot Study Report. Port Vila, Vanuatu: Malvatumauri National Council of Chiefs.Google Scholar
  41. Voeks, R.A., and A. Leony. 2004. Forgetting the forest: Assessing medicinal plant erosion in Eastern Brazil. Economic Botany 58: S294–S306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Zarger, R.K., and J.R. Stepp. 2004. Persistence of botanical knowledge among Tzeltal Maya Children. Current Anthropology 45: 413–418.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Zent, S. 2001. Acculturation and ethnobotanical knowledge loss among the Piaroa of Venezuela: Demonstration of a quantitative method for the empirical study of TEK change. In On biocultural diversity: Linking language, knowledge, and the environment, ed. L. Maffi. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press.Google Scholar
  44. Zent, S., and L. Maffi. 2009. Final Report on Indicator No. 2: Methodology for developing a vitality index of traditional environmental knowledge (VITEK) for the project “Global Indicators of the Status and Trends of Linguistic Diversity and Traditional Knowledge”, Terralingua. Retrieved 3 March, 2009, from http://terralingua.org/projects/vitek/VITEK_Report.pdf.

Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Human Dimensions of Natural Resources, Warner College of Natural ResourcesColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA
  2. 2.School of Geography, Environment and Earth SciencesVictoria University of WellingtonWellingtonNew Zealand

Personalised recommendations