Coral reef socio-ecological systems in a changing environment: voices from Kenyan small-scale fishers

by Mouna Chambon

Coral reefs are famous for hosting rich marine life and providing major services to coastal communities around the world. Yet, those fragile ecosystems are increasingly threatened by human pressures such as overfishing, pollution and climate change. This is especially true in the western Indian Ocean, which has experienced massive coral bleaching events over the last three decades due to global warming. For 7 months, LICCI members have investigated the activities of small-scale fishing communities on the southern coast of Kenya. They told us about the changes they see in their marine environment and how they respond to it. Here is their story.

Octopuses and fish are dying here; it is because the ocean is too hot”, says Matogo Mchambi Dosa, with a stick in hand and a shell bucket on her back. She is walking along the reef of Wasini Island, southern Kenya, to spot octopuses. When she was young, she used to stalk fishermen for days, trying to learn how they were hunting octopuses. Since then, she has become an outstanding octopus hunter. She is now the one teaching this technique to her community, passing down the knowledge of what used to be a male affair, to ladies. But nowadays, conditions are getting tough for footfishers. She explains: « Since I have started fishing, I have seen a lot of changes in the climate. Sea temperatures have considerably increased, and that is why most of the octopus’ dens here are empty. The octopuses prefer to migrate from the shore to deeper and cooler waters in the open ocean”. No octopus means no money for Matogo. On Wasini Island, as in other regions of the world, small-scale fishers rely heavily on coral reefs for their livelihoods, nutritional needs and well-being.

As shown by Matogo’s story, small-scale fishing activities are highly gendered. On the south coast of Kenya, the reef acts as a strong marker of gendered spatial division. While men are using the whole seascape to harvest resources of fisheries, using foot, canoe or motorboat, fisherwomen are restricted to the inner reef area. For both cultural and economic reasons, they do not have the opportunity to fish from a boat, thus limiting their activities to the coastline. Since women and men tend to fish in different parts of the reef, they usually target distinct species and hold complementary knowledge of marine resources. On one hand, women possess very specific knowledge about the tides, the lunar cycle and the ecology of shell species and octopus in the nearshore waters. On the other hand, men who can fish beyond the reef and access the open ocean, have deep knowledge about the currents, the winds and pelagic and demersal fish species. Those gender patterns are not specific to Kenya but echo to many other coral reef-dependent communities around the world, where gender influences the access, use and knowledge related to tropical seascapes.

Picture 1: Matogo Mchambi Dosa, octopus hunter from Mkwiro community in Wasini Island. She is looking for octopuses at low tide to gather food for her family.

Through their intimate experience of the sea, local fishing communities are aware of changes happening in the reef. For many of them, “the weather is changing”: there is more heat, less regular rainfalls and conflicting winds. Local communities are especially worried about fluctuations in seasonality. Their fishing activities are strongly influenced by the alternating monsoon seasons, Kusi and Kaskazi. During the cool season of Kusi (April-October), there is a lot of wind and the sea is particularly rough, so very few fishers go out to sea. On the contrary, the dry and calm season of Kaskazi (November-March) corresponds to a period of high catch. Over the years, the transition between seasons has become less clear:“we are experiencing more and more mixed weather: the conditions of Kusi are seen during Kaskazi, so it is very confusing”. Besides changes in climate, local fishers have also witnessed rising water temperatures and shifting tidal patterns: “tides might come earlier or later than expected” (footfisher from Wasini Island).

Picture 2: Mwaka, a footfisher from Wasini Island, is struggling to find shells and octopuses because of changes in the timing of the spring tide period (“bamvua” in local language): “Bamvuas are less predictable than before. Tides might come earlier or later than expected”. She ends up spending less time fishing and more time looking for alternative sources of income, such as selling firewood.

In turn, those changes in the ocean are affecting marine life with major changes observed in the behavior, distribution and mortality of marine plants and animals. As an example, fishermen widely complain about the decline in brittle stars. Those starfish-like species, which are used locally as a bait to catch fish with basket traps, are increasingly hard to find nowadays. Local people attribute these environmental changes to both changing weather conditions and human activities, especially overfishing. As a result, fishers consider that they are making less money than in the past, which impacts the community at large:Because of the increase in water temperature, there is less fish available (…) It affects the whole economy here, because most of the businesses depend on the sea”(fish processor, Kibuyuni village).

