Ethnobotanical knowledge of Philippine lowland farmers and its application in agroforestry

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Agroforestry Systems


Complex agroforestry systems that mimic local forest structure, so-called ‘analogs’, are assumed to be of specific value to rural people as well as the environment. The objective of this study was to document and evaluate the utilization of plant resources by Philippine lowland farmers to identify native species suitable for integration in such a system. The interviewed farmers maintain a comprehensive ethnobotanical knowledge. They reported using 122 plant species for 77 purposes. Eighty species have medicinal value, 35 provide food, and 32 serve other uses. About 64% of the identified species are Philippine natives. The life form composition of these species is dominated by trees but also includes herbs, lianas, and graminoids, thus providing the structural elements required in analog systems. Nevertheless, only a few of the species seem to be promising for cultivation. Many of them are ubiquitous in the vicinity of villages. Some species are also not much appreciated but act as staple food only during food shortage. Even though several of the species have proven market value, such as rattan (e.g. Calamus merrillii), or are reputed medicines, such as ‘Philippine ginseng’ (Sarcandra glabra), no cultivation could be observed. This shows that usefulness in itself cannot be the only criterion to promote species but that it requires a careful analysis of the marketability of the respective species. In this context we suggest the following three species that are of proven medicinal value for in-depth study: the liana Tinospora crispa (Menispermaceae), the tree Picrasma javanica (Simaroubaceae), and the herb Sarcandra glabra (Chloranthaceae). They represent three different life form strategies and would thus fit well in vertically structured agroforestry systems.

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