Human Ecology

, Volume 36, Issue 2, pp 259–272 | Cite as

Knowledge and Use Value of Plant Species in a Rarámuri Community: A Gender Perspective for Conservation

  • Andrés Camou-Guerrero
  • Victoria Reyes-García
  • Miguel Martínez-Ramos
  • Alejandro CasasEmail author


We used a quantitative ethnobotanical approach to analyze factors influencing the use value of plant species among men and women of the Rarámuri people in Cuiteco, Chihuahua, Mexico. We constructed a use value index (UV) combining the use frequency (U) and the quality perception (Q) of useful plant species by local people. We identified all plant species used by the Rarámuri and classified them into 14 general use categories. We interviewed 34 households in the village to compare men and women’s knowledge on the five main general use categories (and on their respective subcategories and specific uses), to document how they practice gathering activities and to calculate scores of plants UV. A total of 226 useful plant species were identified, but only 12% of them had high UV scores for the 42 specific uses defined. When the overall knowledge of plant species was examined, no significant differences were detected between men and women, but significant differences were identified in general use categories such as medicinal plants, plants for construction and domestic goods, but not in plants used as food and firewood. We identified a division of labor in gathering activities associated with gender, with women mainly gathering medicinal and edible plants and being involved in preparing medicines and food, whereas men were primarily gathering and using plants for manufacturing domestic goods, firewood, and building materials. Plant species UV associated to gender were significantly different between men and women at the level of specific uses in the general category of domestic goods and building. Frequency of use is highly associated with plant species quality perception.


Use value Cultural significance Traditional knowledge Gender Division of labor Non-timber forest products Rarámuri Sierra Tarahumara 



The authors thank the Proyecto Sectorial CONACYT-SEMARNAT (C01-0544) for financial support, as well as CONACYT for support with a grant for PhD studies to first author. Heberto Ferreira and Alberto Valencia gave computer assistance and Edgar Pérez Negrón and Berenice Farfán had a valuable participation in fieldwork. The authors also thank Dr. Alicia Castillo for her critical review of the manuscript and the Laboratory of Ethnoecology at ICTA-UAB for their comments. We specially thank the Consultoría Técnica Comunitaria A. C. (CONTEC), and all the people from Cuiteco, men and women, for allowing us to carry out this work.


