Understanding the ecological knowledge of tribal and rural societies is necessary to conserve and sustain natural resources. This volume discusses the history and importance of ethnobotany with specific reference to four tribal communities of Odisha, India. It begins with an account of the nature of the tribes involved in the study. Based on participatory fieldwork, it presents an insider’s account of the tribal culture and its relationship with plants. It provides the ethnobotanical descriptions of 210 species of plants belonging to 77 families, presenting their local names, origin and the medicinal, cultural, culinary, economic, ecological uses of the species. It takes up study of the plants used by tribes in the drug-based and spiritual healing processes elaborating the philosophies behind knowledge transmission such as divination, hereditary, discipleship and kinship. Related aspects such as disease diagnosis, diet restrictions and rituals are depicted in detail. There is a special chapter on forests and non-timber forest products (NTFPs) that details the efforts of communities in forest conservation, their land-use patterns, forest classification systems, list of NTFPs and their harvest-consumption patterns. It also deals with the role of NGOs, middlemen and government agencies in this. Throughout, the emphasis is on the philosophical relationship of the communities with their ecosystem.
The book would prove extremely useful to policy-makers, academicians, social workers and general readers looking forward to accompany the tribal communities towards ethno-sensitive development.
F. Merlin Franco
Dr. Merlin Franco, F., is an Ethnobiologist hailing from a beautiful village near Kuzhithurai of Kanyakumari District. He earned a PhD in Ethnobotany from the University of Madras through Madras Christian College (MCC). He has published more than 10 papers in refereed journals and has worked with research institutes of repute such as the CIKS and the Earthwatch Institute. Franco is interested in understanding the various relationships between nature and human beings and believes that the primary goal of science is to empower people so as to achieve social justice.
Dr. D. Narasimhan is an Associate Professor in the Department of Plant Biology and Plant Biotechnology at MCC. He has a PhD in Plant Taxonomy from the University of Madras, earned through MCC. He is a well acclaimed expert in the fields of Angiosperm Taxonomy, Ethnobotany and Medicinal plants with more than 34 papers in refereed journals. Dr. Narasimhan has been studying the Flora of Tropical Dry Evergreen Forests and Southern Western Ghats as well as Medicinal Plant Markets of Tamil Nadu. Two plant species — Anoectochilus narasimhanii and Orophea narasimhanii — have been named after him by his students as a fitting tribute.
This book is based on a joint venture between Centre for Floristic Research, Madras Christian College and Integrated Rural Development of Weaker Sections in India (IRDWSI), a reputed non-profit organisation, working with the tribal communities of Odisha. The fieldwork was conducted between 2663 and 2009. Majority of the data were collected through mere observation, so as to present an insider’s account of the tribal culture and its relationship with plants.
The first chapter is introductory in nature, providing an overview of ethnobotany, its history and importance in the modern world and the second chapter deals with the locality, communities and method of study. The methodology is explained in such a way that any reader could replicate it on the field. The third chapter lists the medicinal, cultural, culinary, economic and other uses of 210 species of plants and two sub-species, belonging to 77 families in alphabetical order. The local Odia, Kuvi, Poraja, Gadaba and Honda names are also provided along with details of the knowledge holders who had provided the valuable information on them. The ethnotaxonomical knowledge of the four communities are provided in the fourth chapter, using Berlin et al. system of folk classification as the template. The chapter also discusses about the importance of local names, their origin, ecological significance, current status of the four tribal languages and implications for loss of languages.
The fifth chapter discusses about the plants used in the drug-based and spiritual healing processes. It elaborates the philosophies behind knowledge transmission such as (1) Divination, (2) Hereditary, (3) Discipleship and (4) Kinship. Disease diagnosis, diet restrictions and the rituals concerned are depicted in detail. The existence of an inverse relationship between the number of plant species used in drug-based healing and the number of species used in spiritual healing processes is explored for the first time. The sixth chapter on forests and NTFFs gives an insight about the effort put in by the communities in forest conservation, their land-use patterns, forest classification systems, list of NTFPs and their harvest- consumption patterns. The role of NGOs, middlemen and government agencies are also discussed.
The cultivars conserved by the communities, their agro-ecosystems and land management systems are presented in the seventh chapter. The cultural mechanisms such as festivals and their role in safeguarding agrobiodiversity of the region are depicted vividly. It calls upon the policy-makers concerned with addressing agrobiodiversity to take a multi-dimensional view than looking at agrobiodiversity as mere resources. The concluding chapter documents the different indigenous technologies involved in the processes of oil extraction, brewing and distillation.
Throughout the book, emphasis has been laid on the philosophical relationship of the communities with their ecosystem. The reader would therefore find that the book is essentially a good resource material on the biocultural diversity of the communities. Considering the holistic nature of the study undertaken, we are sure that this book would prove to be a valuable handbook for the tribal communities, policy-makers, academicians and social workers looking forward to accompanying the communities in their journey towards holistic, ethno-sensitive development.
This book was possible only because of the infrastructural facilities and partial financial support extended by IRDWSI, Semiliguda, Odisha, for my research. I thank Dr William Stanley and Dr Sashi Prabha for their support and encouragement. I also thank my parents T. Francis and B.K. Pushpavally for partially sponsoring the research that forms the basis for this book. I also thank my siblings — the Merlins for their constant support.
