Nature and humanity: a revival of the fittest?
The EU-funded DIGE project is exploring what happens when a traditional, practical knowledge of plants and animals unified, eroded or centralised by a dominant group, and the impacts on natural resources, health, economies and the well-being of local communities.
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Understanding the logic of obtaining, managing and perceiving local natural resources, particularly plants, is crucial for ensuring the sustainability of human life, as the use of plants is a key for survival, according to the project.
Specifically, the research is delving into the repercussions of changes in ethnobotanical knowledge, nurtured by traditional societies and minority ethnic groups, when a majority or dominant group tries to unify, erode or centralise these folk traditions. These traditions include the practical use of plants for food, healing and ethnoveterinary medicine. And it is evaluating what happens when the policy or centralised approach is suddenly lifted.
The understanding and knowledge gained through the project could serve as a means for developing educational tools to achieve the sustainable maintenance and use of local plant resources to support the health and wellbeing of people.
Path to revival...
The research and field work led by theCa' Foscari University of Venice in partnership with the Estonian Literary Museum is particularly interested in the path to revival of discontinued traditional ethnobotanical knowledge.
Four case studies are being developed based on investigations of several compact yet divided ethnic minorities living in regions of the Setu (between Estonia and Russia) and the Dzukija region (Lithuania/Belorussia/Poland), North Karelia (Finland/Russia) and Bukovina (Ukaine/Romania). These traditional groups have been subjected to various influences affecting their plant use as well as very different social conditions.
Project coordinator Renata Sõukand and her team are keen to learn the effects of these influences on a local populations use of plant resources, as well as the different social conditions, including on their well-being and the economy.
Longer term, the scientists want to use the findings to predict the extent and depth of the changes occurring in ethnobotanical knowledge, and to offer best practices for safeguarding biodiversity, local know-how and the sustainable use of natural resources in a way that supports the health and well-being of different populations.
DIGE is funded through the EUs European Research Council.