Economic Botany

, 57:324 | Cite as

Plant virtues are in the eyes of the beholders: A comparison of known palm uses among indigenous and folk communities of Southwestern Amazonia

  • Marina Thereza Campos
  • Christiane Ehringhaus


Despite its central importance to tropical forest conservation, the understanding of patterns in traditional resource use still is incipient. To address this deficiency, we compared known palm uses among two indigenous (Yawanawd and Kaxinawá) and two folk (rubber tapper and ribeirinho) communities in Southwestern Amazonia (Acre, Brazil). We conducted one-hundred-and -forty semi-structured “checklist” interviews about palm uses with male and female adults in the four communities. The knowledge of each community about the uses of the 17 palm species common to all communities was compared by testing for significant differences in the mean number of uses cited per informant and by calculating the Jaccard similarity index of known uses of palm species among the four communities. The following three hypotheses were confirmed: 1) the use of palms differs according to the cultural preferences of each community; 2) indigenous communities know significantly more about palm uses than folk communities; and 3) part of the indigenous knowledge was acquired through contact with Amazonian folk communities.

Key Words

indigenous knowledge ethnobotany palm uses Yawanawá Kaxinawá folk communities rubber tapper ribeirinho Southwestern Amazonia Acre Brazil 


Apesar de sua importância central para a conservação de florestas tropicais, o entedimento dos padrões do conhecimento traditional sobre recursos naturals ainda é incipiente. Para atenuar esta deficiência comparamos o conhecimento dos usos de palmeiras entre duas comunidades indígenas (Yawanawd e Kaxinawá) e duas comunidades não-indígenas (seringueiros e ribeirinhos), na Amazônia Ocidental (Acre, Brasil). Foram feitas 140 entrevistas semiestru-turadas do tipo “checklist” sobre o uso de palmeiras com homens e mulheres em cada comunidade. O conhecimento de cada comunidade sobre usos das 17 especies de palmeiras encontradas em comum, foi comparado através do teste das diferenças significativas entre a media de usos conhecidos por informante e através do cálculo do índice de similaridade Jaccard dos usos conhecidos de palmeiras entre as quatro comunidades. As seguintes tres hipdteses foram confirmadas: 1) os usos conhecidos de palmeiras diferem de acordo com as preferências culturais de cada comunidade, 2) as comunidades indígenas possuem um maior conhecimento sobre os usos de palmeiras do que as comunidades tradicionais não indígenas, e 3) grande parte do conhecimento indígena sobre utilização de palmeiras foi adquirido no ultimo século com a convivência de outros povos amazônicos.

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Copyright information

© The New York Botanical Garden Press 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marina Thereza Campos
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Christiane Ehringhaus
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Forestry and Environmental StudiesYale UniversityNew Haven
  2. 2.Parque ZoobotânicoUniversi-dade Federal do AcreRio BrancoBrazil
  3. 3.Institute of Economic BotanyThe New York Botanical GardenBronx

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