Palm Use by Two Chachi Communities in Ecuador: a 30-Year Reappraisal

Abstract

This study reappraised traditional knowledge (TK) about palms (Arecaceae) by the Chachi indigenous group in northwestern Ecuador, 30 years after the first study in 1985 on Chachi palm ethnobotany (Barfod and Balslev 1988). We wished to gain insight about which palm species the Chachi people use today, and how palm TK has changed among the Chachi since 1985. In 2015, using semi-structured interviews and participant observation, we documented nine useful palm species and 457 use reports. The 1985 methods were less formalized, based on open-ended interviews and recorded 14 palm species with 38 use descriptions. Most uses fell into the categories Food (13 use descriptions), Utensils/Tools (10), and Construction (7). In 2015, most of the use descriptions similarly fall into the categories Food (38), Construction (20), and Utensils and tools (19). As in 1985, the most important species harvested today are Iriartea deltoidea and Wettinia quinaria. Four understory palm species reported as useful in 1985 were not recorded in 2015. Still, most of the uses documented among the Chachi in 1985 were also registered in 2015. Knowledge about blowguns, blowgun darts, and marimba keys, however, seems to have vanished. Although palms still provide important ecosystem services for the Chachi, (e.g., food and construction), better management of natural resources and land-use is pivotal to meet the Sustainable Development Goals that Ecuador is committed to through their participation in the United Nation‘s Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform. This is particularly complicated because of the rapid human population growth in the coastal lowland of Ecuador and the impending threats from climate change.

Resumen

En este estudio reevaluamos el conocimiento tradicional (CT) sobre las palmeras (Arecaceae) del grupo indígena Chachi en el noroeste de Ecuador, 30 años después del primer estudio de 1985 sobre etnobotánica de palmeras Chachi (Barfod and Balslev 1988). Deseamos conocer qué especies de palmeras utiliza el pueblo Chachi hoy en día y cómo ha cambiado el conocimiento tradicional entre los Chachi desde 1985. En 2015, mediante entrevistas semiestructuradas y observación participativa, documentamos nueve especies de palmeras útiles y 457 registros de uso. En 1985 los métodos fueron menos formales, se basaron en entrevistas abiertas y registraron 14 especies de palma con 38 descripciones de uso. La mayoría de los usos fueron en las categorías de Alimentación (13 descripciones de uso), Utensilios y herramientas (10) y Construcción (7). En 2015, la mayor parte de las descripciones de usos también fueron en las categorías de Alimentación (38), Construcción (20) y Utensilios y herramientas (19). Al igual que en 1985, las especies más importantes cosechadas hoy en día son Iriartea deltoidea y Wettinia quinaria. Cuatro especies de palmeras de sotobosque reportadas como útiles en 1985 no se registraron en 2015. No obstante, la mayoría de los usos documentados entre los Chachi en 1985 también se registraron en 2015. El conocimiento sobre cerbatanas, dardos de cerbatana y teclas de marimba, sin embargo, parece haber desaparecido. Aunque las palmeras todavía proporcionan servicios ecosistémicos importantes para los Chachi, (por ejemplo, alimentos y construcción), es fundamental mejorar la gestión de los recursos naturales y uso de la tierra para cumplir los Objetivos de Desarrollo Sostenible que Ecuador se ha comprometido a cumplir a través de su participación en la Plataforma de Conocimiento de Desarrollo Sostenible de las Naciones Estados. Esto es particularmente complicado debido al rápido crecimiento de la población humana en las tierras bajas de la costa del Ecuador y las inminentes amenazas del cambio climático.

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Acknowledgments

We are grateful to all involved Chachi people for hosting us and for sharing their knowledge. We thank Jirdo Añapa (president of the FECCHE), Alfredo Añapa (local interpreter), Emilio Añapa, and Samuel Añapa and especial thank to Frixon Mera for the assistance in the field. We extend our gratitude to Hugo Navarrette, Rommel Montúfar, Lucia de la Torre, Jaime and Elisa Levy, Javier Robayo, Inayat Olmedo, and Olga Carnicer for their precious help during the field study and to the National Herbarium of Ecuador, Marcia Peñafiel, and Efrain Freire.

Funding

This study was funded by Claraz Schenkung.

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Correspondence to Caroline S. Weckerle.

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Schneider, E., Cámara-Leret, R., Barfod, A. et al. Palm Use by Two Chachi Communities in Ecuador: a 30-Year Reappraisal. Econ Bot 71, 342–360 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12231-017-9397-8

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Key Words:

  • Chachi
  • Chocó
  • Ethnobotany
  • Palms
  • Traditional knowledge