Indigenous biosystematics of yams (Dioscorea spp.) in Southwest Ethiopia: folk taxonomy, ethnolinguistic analysis, and folk descriptors

Tsegaye Babege Worojie, Bizuayehu Tesfaye Asfaw, Wendawek Abebe Mengesha
2021 Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine  
Background In Southwest Ethiopia, various plant species are coexisting in wild and cultivated forms. This provides an ideal setting for studying folk biosystematics of neglected species. One of such species is the Dioscorea species, in which we studied to assess the commonly applied folk wisdom of identifying, naming, and classifying yams by Sheko and Bench farmers. Methods This study was conducted in Bench-Maji and Sheka Zones using 272 farmers. Data on the lists of local names and system of
more » ... lk taxonomy; the inherent logic, etymons, and consistency of names; and the folk descriptors and other criteria involved in taxonomy were collected. Data were collected by establishing participatory research appraisal tools, i.e., informant interviews and researcher direct observation. Results The result suggests that there exists a well-developed folk taxonomic system in Sheko and Bench. This is evident in the recognition of four distinct folk ranks: sub-variety, variety, supra-variety, and folk generic. Taxa assigned to each ranks have distinct features that mark them as members of a separate categories. Farmers over-differentiate 58 individual taxa at the intraspecific levels. Of these, 37 represented varietal taxa while the rest are sub-varietal taxa. Structurally, over 78% of the varieties are labeled with unitary names while all the sub-varieties consisted of binomial names. Farmers used a total of 26 characters and 74 character states for identifying the different taxa. More than 84% of these refer to aspects of plant characteristics. Tuber characters played a key role in the local identification of varietal and sub-varietal taxa while contexts and gender played a key role in the recognition of supra-variety groups. Conclusions This study documented a great wealth of knowledge on indigenous biosystematics of yams, constitutes an essential step towards setting development priorities aimed at in situ conservation. The study clearly demonstrated the value of folk biosystematics for assessing the actual extent and spatial dynamics of yam diversity in traditional farming.
doi:10.1186/s13002-020-00427-8 pmid:33386077 fatcat:4qvsjweuknb5bhtw4iodj3wypa