6692 - Biocultural Diversity: The Ngäbe (Guaymí) of Costa Rica¿s Pacific Coast

Anthropological research has shown that a wide range of non-Western societies and human groups – many of whom we subsume under the category of indigenous peoples – maintain ways of coexistence with their ecological environment that are more compatible with its preservation than our Western capitalist modes of production. Our study of the Ngäbe of Alto Laguna de Osa in Costa Rica emphasizes the link between biological and cultural diversity, that is biocultural diversity. Co-management of natural resources should take into account the specific indigenous and local forms of co-existence with the natural environment; and, that indigenous communities need to be supported in their efforts to participate in strategies for conservation and the sustainable use of natural resources. The Ngäbe (or Guaymí) of Costa Rica and Panama are indigenous people of about 200 000 persons which face rapid cultural change. The subsistence of the Ngäbe of Alto Laguna is based on a system of shifting cultivation that results not only in a diversity of eco-systems in their territories, but is also related to a body of knowledge that allows this indigenous population to manage and use resources in these culturally formed landscapes. The indigenous territory of Alto Laguna is populated by about 180 Ngäbe in three villages. By way of participatory methodologies the project staff studied not only Ngäbe ethnobiology and resource use, but also the importance of plants, animals and ecosystems in the Ngäbe’s mythology. We will show cognitive maps of ecosystems from the Ngäbes perspective and will discuss the cultural importance of the ecosystems and its resources.

Keywords: Indigenous Local Knowledge, Participatory Mapping, Biocultural Diversity

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


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