Picture 3: Brittle stars are used as bait by basket-trap fishers. Recently, fishermen have noticed a reduction in the availability of brittle stars, so they have started to shift to other types of bait such as squids.

To address those changing conditions in the reef, local people have decided to take action. Over the last decade, they have organized themselves as local community groups to efficiently manage their marine resources and ensure sustainable alternative livelihoods. Those groups are called “Beach Management Units’ – or BMU in short. The membership is open to anyone who depends on the sea for living, both women and men. Through the BMUs, and with the support of donors, NGOs and researchers, local people have been able to navigate through environmental changes and implement suitable solutions. On Wasini Island for instance, the BMUs have created two local marine protected areas (MPA) that are directly ruled by the villagers themselves. Within those local MPAs, no fishing is allowed at all. Instead, BMU members are monitoring coral health on a weekly basis. They hope that this local protection status will help to increase fish biomass and make the corals more resilient to future potential bleaching events. In addition, tourists can visit the local MPAs and contribute to sustain local incomes. Such community-based initiative contributes to reverse marine biodiversity loss and climate change impacts, while supporting local livelihoods. It shows that BMU activities are pivotal for small-scale fishing communities to cope with rising temperatures, depleting resources and increasing poverty. BMU actions also demonstrate the agency of local communities to respond to the problems they perceive and ensure the viability of their way of life and identity as people of the sea: “Even if we find less fish than before, people are still determined to try their luck. All the knowledge we have is related to the ocean, so we stick to fishing activities” (Female foot fisher, Wasini Island).

Picture 4: BMU member wearing a conservation T-shirt: “I plant the mangrove; I take care of the environment” (from Kiswahili). Through the BMU, local communities from the south coast are sensitive to the protection of their marine environment.

“Who and what am I without fish and fishing?”:  How climate change is shaping the identity of indigenous peoples in Nekrasovka on Sakhalin Island

by Evgeniya Dudina

The Nivkhi are an indigenous people who have traditionally lived in the region of the Lower Amur river and Sakhalin Island. According to the most recent census (2020), there are around two thousand Nivkhi remaining on Sakhalin. Their livelihood depends almost entirely on fishing and gathering wild berries and plants.

One afternoon in August 2021 I was walking a sandy dusty road in Sakhalin’s northernmost village, Nekrasovka––headed to the house of one of my assistants. Elena (her name has been changed). She is a member of the Nivkh community, a mother of five, and a very experienced fisher––stronger, bolder, and often more knowledgeable than the male elders. It was a summer of unprecedented heat and little precipitation thus the unusually dusty road. Locals were both glad and worried about the weather, noting that “we’ve never had such a summer before, one that feels like a ‘real’ summer.”  Among the other factors influencing local livelihood, such as oil and gas extraction and industrial fishing, the increasing temperatures are dramatically affecting the fishing season. Every summer the season has started earlier and earlier, with less and less fish.

My visit to Sakhalin coincided with the most tense and busy period of year. From August until October the Nivkh community is engaged in fishing in the Pomr’ and Baikal bays ––first, for pink salmon and later for chum. During my time in Nekrasovka, the village seemed both empty and alive: while elderly people (mostly women) were in the forest and wetlands collecting wild berries, younger men and women spent the bulk of their time on the shore catching fish, with great focus and intensity. The sharp, pungent smell of fish was everywhere.

The main purpose of my work in Sakhalin was to try to understand how climate change is shaping local livelihood, self-perception and the community itself. In casual conversations, formal interviews, and during focus group discussions, I frequently heard people voice their concerns about their future; their tone was often marked by a sense of fatalism and hopelessness. The threat of the disappearance of fish means, for Nivkhi, not only losing their subsistence way of life, but also a diminishing of the community’s understanding of itself. As I heard many people say during my time on Sakhalin: fishing here, on this land, is who we are. If there is no fishing, who and what are we?

In a patchwork attempt to adjust to the changes brought about by the climate crisis, Nivkhi in Nekrasovka are working to change the catching composition and are focusing on other species of fish that have recently appeared in the region in greater numbers, but they are dependent on a market demand that is primarily focused on salmon. 

I left Nekrasovka in October, at the end of the summer fishing season and the beginning of a time of waiting: waiting for the ice to freeze on the bay and the winter fishing season to start. The locals call this time the ‘season of silence.’ The summer’s sand and dust on the road had washed away, leaving large pits and puddles. Elena’s children went to school along the same road. During the summer season, she and her husband had been able (with manageable debts) to catch and sell almost enough fish to get their children ready for school that year. But what the next year will be like, and the years to come – no one knows. The signs that the locals have traditionally been guided by become unreliable in conditions of increasing climate change.

