Abstract Detail

Tackling coloniality in plant sciences: Legacies and paths forward

Nyenya, Ratidzayi [1].

Cultural uses of the Dracaenoids: unpacking the indigenous knowledge on the taxonomy, ethnobotany and conservation of Dracaenoids.

The Indigenous people of Africa have a long history of interaction with plant species that occur in their communities. They depend on the local biodiversity for their lives, livelihoods, health, and cultural activities. This wealth of ethnobotanical knowledge has been accumulated over countless generations and is passed down by word of mouth. Documentation of this Indigenous knowledge is crucial for its preservation and for the conservation of the plants upon which this knowledge is based. Botanical studies that recognise and incorporate this wealth of Indigenous knowledge on plants are also a necessity to uplift the power and role of Indigenous people in biodiversity conservation. My Indigenous knowledge is rooted in the Shona culture, the Shona being one of the main Indigenous groups in Zimbabwe, in southern Africa. I was also exposed to Ndebele culture, the second largest Indigenous Nation in Zimbabwe. Growing up in Zimbabwe, my passion and knowledge of plants was inspired by Indigenous knowledge on plants from these two cultures. I pursued botany as a career, and my choice of the Dracaenoids (Dracaena s.l., now including Sansevieria) as a study group was no coincidence, as I had used species such as Dracaena pearsonii ; commonly known as Mother in law’s tongue (English) Sharamhanda (Shona), isikholokotho (Ndebele) and D. hyacinthoides commonly known as Snake plant (English), Nyanga yapfeni (Shona), Isikusha (Ndebele) for fibre from early childhood. As part of a broader study on the taxonomy and molecular phylogeny of the genus, I undertook field work among various communities of Kenya and Zimbabwe; documenting Indigenous knowledge, common names, uses, information on local habitats and morphology of Dracaenoids species. The aim of this study was to carry out ethnobotanical research on the ecology, ethnotaxonomy and uses of Dracaenoids in Africa, with focus on Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia), my country of birth and source of my Indigenous roots; and Kenya, formerly East Africa, thought to be the centre of variation for the genus Dracaena. Both Kenya and Zimbabwe are former British Colonies that attained independence from British rule in 1963 and 1980 respectively, which is context that greatly influences my work. Observations included interviews and surveys among the various Indigenous people of Zimbabwe and the Coast Province of Kenya. Indigenous descriptions of plant habit, habitat, morphology, uses, and other aspects regarded important about the species were recorded. I present findings on the Indigenous classification of species, the ethnobotanical knowledge from the Indigenous peoples’ various uses, and use categories of various Dracaenoid species as presented by the different participants. I also bring perspectives and lessons I gleaned from these ethnobotanical excursions and highlight the challenges in conducting research among Indigenous communities. This includes conflicting attitudes in the botanical community on the value they ascribe to Indigenous-centered knowledge and ethnobotany. The study highlights the need for inclusion and recognition of the Indigenous people and the wealth of knowledge they hold on plants and their role in biodiversity conservation.

1 - University of Oslo , Natural History Museum, P.O. Box 1172, N-0318 Oslo, Norway, Blindern, Oslo, Norway, +47

Indigenous Peoples

Presentation Type: Symposium Presentation
Number: S5006
Abstract ID:1064
Candidate for Awards:None

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