Lianas and livelihoods: The role of fibrous forest plants in food security and society around Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda

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Economic Botany


Lianas and Livelihoods: The Role of Fibrous Forest Plants in Food Security and Society around Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda This paper documents the role that fibrous plants play in rural economies of farming communities in southwestern Uganda. Thirty-five plant species from 20 plant families are used to weave baskets, stretchers, granaries, and protective coverings for clay pots. These products play a crucial role in local culture, the local economy, and social institutions as well as in food security due to their use in carrying, processing, or storing crops. Lianas (Loeseneriella apocynoides, Smilax anceps, and to a lesser extent, Cyphostemma bambuseti, Flabellaria paniculata, Hippocratea odongensis, Salacia elegans, and Urera hypselodendron) are the most important plant life-forms used, followed by bamboo (Sinarundinaria alpina). The extent of use of plant species for granaries varied significantly with altitude, vegetation type, and land-cover across the wide altitudinal range of the study area (1,440–2,600 m asl). Granaries used by farmers at lower altitudes used a higher diversity of species compared to those at a higher altitude, where 82% of granaries were constructed from bamboo (Sinarundinaria alpina). Tightly woven, durable granaries are important for food storage and therefore to the food security and sustainable livelihoods of subsistence farmers. Where length, strength, and durability of weaving fibers were required, such as for stretchers (engozi) used as local “ambulances,” only two liana species were favored. The most commonly used species was the forest liana Loeseneriella apocynoides (Celastraceae), used for up to 77% of engozi stretchers and 83% of tea-picking baskets. While most species are abundant and can be sustainably harvested, L. apocynoides is overexploited, posing problems for local people and the national park.

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