  1. Ahmed, M. R., and Laarman, J. G. (2000). Gender Equity in Social Forestry Programs in Bangladesh. Human Ecology 28: 3433–450.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Arriaga, L., Espinoza, J. M., Aguilar, C., Martínez, E., Gómez, L., and Loa, E. (2000). Regiones Terrestres Prioritarias de México. Comisión Nacional para el Conocimiento y uso de la Biodiversidad (CONABIO). Mexico.Google Scholar
  3. Alcorn, J. (1984). Huastec Mayan Ethnobotany. University of Texas Press, Austin, USA.Google Scholar
  4. Begossi, A., Hanazaki, N., and Tamashiro, J. Y. (2002). Medicinal Plants in the Atlantic Forest (Brazil): Knowledge, Use, and Conservation. Human Ecology 30: 3281–299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Benz, B. F., Santana, F., Pineda, R., Cevallos, J., Robles, L., and De Niz, D. (1994). Characterization of Mestizo Plant Use in the Sierra de Manantlán, Jalisco-Colima, México. Journal of Ethnobiology 14: 123–41.Google Scholar
  6. Boster, J. S. (1985). “Requiem for the Omniscient Informant” There is Life in the Old Girl Yet. In Dougherty, J. W. D. (ed.), Directions in Cognitive Anthropology. University of Illinois Press, Urbana, USA, pp. 177–197.Google Scholar
  7. Bye, R. A. (1976). Ethnoecology of the Tharahumara of Chihuahua, Mexico. PhD Dissertation, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA.Google Scholar
  8. Bye, R. A. (1981). Quelites–Ethnoecology of Edible Greens: Past, Present, and Future. Journal of Ethnobiology 1: 1109–123.Google Scholar
  9. Bye, R. A. (1993). The Role of Humans in the Diversification of Plants in Mexico. In Ramamoorthy, T. P., Bye, R., Lot, A., and Fa, J. (eds.), Biological Diversity of Mexico. Origins and Distribution. Oxford University Press, NY, pp. 707–731.Google Scholar
  10. Bye, R. A. (1995). Prominence of the Sierra Madre Occidental in the Biological Diversity of Mexico. In: DeBano, L. F., Ffolliott, P. F., Ortega-Rubio, A., et al. (coord.). Biodiversity and Management of the Madrean Archipelago: The Sky Islands of Southwestern United States and Northwestern Mexico. Technical Report: RM GTR-264. Fort Collins Colorado, Departament of agriculture, USDA Forest Services, Rocky Mountain Forest Range Experimental Station, University of Arizona, USA, pp. 19–27.Google Scholar
  11. Caballero, J., Casas, A., Cortés, L., and Mapes, C. (1998). Patrones en el Conocimiento, Uso y Manejo de Plantas en Pueblos Indígenas de México. Revista de Estudios Atacameños 16: 181–196.Google Scholar
  12. Casas, A., Viveros, J. L., and Caballero, J. (1994). Etnobotánica Mixteca: Sociedad, Cultura y Recursos Naturales en la Montaña de Guerrero. INI/Conaculta. Mexico.Google Scholar
  13. Casas, A., Vázquez, M. C., Viveros, J. L., and Caballero, J. (1996). Plant Management Among the Nahua and the Mixtec of the Balsas River Basin: An Ethnobotanical Approach to the Study of Plant Domestication. Human Ecology 24: 4455–478.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Casas, A., Caballero, J., and Valiente-Banuet, . (1999). Use Management and Domestication of Columnar Cacti in South-Central Mexico: A historical perspective. Journal of Ethnobiology 19: 171–95.Google Scholar
  15. Casas, A., Valiente-Banuet, A., Viveros, J. L., Caballero, J., Cortés, L., Dávila, P., Lira, R., and Rodríguez, I. (2001). Plant Resources of the Tehuacán–Cuicatlán Valley. EconomicBotany 55: 1129–166.Google Scholar
  16. Dávila, A., and Ramírez, M. T. (1991). Colecciones Biológicas Nacionales del Instituto de Biología Herbario. Nacional de México. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico.Google Scholar
  17. Dalle, S. P., and Potvin, C. (2004). Conservation of Useful Plants: An Evaluation of Local Priorities from Two Indigenous Communities in Eastern Panama. Economic Botany 58: 138–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Farfán, B., Casas, A., and Ibarra, G. (2007). Plant Resources in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, Mexico: Mazahua Ethnobotany and Peasant Subsistence. Economic Botany 61: 2173–191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Felger, S. R., and Wilson, M. (1995). Northern Sierra Madre Occidental and Its Apachian Outliers: A Neglected Center of Biodiversity. In DeBano, L. F., Ffolliott, P. F., Ortega-Rubio, A., et al. (coord.). Biodiversity and Management of the Madrean Archipelago: The Sky Islands of Southwestern United States and Northwestern Mexico. Technical Report: RM-GTR-264. Fort Collins Colorado, Department of Agriculture, USDA Forest Services, Rocky Mountain Forest Range Experimental Station, Universidad de Arizona, USA, pp. 36–59.Google Scholar
