Education centre > Ethnobotany - the Scientific Vehicle for ESD: A Case Study from Paraguay
Ethnobotany - the Scientific Vehicle for ESD: A Case Study from Paraguay
Contributed by Didier Jaques Roguet, Conservatoire et Jardin Botaniques de la Ville de Genève, C.P.60 – CH-1292, Chambésy, Switzerland
Applied floristics is a new science dedicated to the application of botany and taxonomy for sustainable development in the North and in the South. About ten years ago, Geneva’s Botanical Institute started a new challenge working on applied floristic projects in Europe (mediterranean and alpine areas), and in particular in the tropics (Ivory Coast, Madagascar and Paraguay). A cooperative process was developed with the local population (including pickers, sellers, users, teachers, healers, students, farmers, and health promoters) and environmental education became one of the best tools to convey the Conservatoire et Jardin Botaniques de la Ville de Genève (CJB) messages on conservation and sustainable development.
This congress provides a good opportunity to present one of CJB’s projects, Etnobotanica Paraguaya, an integrated ethnobotanical scientific project on the medicinal plants sold in the markets of Asuncion (Paraguay). For us, it is a case study in restitution using environmental education.
Etnobotanica Paraguaya is a small project financed by the the City of Geneva Fund for Development Assistance. It focuses on the registration, taxonomical formalisation and restitution of ethnobotanical data on traditional knowledge related to the medicinal plants sold in Asuncion’s markets (Paraguay). Thematical environmental education is the principal vehicle of this restitution process.
Plant Use in Paraguay
In order to understand the circumstances in Paraguay and the strong cultural connection with medicinal plants it is necessary to know that:
This data makes Paraguay unique; a country or a geographical entity which uses plants with medicinal powers, in a preventative way, on the largest possible scale i.e. daily.
The likely epidemiological and preventive values due to the regular consumption of these plants, and the socio-economic power generated by their commercialisation, pushed us to make traditional ethnobotanical investigations, in particular in the markets of Asuncion. Our informers are the Yuyeras, the sellers of medicinal plants (from the root yuyos, medicinals), but we have also made enquiries with Curanderos, the traditional healers, with pickers from the field and with private laboratories which transform and condition the plants (there are more than 60 laboratories in Asuncion).
An ethnobotanical herbarium and a living plant reference collection have been established and are maintained in the Botanical Garden of Asuncion. For determination and taxonomical research, part of the herbarium is in Geneva. Composed of more than 750 specimens, duplicates will be returned to Asuncion in the near future when appropriate conservation conditions are established.
These two phases are of primary importance but it is the restitution process, the third step of the project, which interests us more in this presentation, because it involves the educational aspect. Our approach needs to involve thematic environmental education, and this will be used as a vehicle for achieving restitution.
Our restitutional action is based on two main principles:
This restitution process has three principal components:
Short term environmental education work,
Focusing on medicinal plants, occurring in the Botanical Garden of Asuncion, through the CEAM (Centro de Education Ambiental de la Municipalidad) and the Centre of Environmental Education of the City of Asuncion. It consists of courses and workshops on medicinal knowledge of living plants, toxicity and measurings, the problems of misuse and self-medication, family planning etc. These courses are primarily aimed at sellers of medicinals, teachers, and healthcare and environmental promoters from the different districts of the capital city. There is potential to decentralise the educational activities by developing a small, mobile interactive exhibition presented in a bus.
Public Heathcare Training
A middle term project of public healthcare training has been organised within the city and also in the countryside with the small farmers. Seminars, courses, publications, and posters based on the taxonomic knowledge of medicinal plants, their toxicity and the importance of measuring when applied, are conducted. A great part of the programme also includes the ethnobotanical valorization of traditional heritage, represented by the popular medicine that strengthens local communities, inside and outside the cities. The topics addressed are very diverse: toxicity and measuring, family planning and uses of abortive plants, complementarity between traditional and allopathic medicines.
Applied Floristics for Agronomic Development
The long term project of applied floristics for sustainable agronomic development has several aims to:
Use in the Alps
Our project is not revolutionary, it applies thorough ethnobotanical techniques, using the same methodology previously used in the Alps (European mountains) i.e.
Its originality comes from the educational component in relation to public healthcare and agronomy. This pedagogical dimension is very important because it gives meaning to the scientific research work (taxonomy and ethnobotany) by permitting its application in a sustainable development process.
Switzerland - Chambésy-Genève