Human Ecology

, Volume 36, Issue 5, pp 679–697 | Cite as

Piaroa Manioc Varietals: Hyperdiversity or Social Currency?

  • Serena Heckler
  • Stanford Zent


The maintenance of exceptionally high numbers of folk varieties by the Piaroa people of the Venezuelan Amazon is considered. We cataloged 113 manioc folk varieties, their nomenclature, use and relevant characters, revealing significant insights into the role of manioc in Piaroa social life. Through a qualitative investigation of the cultivation, processing and symbolic significance of manioc (Manihot esculenta) in two Piaroa regions over a period of 18 years, we have found that such agrobiodiversity can only be fully explained by a combination of multiple factors, including pragmatic and ecological considerations, the subtle and complex diversity of Piaroa manioc preparations and a variety of sociocultural factors, such as manioc’s role as a mediator of social relationships and as a marker of cultural and social heritage.


Manihot esculenta diversity Cassava Piaroa Agrobiodiversity Indigenous agriculture 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of DurhamDurhamUK
  2. 2.Centro de AntropologíaInstituto Venezolano de Investigaciones CientíficasCaracasVenezuela

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