Chiloé Agriculture: a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System threatened by drought

by Julián Caviedes

Fieldwork is one of the most exciting and fun aspects of doing research. You get the chance to travel, meet new people and places, and live unique experiences. In the field is were you get inspiration and energy to survive the endless hours in front of the computer you will spend once the fieldwork ends. For some, it is one of the main reasons for doing a PhD (but this is supposed to be a secret). However, fieldwork also comes with responsibilities derived from working with people. One needs to be humble and sensitive as you are engaging mostly with people you do not know and who do not know you, and have to be extremely careful in not creating false expectations. It is expected that you generate a symbiotic relationship where you try to get information to answer to your questions but also contribute with something that will be useful to the people you are working with. With all that in mind I got to the Archipiélago de Chiloé (south of Chile) in November 2021 to spend five months doing fieldwork for my PhD in livelihood resilience of chilote campesinos in the face of social-environmental change.

The Chiloé Archipelago, composed of one main island (isla grande) and around 40 smaller islands, is well known for its agriculture and potatoes. Yes, you read right, potatoes. With more than 300 native varieties grown on the island, Chiloé is recognized as a secondary center of origin for the potato (Picture 1). Small-scale agriculture in Chiloé, which includes the cultivation of potatoes, homegardens, orchards, apple farms, poultry, sheeps and cattle, is the fundamental pillar of the food sovereignty of the island’s inhabitants (Picture 2). In 2011, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), designated ‘Chiloé Agriculture’ as one of the 62 ‘Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems’ (GIAHS), thus recognizing the local and global importance of this agroecosystem. However, various global and local change processes are strongly affecting the resilience of agriculture in Chiloé and the campesino livelihoods of the archipelago. Note that I said campesinos, not peasants, not farmers[1].

The first thing that I did when I got to the island was to present myself to the local authorities, the political and the traditional ones. I told them who I was and what my research was about, and asked them for ways in which I could contribute with something that could be useful to deal with their own problematics. I also contacted the people in charge of the agricultural extension programs and people who have been doing research on the island. It was important that they all knew me, and all their inputs were very important for my research and my stay on the island. During my first field season I wanted to explore two main questions, (i) what were the observations of social-environmental changes perceived by campesinos in Chiloé, and (ii) what where the perceived drivers of those changes. After some weeks on the island, a chilote[2] friend introduced me to Patricia, a very experienced campesina who lives near Castro, the main city in the island. Since the beginning we got really well with Pati, the day after we met she invited me to mariscar (harvest seafood) and then we prepared a curanto, a typical dish from the island which includes seafood, chicken, smoked pork, potatoes (always potatoes), and faba beans, among other ingredients (Picture 3, 4). We spend several afternoons working in her potato field and homegardens and talking about the island’s history and the recent processes happening there. She also introduced me to some of her friends and then, using a snowball sample, I got to interview 15 people from three different Municipalities of the island.

From the interviews I surprisingly found that the main observations of change were related to drought. Chiloé has historically have main precipitations above 2.000mm a year. In 1935 Charles Darwin described the island like this: “In winter, the climate is detestable, and in summer it is only a little better. I should think there are few parts of the world, within the temperate regions, where so much rain falls” (Darwin 1860, The Voyage of the Beagle). However, the rainy Chiloé seems to be a thing of the past as all the participants mentioned that ‘it rained more in the past’, ‘droughts are more intense now’, and ‘temperatures are higher now’. This is extremely worrying for local campesinos as the agriculture in Chiloé is mostly rainfed. When asked about the drivers that there influencing those changes, campesinos mentioned global changes, but also processes that were occurring at a local scale. Most campesinos attributed drought to changes in the atmospheric system, derived from climate change. However, they also mentioned that the establishment of exotic tree plantations, the reduction in native forest surface and the extraction of peat mosses for international selling were all having detrimental effects in the availability of underground waters. As a participant told me “The water in Chiloé comes from the sky and the earth, from the rain, from groundwater, from the forest and peat mosses”.