  20. Flores, X. P. (1997). Programa de Análisis Socio Económico y de Género (ASEG) y su Aplicabilidad en los Programas de Fitomejoramiento Participativo. FAO.
  21. Fortmann, L., and Rocheleau, D. (1984). Why Agroforestry Needs Women: Four Myths and a Case Study. Unasylva (FAO) 36: 1462–11.Google Scholar
  22. Garro, L. C. (1986). Intracultural Variation in Folk Medical Knowledge: A Comparison Between Curers and Noncurers. American Anthropologist 88: 351–370.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gomez-Beloz, A. (2002). Plant Use Knowledge of the Winikina Warao: The Case for Questionnaires in Ethnobotany. Economic Botany 56: 3231–241.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. González-Insuasti, M. S. (2006). Factores que Influyen en la Intensificación del Manejo de Recursos Vegetales por Parte de Poblaciones Humanas: Un Estudio de Caso del Valle de Tehuacán-Cuicatlán. PhD Dissertation, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. Mexico.Google Scholar
  25. González-Insuasti, M. S., and Caballero, J. (2007). Managing Plant Resources: How Intensive Can It Be? Human Ecology 35: 303–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Guerrero, M. T., de Villa, F., Kelly, M., Reed, C., and Vegter, B. (2002). La Industria Forestal del Estado de Chihuahua: Efectos Económicos, Ecológicos y Sociales del TLCAN. Efectos Ambientales del Libre Comercio. Ponencias Presentadas en el Simposio de América del Norte sobre Análisis de los Vínculos entre Comercio y Medio Ambiente (octubre de 2000). Comisión para la–Cooperación Ambiental (CCA). Montreal, Canada.Google Scholar
  27. INEGI (2000). XII Censo General de Población y Vivienda. Instituto Nacional de Estadística Geografía e Informática (INEGI). Mexico.Google Scholar
  28. Jackson, C. (1994). Gender Analysis and Environmentalism. In Redclift, M., and Benton, T. (eds.), Social Theory and the Global Environment. Routledge, New York, NY, pp. 113–149.Google Scholar
  29. Kvist, P. L., Andersen, M. K., Stagegaard, J., Hesselsoe, M., and Llapapasca, C. (2001). Extraction From Woody Forest Plants in Flood Plain Communities in Amazonian Peru: Use, Choice, Evaluation and Conservation Status of Resources. Forest Ecology and Management 150: 147–174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Ladio, A. H., and Lozada, M. (2000). Edible Wild Plant Use in a Mapuche Community of Northwestern Patagonia. Human Ecology 28: 153–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Ladio, A. H., and Lozada, M. (2001). Non-Timber Forest Product Use in Two Human Populations from Northwest Patagonia: A Quantitative Approach. Human Ecology 29: 4367–380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Ladio, A. H., and Lozada, M. (2004). Patterns of Use and Knowledge of Wild Edible Plants in Distinct Ecological Environments: A Case Study of a Mapuche Community from Northwestern Patagionia. Biodiversity and Conservation 13: 1153–1173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lammertink, J. M., Rojas, J. A. Casillas, F. M., and Otto, R. L. (1997). Situación y Conservación de los Bosques Antiguos de Pino–Encino de la Sierra Madre Occidental y sus Aves Endémicas. Consejo Internacional Para la Prevención de las Aves, Sección Mexicana. Mexico.Google Scholar
  34. LaRoche, S., and Berkes, F. (2003). Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Practice for Edible Wild Plants: Biodiversity Use by the Rarámuri in the Sierra Tarahumara, Mexico. International Journal of Sustainable Development and World Ecology 10: 361–375.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. López-Hoffman, L., Monroe, I., Narváez, E., Martínez-Ramos, M., and Ackerly, D. (2006). Sustainability of Mangrove Harvesting: How do Harvesters’ Perceptions Differ From Ecological Analysis? Ecology and Society 11: Art. No. 14.Google Scholar
  36. Martin, G. (1995). Ethnobotany A Methods Manual. Chapman & Hall, London.Google Scholar
  37. Martínez-Ballesté, A., Martorell, C., Martínez-Ramos, M., and Caballero, J. (2005). Applying Retrospective Demographic Models to Assess Sustainable Use: The Maya Management of Xa’an Palms. Ecology and Society 10: Art. 17.Google Scholar
  38. Olmsted, I., and Álvarez-Buylla, E. (1995). Sustainable Harvesting of Tropical Trees: Demography and Matrix Models of Two Palm Species in Mexico. Ecological Applications 5: 484–500.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Pennington, C. W. (1974). The Tarahumar of Mexico Their Environment and Material Culture. University of Utah Press, USA.Google Scholar
