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6369 - Preferences of language use and plant resources among the Ngäbe (Guaymí) of Costa Rica

Today both, biological diversity and local knowledge are lost at an accelerating speed as a result of processes of globalisation, climate change, habitat destruction and “development”. The Ngäbe (or Guaymí) of Costa Rica and Panama are an indigenous people of about 200 000 persons which face rapid cultural change. The indigenous territory of Alto Laguna de Osa is habitated by about 180 people which settled their since the late 1960ies. About 70 percent of the territory are primary or intervened very humid tropical forest. With the help of freelist interviews we tested the local botanical knowledge of useful plants for craftsmanship, construction of houses and sources of food with informants of different age, sex and with different levels of formal education in Alto Laguna de Osa, Costa Rica. The interviews resulted in three sets of mostly mixed freelists in Spanish and Ngäbere (the local language) for each informant. Statistical analysis showed no significant differences in the number of plants that could be listed by the informants of different sex, age and formal education, but showed that older people and people with less formal education named more plants in their traditional language. Many of these plants are wild ones that are gathered in primary forests or abandoned swiddens. With the loss of preferences for wild tropical plants because of culture change, the forests, abandoned swiddens, and secondary vegetation will be of lesser importance in the future.

Keywords: Quantitative Ethnobotany, Ethnobiology, Plant Diversity, Indigenous Local Knowledge, Biocultural Diversity

Author: Campregher, Christoph (University of Vienna, Austria / Österreich)

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