Local communities, such as campesinos in Chiloé, are some of the most vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change. Paradoxically, their voices are rarely heard by policymakers in charge of creating and implementing adaptations or response measures. Responses to climate change must be site-specific and not standardized, as for example an island as Chiloé, will have different adaptations requirements that a mountainous ecosystem. Therefore, it is imperative that local voices are heard and considered when deciding policies regarding adaptation to climate change. Overall fieldwork was great, the island is wonderful and chilote people were amazing. Now, while writing this piece and seeing at pictures, I realize how much I want to be in the field again. I am counting the days to return to the island and to see the people I met.


[1] Please read https://www.heifer.org/blog/a-word-about-the-word-campesino.html

[2] Chilote or chilota are the local names that receive the people who live on the island.

Climate change, pandemic and now cyclone: We are worried for tomorrow !

Our core team member Vincent recently came back from two months of fieldwork in Madagascar after waiting two years due to COVID restrictions. He tells us how climate change and pandemic have affected localy the live of Betsileo people.

These last two years have been particularly tumultuous for Madagascar. Particularly exposed to climate change and extreme climatic events, the current situation in Madagascar have been exacerbated by bad governance and food crisis. Indeed, in addition to current climate change affecting Betsileo people from the highlands of Madagascar, the pandemic and recently, the cyclone Batsiray fragilize local coping strategy and mood of people.

School destroyed by the cyclone

A great share of Betsileo people living in the Namoly valley relies on tourism as a source of income. The pandemic and the border shutdown force local people to deal with climate change and COVID issues without this additional source of income. Moreover, in February 2022, the cyclone Batsiray destroyed most of the houses’ valleys and filled the paddy rice with 2m of sand due to erosion. This cyclone has been le most violent known in the valley, unprecedented in living memory. If Betsileo people reacted quickly by setting other short-circle crops such as sweet potatoes to overcome the loss of rice production, this last event seriously affected local wellbeing and health. The cyclone destroyed the new irrigation system developed a few years ago to overcome drought. This event affected both the mood of people and the quality of freshwater. During these two months of fieldwork, several people died, which might be related to water quality, COVID or post-traumatic chock after the cyclone.

Traditional burial

The cyclone destroyed all the bridges of the only road connecting the valley to the first town. This time reaching the fieldside have particularly challenging, forcing us to walk more than 20 km. Besides this difficulty, this isolated the valley, depriving people of outside help.

Despite the impressive local adaptation capacity, the accumulation of extreme events starts challenging the local resilience.

Vincent Porcher

Partner’s side project

Dr. Janelle Baker

Check out the recent work of our partners around climate change and IPLC research. “Athabasca University researchers share how they’re working to solve important environmental challenges related to industry and climate change”

“Community members rely on this food source—it’s their main source of food in these regions. We’re actually looking at it from their perspective and their experiences of what they’ve seen change and their concerns …”

– Dr. Janelle Baker, cultural anthropologist

Full article here !

Emphasizing Indigenous and local knowledge in the latest IPCC report 

Anna Schlingmann, March 31, 2022

Photo by Anna Schlingmann

On 28 February 2022, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the latest report from the Working Group II, Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, in which researchers from all over the world have collected, compiled and updated current knowledge on climate change impacts, adaptation options and hindrances, and implications for vulnerability.

In recent years, the IPCC has increasingly recognized the significance of incorporating Indigenous and local knowledge into climate change agenda. While in previous reports the focus was mainly placed on scientific knowledge, Indigenous and local knowledge has receded into the background in form of marginal notes. However, in recent years the IPCC has started to increase its efforts towards more inclusive approaches on Indigenous and local knowledge, hence towards a more balanced representation of different knowledge systems.

Several LICCI members and partners, including Victoria Reyes-García, Xiaoyue Li, Anna Schlingmann and Eranga Galappaththi, have contributed to chapter five “Food, Fibre, and other Ecosystem Products” in the second IPCC report. In their work, they reviewed, aggregated and summarized recent research on the current and future contribution and importance of Indigenous and local knowledge systems for the understanding and reduction of climate change impacts in the food systems. When Indigenous Peoples and local communities  “[…] (have) access to and control over their lands and natural resources, food systems can potentially be more sustainably managed and more resilient.” For example, preserving locally adapted native crops and promoting diversified cropping systems such as milpa can help against climate shocks such as drought or cold waves, without the need for expensive and toxic chemical fertilizers. Furthermore, a culture of sharing and mutual support increases the resilience of Indigenous Peoples and local communities, not only in times of stress and emergency.

