Environment and livelihood of the Kouni community of the Kayes sub-prefecture (Bouenza, Congo)
Keywords:Congo, Mvouandzi, ecosystem services, traditional knowledge, phytodiversity.
Background: The rainforest is a source of particularly diversified natural goods and services, satisfying at least 80% of the population's needs. Notwithstanding the intimate link between population and biodiversity, anthropogenic pressure and its corollaries, such as global climate change, have led to a specific and genetic erosion of about 30% over the last three decades. The major causes of these are, in the case of the Congo, anarchic urbanization, construction of physical communication infrastructures without an environmental and social impact assessment; and unbridled collection of medicinal plants for commercial purposes. The loss of biodiversity is a clear sign of unsustainable use of natural resources, which the traditional societies depends on for their livelihoods.
Methods: Our study conducted at Mvouandzi, sub-prefecture of Kayes (Congo), is based on the ethnobotanical knowledge survey and floristic inventory. The informants, aged between 15 and 50 years or more comprised 25 men and 43 women who possess plant secrets. Prior to fieldwork, we reviewed existing literature that provided information on the status of inventoried species, their phytogeographic distribution, and known uses within their range. The ethnobotanical knowledge survey took place in two phases, namely: work with focus groups and conducting personalized interviews with the informants; and the collection of samples coupled, when possible, to the participatory approach.
Results: The floristic inventory lists 81 useful species, corresponding to 72 genera and 43 families. Some species are multi-purpose, and 26 of the 60 medicinal plants inventoried are specifically associated with the traditional pharmacopoeia. 36 species are multi-purpose and the others 15 intervene specially in food, 26 in phytotherapy, and 5 in handicrafts. The high values of the ethnobotanical indices (the ethnobotanical use value (VU), the informant consensus factor (CFI), and the level of fidelity (NF)) show a strong involvement of these taxa in the daily life of this traditional society. Sociological analysis reveals that the level of ethnobotanical knowledge is proportional to the subjects’ age and in this matter, women excel in the exploitation of empirical knowledge.
Conclusions: The Kouni community possesses a sophisticated ethnobotanical knowledge, which is a fundamental part of socio-cultural base of the Kouni community and an important cultural asset of Congolese nation. However, the Kouni community is shrinking due to rural exodus. Therefore, documenting the existing traditional knowledge is the first priority to preserve the Kouni cultural diversity.
Keywords: Congo, Mvouandzi, ecosystem services, traditional knowledge, phytodiversity.
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