Gender differences in plant use knowledge within a traditional fishing community in northeastern Brazil

David Y P Tng, Deborah Mattos Guimaraes Apgaua, Marisa M. D. Lisboa, Charbel N El-Hani


Background: Understanding patterns in traditional plant use knowledge is crucial for assisting policy making with regard to nature conservation, human nutrition, human health, as well as educational and participatory processes in traditional communities. We aim to document and describe local ethnobotanical knowledge and test the hypothesis that gender structures the knowledge of plant use possessed by artisanal fishers in a fishing community in northeast Bahia, Brazil.

Methods: Through semi-structured interviews and guided walks with traditional experts, we recorded the local knowledge of plant use with regard to medicine, food, wood and fibre, and ritualistic/religious practices. The data were analyzed using quantitative indices of use value (UV) and informant consensus factor (ICF), and gender differences in plant use knowledge was analyzed using a non-metric multidimensional scaling (NMDS ordination).

Results: A total of 161 ethnospecies with local names were registered, including 122 species of plants from 52 botanical families based on scientific (academic) taxonomy, which were identified along with the plant parts used, habitats, and preparation methods. Female and male traditional experts possess a different set of plant use knowledge, with women generally citing more food and medicinal plants, and men citing more wood and fiber plants.

Conclusions: Gender differences in plant use knowledge can be explained by the different occupations of the male and female traditional experts. The results of this study provide a framework for extending our ethnobotanical investigations to other traditional fishing communities, and also to examine other social and demographic factors influencing traditional knowledge related to plant use.

Keywords: Artisanal fishers, Gender differences, Northeast Brazil, Plant uses, Traditional plant knowledge

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Ethnobotany Research and Applications (ISSN 1547-3465) is published online by the Department of Ethnobotany, Institute of Botany, Ilia State University.
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