I thank The Conservation Foundation, U.K., for their generous financial support without which this book would have remained a dream. Special thanks to David Shreeve, Director and Co-founder of the Foundation and Bill Moloney, Company Secretary of the Foundation for their special interest in this project and encouragement.
The University of Madras has warmly permitted us to base this book on my Doctoral dissertation. I thank the Vice-Chancellor, Registrar, Controller of Examinations, the Syndicate and others for their kind co-operation and encouragement.
Many thanks to Dr Alexander Mantramurti and Dr V.J. Philip, former principals, Madras Christian College, Dr R.W. Alexander Jesudasan, principal, Madras Christian College, Dr C. Livingstone and Late Joel Christopher, former heads and H.K.P. Devadoss, Head of the Department of Botany, Madras Christian College, for providing me with the facilities to carry out the research in the department.
The moral support and guidance provided by Dr P. Dayanandan, former Head of the Department of Botany, Madras Christian College and Thiru. Lawrence Surendra, sharpened my ideas. My sincere thanks to their noble hearts.
The catalytic support provided by Mohan Hontal and family, Gideon Soren and family, Madab Dalapati, Bilay Kumar Soren and family, Solomon Tunglut, Dayadhan Suna and Marshall lessened the difficulties faced during the course of study and stay at Semiliguda.
I thank Mr and Mrs V. Sudhakar, Prabhat Kosla, Ms Pramila Kosla, Benudhar Sutar, Prakash Kora, Vinod Kosla, Manoranjan Patnaik, Sukhra Chellan and Mrs Hemalatha Hontal for their support.
I thank the knowledge holders: Guru Sillaiguda of Bonda Hills, Mrs Sonai Pangi of Chikalmari, Raghu Jani and Mrs Jamuna Pangi of Panasput, Prem Patro Jani and Ms Subha Dishari of Putisil, Hon Hontal of Kondh Pungar and Bondu
Doli of Khojuriguda for sharing their valuable knowledge with me and also for the warm, unforgettable hospitality extended to me throughout the study. Their love made me feel at home throughout the study for which I shall ever remain indebted.
I sincerely thank Mrs Anne Dayanandan for her encouragement and critical comments on my manuscript.
I am thankful to Thiru. A.V. Balasubramanian, Dr K. Vijayalakshmi and staff of Centre for Indian Knowledge Systems, Kotturpuram, Chennai, for the help received towards the final phase of the study.
I thank Dr M.D. Muthukumaraswamy, Director, National Folklore Support Centre and the Librarian for permitting me to use their library. I also thank Dr A.G. Pandurangan, TBGRI, Thiruvananthapuram, Thiru. Santhosh Patnaik, ODAF,
Bhubaneswar, Dr S. Amerjothi, former Head of the Department, Presidency College, Dr Rukmani Nirmal, Chettinad Hospital and Ms Padmini Nirmal for every help and encouragement received.
My sincere thanks to Dr G.A.I. Ebenezer, Dr M. Balusami, Leslie Lawrence, Dr W. Aris Dason of Department of Botany, Madras Christian College, Dr Nirmal Selvamony, Department of English, Madras Christian College, Samuel Sukumar, Warden Bishop Heber Hall, Madras Christian College, K. Vishwanatha, Department of Languages, Madras Christi an College and Dr P. Ravichandran, Sri Paramakalyani Centre for Environmental Sciences, Manonnianiam Sundaranar University for their constant encouragement and meaningful discussions that helped me better my dissertation.
I thank Dr Raghupathi Subramanyam, University of Guelph, Canada, for sharing a few valuable research publications.
Special thanks to Dr Sheeba J. Irwin for always being there as a source of support and encouragement.
I am fortunate to have good friends in Dr Daliya George, Dr Sarah John, Luke Simon, J. John Cyril, John Jebaseelan, Mrs T.D. Nirmala Devi, Dr Rayson K. Alex, Mrs Susan Deborah, K. Krishnadhas and C. Manikandan which ensured the much needed moral and physical support for completing this book.
All thanks to my current and former colleagues at the Centre for Floristic Research: Dr Sherie Jesulyn David, Dr R. Sumathi, Mrs C. Chandrakala, Dr J. Jayanthi, Dr K. Karthikeyan, J. Soundarapandi, P. Saravanan, Mrs A.K.
Rathnakumari, S. Thambidurai, Joseph Daniel, Ms R. Sheela Beryl Rajakumari, Ms K.M. Koperundevi, Mrs Josphin Mini, C. Gnanasekharan and N. Dhatchanamoorthy for their support and encouragement.
I recall with thanks, the timely help rendered by Mrs Chitra Porselvi, Mrs Valarmathi, Sureendar Raman, Raghunath Velankar and Mrs Anshu Singh for the successful completion of the study.
I owe my life to the good souls who cared to stop by and rescue me from an accident at Pottangi, Koraput. They preferred to stay anonymous. Yet, their kind gesture shall always be remembered with thanks.
I thank Dr D. Narasimhan for supervising the Doctoral study that forms the basis for this book and also for agreeing to co-author this book with me. He has been a good friend and a constant motivator for me. I also thank his family members for their constant support and encouragement.
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