  40. Pérez-Negrón, E., and Casas, A. (2007). Use, Extraction Rates and Spatial Availability of Plant Resources in the Tehuacán–Cuicatlán Valley, Mexico: The Case of Quiotepec, Oaxaca. Journal of Arid Environments 70: 356–379.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Phillips, O., and Gentry, A. H. (1993). The Useful Plants of Tambopata, Peru: I. Statistical Hypotheses Tests with a New Quantitative Technique. Economic Botany 47: 15–32.Google Scholar
  42. Pieroni, A. (2001). Evaluation of the Cultural Significance of Wild Food Botanicals Traditionally Consumed in Northwestern Tuscany, Italy. Journal of Ethnobiology 21: 189–104.Google Scholar
  43. Pulido, M. T., Valverde, T., and Caballero, J. (2007). Variation in the Population Dynamics of the Palm Sabal yapa in a Landscape Shaped Shifting Cultivation in the Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico. Journal of Tropical Ecology 23: 139–149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Reyes-García, V., Valdez, V., Byron, E., Godoy, R., Apaza, L., Pérez, E., and Huanca, T. (2004). El Conocimiento Etnobotánico de los Tsimane’. Investigación y Ciencia 18: 46–54.Google Scholar
  45. Reyes-García, V., Huanca, T., Vadez, V., Leonard, W., and Wilkie, D. (2006). Cultural, Practical, and Economic Value of Wild Plants: A Quantitative Study in the Bolivian Amazon. Economic Botany 60: 162–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Sandoval C. A. (1996). Investigación Cualitativa. Instituto Colombiano para el Fomento de la Educación Superior (ICFES). Colombia.Google Scholar
  47. Sariego, J. L. (2002). El Indigenismo en la Tarahumara. Identidad, Comunidad, Relaciones Interétnicas y Desarrollo en la Sierra de Chihuahua. Instituto Nacional Indigenista (INI)–Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH), Mexico.Google Scholar
  48. Siddiqi, N. (1989). Women in Forestry (Part II): NAFP with a Difference. Nepal–Australia Forestry Project (NAFP). Kathmandu, Nepal.
  49. Skutsch, M. (1986). Women’s access in Social Forestry: a Guide to Literature.
  50. Smith, C. O. (2005). Valuation of Commercial Central Himalayan Medicinal Plants. Ambio 34: 8607–610.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. StatSoft, Inc. (2003). Statistica (Data Analysis Software System), Version 6.
  52. Stoffle, R. W., Halmo, D. B., Evans, M. J., and Olmsted, J. E. (1990). Calculating the Cultural Significance of American Indian Plants: Paiute and Shoshone Ethnobotany at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. American Anthropologist 92: 416–432.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Toledo, V. M., Ortiz-Espejel, B., Cortéz, L., Moguel, P., and Ordoñez, M. D. J. (2003). The Multiple Use of Tropical Forests by Indigenous Peoples in Mexico: A Case of Adaptive Management. Conservation Ecology 7(3):9. Google Scholar
  54. Turner, N. J. (1988). The Importance of a Rose: Evaluating the Cultural Significance of Plants in Thompson and Lillooet Interior Salish. American Anthropologist 90: 272–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Vatant, F. (1990). La explotación Forestal y la Producción Doméstica Tarahumara. Serie Antropología Social, Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH), Mexico.Google Scholar
  56. Voeks, R. A., and Leony, A. (2004). Forgetting the Forest: Assessing Medicinal Plant Erosion in Eastern Brazil. Economic Botany 58: S294–S306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Zizumbo-Villarreal, D., and Colunga-Garciamarin, P. (1993). Tecnología Agrícola Tradicional, Conservación de Recursos Naturales y Desarrollo Sustentable. pp. 165–202. In: Leff, E., and Carabias, J. (coord). Cultura y Manejo Sustentable de Recursos Naturales. CIIH/UNAM-Miguel Ángel Porrúa, Mexico.Google Scholar
  58. Zorlu, P., and Lutrell, C. (2006). Más que Bosques y Mujeres: El Debate Sobre la Cuestión del Género en la Silvicultura para el Desarrollo Rural. Overseas Development Institute, London.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrés Camou-Guerrero
    • 1
  • Victoria Reyes-García
    • 2
    • 3
  • Miguel Martínez-Ramos
    • 1
  • Alejandro Casas
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Centro de Investigaciones en Ecosistemas, CIEcoUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoMoreliaMéxico
  2. 2.Institució Catalana de Reserca i Estudis AvançatsUniversitat Autónoma de BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain
  3. 3.Institut de Ciencia i Tecnologia AmbientalsUniversitat Autónoma de BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain

Personalised recommendations