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Heterogeneity in Ethnoecological Knowledge and Management of Medicinal Plants in the Himalayas of Nepal: Implications for Conservation

Suresh Kumar Ghimire, Tribhuvan University
Doyle McKey, Centre d'Écologie fonctionnelle et évolutive (CEFE)-CNRS
Yildiz Aumeeruddy-Thomas, Centre d'Écologie fonctionnelle et évolutive (CEFE)-CNRS


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The importance accorded to ethnoecological knowledge for suggesting new paths in scientific research, understanding ecological processes, and designing sustainable management of natural resources has grown in recent years. However, variation in knowledge and practices, both within and across cultures, has not been given much attention in resource management nor in developing scientific understanding of the ecological status of key resources. In this paper, we discuss the heterogeneity and complexity of local ecological knowledge in relation to its practical and institutional context with respect to management of Himalayan medicinal plants. We show factors affecting this variation, and discuss how knowledge is put into action. We assessed variation in knowledge relating to the diversity of medicinal plant species, their distribution, medicinal uses, biological traits, ecology, and management within and between two culturally different social groups living in villages located in the Shey-Phoksundo National Park and its buffer zone in northwestern Nepal. Heterogeneity in levels of knowledge and in practices both within and between these groups corresponds to differences in level of specialization in relation to medicinal plants, to socio-cultural and institutional contexts, and to extra-local factors that govern people’s activities. We argue that understanding the heterogeneity of knowledge and practices within a given area is crucial to design management practices that build on the intricate links between knowledge, practices, and institutional context. It is also important to develop ecological studies that will best inform management.

Key words

Conservation; ethnoecology; Himalaya; medicinal plants.

Copyright © 2004 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087