Nevertheless, given the rate of current and future climate change is unprecedented for human society, nature resource-based livelihoods and well-being of Indigenous Peoples and local communities are and will be at least challenged, if not threatened, and local responses to new stresses will be needed.

It is therefore inevitable to foster bottom-up adaptation in form of co-operations and co-management with Indigenous Peoples and local communities to strengthen sustainable and successful adaptation to climate change.

Read the full report here.

Divergent trajectories of local ecological knowledge among divided communities: insights from Hutsuls and Romanians of Bukovina (Romania and Ukraine)

Giulia, one of our LICCI partners, has recently defended her Ph.D. Her work focuses on Hutsuls, a small ethnolinguistic group living in the Ukrainian and Romanian Carpathian Mountains. Giulia conducted cross-border research on how the political context can affect the use of wild food and medicinal plants. Indeed, Hutsul communities used to live under the same political entity, Bukovina, until the 1940s when it was split between the Soviet Union and the Kingdom of Romania. This complex, fascinating and beautiful region of Eastern Europe hosted her Ph.D. research, which she conducted within the framework of two ERC-funded projects, DiGe and LICCI.

Read the interview here:

Bukovina, I have never heard of it! Could you tell us a bit more about this region?

Bukovina -called “Europe in miniature”- is an incredible example of how a harmonious coexistence of different ethnic and religious groups can occur. Such multiculturality was fostered by the complex Bukovinian history; it was the easternmost region of the Austro Hapsburg Empire, before becoming part of the Kingdom of Romania and subsequently split. It is now Ukraine in its Northern portion and Romania in its Southern area. This peculiarity made Bukovina and its Hutsul and Romanian communities, an ideal case study.

What about the Hutsuls?

Hutsuls are a small ethnolinguistic group. For centuries, they have interacted with the surrounding landscape, the endless forests, and the meadows created for feeding their animals. Over time, Hutsuls built a complex knowledge system, that makes them privileged observers of environmental changes in their landscapes. Yet, their local knowledge systems are being increasingly jeopardized by the rapid environmental and socio-economic changes, including the tumultuous political history. 

So, what was the purpose of your research?

My objective was to study how political borders (specifically the Bukovinian border created in the 1940s) affect local knowledge of the use of wild food and medicinal plants and its transmission, as well as local environmental perceptions. 

What are your main findings?

I came up with three main findings. 

First, the corpora of knowledge related to plants, especially medicinal plants, are richer among Hutsuls and Romanians living in Ukraine than among Hutsuls and Romanians living in Romania. This difference probably originates in their political (and multilingual) context, which was possibly incorporated during the Soviet times.

Second, local knowledge transmission occurs in divergent forms across the border.

Hutsuls and Romanians living in Ukraine, rely on written and visual sources for obtaining information regarding wild food and medicinal plants much more than communities living in Romania, which conversely transmit their knowledge orally within the family or by local elders. This could be due to the bibliophily of the people of Ukraine. 

Third, Romanian and Ukrainian Hutsuls, well known as people of the forest, share perceptions of forest benefits but differ in their perceptions of the drivers of forest change, possibly due to the diverging forest management policies.

Which is your overarching message?

Oh, I have learned so much from the people of Bukovina, their way of caring for their fairy-tale landscape. You can feel their embeddedness. They have taught me that „we are one”, with their everyday activities, caring about the forest, and preparing herbal teas for their animals, as „humans, animals, it is the same, just the same”.

I believe that cross-border ethnobiology is a powerful tool to highlight similarities and differences, which is a crucial way to promote transboundary environmental policies. Considering the fast decline of natural resources, common environmental management understandings (and policies) are much needed as peace-keeping strategies.

Next steps?

I am now working on a paper on the perception of climate change impacts among Hutsuls living in Romania, and I regret I did not perform the semi-structured interviews also on the Ukrainian side. It would have been very interesting!

My heart goes to all Hutsuls, Romanians, and Ukrainians of Ukraine suffering from unjustifiable violence. May the peace reigns over Ukraine and its people soon.

Publications:

Mattalia, G., Stryamets, N., Balázsi, Á., Molnár, G., Gliga, A., Pieroni, A., Sõukand R.  Reyes-García, V. (2021). Hutsuls’ perceptions of forests and uses of forest resource in Ukrainian and Romanian Bukovina. International Forestry Review, 23(3), 1.

Mattalia, G., Stryamets, N., Grygorovych, A., Pieroni, A., & Sõukand, R. (2021). Borders as crossroads: the diverging routes of herbal knowledge of Romanians living on the Romanian and Ukrainian sides of Bukovina. Frontiers in Pharmacology, 11, 1839.

Mattalia, G., Stryamets, N., Pieroni, A., & Sõukand, R. (2020). Knowledge transmission patterns at the border: Ethnobotany of Hutsuls living in the Carpathian Mountains of Bukovina (SW Ukraine and NE Romania). Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 16, 41

LICCI on air at the BBC Radio programme CrowdScience

Acequias and terraced slopes of Sierra Nevada, Spain.  Credits/Source: David García-del-Amo. 

On December 31st, David García del Amo participated in CrowdScience, a BBC radio program focused on health, life, and environmental issues. This time the topic was about sustainability and if human beings are too selfish to save the planet. During the program, they presented some successful initiatives around the world showing sustainable use of natural resources and the main problems that those communities are facing to continue with that sustainability. In our case, the radio team came to Sierra Nevada, Spain, to visit the field site where David has been working with local communities on the framework of the LICCI project. These communities preserve a traditional water management system that has allowed them to maintain sustainable management of water, a scarce resource in an arid region. During the interview, two members of a local irrigation community and David explained how these communities continue preserving and repairing the traditional network of acequias (irrigation ditches). They also explained some of the internal rules of each community for the use and sharing of water among their members, which have allowed sustainable management of hydric resources for centuries. Finally, they also commented on some of the main drivers that are endangering their future, like climate change, but also the rural exodus or the lack of economic profitability of agricultural products grown in mountain areas. 

You can find the original podcast here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3ct1prr 

Discussing local and global climate change impacts with pupils and students

“What will happen if we do nothing?”

Back in December, Anna Schlingmann was invited for a video call with 11-year old pupils from a primary school in Aragón to provide answer to their questions on climate change and expected impacts.

It was interesting to see that the pupils were specifically worried about the situation in the Arctic and the future of polar bears. However, they also wondered how climate change will affect humans, and what consequences could arise from rising sea levels, increased water evaporation and possible droughts. One pupil asked for more information concerning “the worst case that could happen”, while another one feared that “the world could explode due to climate change”. Since several pupils were interested in knowing what humans can do to limit global warming, the session was closed with a discussion on simple steps each of us can take to contribute to limit future climate change.

Have you observed a LICCI? Version 3.0

Like it is now tradition (it’s the third consecutive year!), last 12th of February LICCI team members Anna Schlingmann, Ramin Soleymani and Anna Porcuna Ferrer run an activity with high school students from all over  Catalonia.

This initiative was organized within the framework of “Bojos per la Ciència” (i.e., Mad for Science about), a program financed by “Fundació Catalunya La Pedrera” that aims at encouraging scientific vocations by organizing theoretical-practical sessions given by a wide-range of research groups in Catalonia.

Before the session, participants interviewed elders in their families/community (grandparents, neighbours, etc.) in order to document local observations of climate change impacts (LICCIs) in Spain. During the activity, we discussed about the importance of this knowledge to understand climate change effects worldwide and entered the information in the LICCI citizen science platform OpenTEK.

Participants also gave us great advice on user-flow improvements for the platform. Thanks a lot!

The OpenTEK platform is constantly evolving and more dissemination activities will follow. So, if interested in running one, please get in touch with the team at !

Publication alert: Growing up in the Betsileo landscape: Children’s wild edible plants knowledge in Madagascar

A recent study by the LICCI team shows that knowledge of wild edible plants is differentially distributed across gender and life stages (adults/children). The study, carried out by Vincent Porcher in the southern highlands of Madagascar and published in the journal PLOS ONE, shows that certain sets of knowledge about wild edible plants are acquired during adulthood, while other sets of knowledge are acquired very early, making children reliable knowledge holders.  

“Children have extended knowledge and know different species than adults. Children know an unexpectedly high number of wild edible plants which challenge our understanding of knowledge distribution in small-scale societies,” says Porcher, who adds that children cite introduced species more often, while adults cite more endemic species which might be an indicator of environmental change. They therefore stress the importance of future studies considering children when exploring local ecological knowledge. 

“We have for too long ignored the knowledge of women and children, yet to respond to climate, environmental and biocultural issues, and it is essential to have a representative vision of traditional knowledge”, Porcher concludes.

Link to full paper:  https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0264147