Land Use and Biodiversity in Unprotected Landscapes: The Case of Noncultivated Plant Use and Management by Rural Communities in Benin and Togo

Article · June 2012with62 Reads
DOI: 10.1080/08941920.2012.674628
To contribute to the development of strategies for sustainable agricultural land use and biodiversity conservation in landscapes without formal protection status, we investigated the local use and management of noncultivated plants as important ecosystem functions of inland valleys in south Benin and Togo, and local perceptions on changes in plant biodiversity and causes for these changes. Local users of noncultivated plants perceived agriculture and construction as major factors contributing to the reduction of (noncultivated) plant biodiversity. However, they also collect many useful species from agricultural fields and the village. A small community forest reserve and a 2-ha community garden were the only organized forms of conservation management. Observed ad hoc conservation initiatives were selective harvesting of plant parts, preserving trees during land clearing, and allowing useful weed species in the field. Future development and conservation efforts in unprotected landscapes with multiple ecosystem functions should acknowledge knowledge, interests, and needs of local communities
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    • In fact this is a common strategy to cope with declining forests (Shepherd, 1992). Other strategies, observed by Rodenburg et al. (2012) around inland valleys in Togo and Benin, include the establishment of a community garden with useful species and the conservation of a small community forest. These observations show that local communities depending on natural resources in and around inland valleys are able to exploit these landscapes synergistically , balancing agricultural production with biodiversity conservation, use and management.
    File · Data · Jul 2015 · South African Journal of Botany
    • Among the bulk of food plants used, wild species represent 61% (70 species) and 46% of the most cited species by communities. The number of wild edible plants used in the two municipalities represents 43% of the total number of non-wood edible forest plant resources collected during a country-wide market survey in Benin [52] and is lower than the diversity of noncultivated plant species (87 species) collected in the southwest Benin and the southeast Togo [53]. Vegetable species represent about 57% while fruit species account for roughly 47% of wild edible plants collected.
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Background Agrobiodiversity is said to contribute to the sustainability of agricultural systems and food security. However, how this is achieved especially in smallholder farming systems in arid and semi-arid areas is rarely documented. In this study, we explored two contrasting regions in Benin to investigate how agroecological and socioeconomic contexts shape the diversity and utilization of edible plants in these regions. Methods Data were collected through focus group discussions in 12 villages with four in Bassila (semi-arid Sudano-Guinean region) and eight in Boukoumbé (arid Sudanian region). Semi-structured interviews were carried out with 180 farmers (90 in each region). Species richness and Shannon-Wiener diversity index were estimated based on presence-absence data obtained from the focus group discussions using species accumulation curves. Results Our results indicated that 115 species belonging to 48 families and 92 genera were used to address food security. Overall, wild species represent 61% of edible plants collected (60% in the semi-arid area and 54% in the arid area). About 25% of wild edible plants were under domestication. Edible species richness and diversity in the semi-arid area were significantly higher than in the arid area. However, farmers in the arid area have developed advanced resource-conserving practices compared to their counterparts in the semi-arid area where slash-and-burn cultivation is still ongoing, resulting in natural resources degradation and loss of biodiversity. There is no significant difference between the two areas for cultivated species richness. The interplay of socio-cultural attributes and agroecological conditions explains the diversity of food plants selected by communities. Conclusions We conclude that if food security has to be addressed, the production and consumption policies must be re-oriented toward the recognition of the place of wild edible plants. For this to happen we suggest a number of policy and strategic decisions as well as research and development actions such as a thorough documentation of wild edible plants and their contribution to household diet, promotion of the ‘’bringing into cultivation” practices, strengthening of livestock-crop integration.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2014
    • prostrata, T. triangulare, Corch. aestuans, Amaran.spinosus and I. aquatica, were purposely left in the field or removed before the actual weeding operations, as they were used for human consumption or medicinal uses, a practice that has been reported before (e.g.Rodenburg et al. 2012). For instance, the helophytic species, I. aquatica, is used as a food source during the hunger period in some rural areas of West Africa (Akobundu 1987) and Eclip.
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: While weeds generally are considered as the most important overarching production constraints in inland-valley cropping systems in West Africa, little is known about species' associations with environmental and crop management factors. Weed species' associations with seasonal and environmental factors, such as their position on the catena, soils and cropping systems, were studied during two seasons (dry and wet) in 45 arable fields of three inland valleys in south-western Benin, Africa. The three most dominant weed species were Dactyloctenium aegyptium, Commelina benghalensis and Digitaria horizontalis on the inland-valley crests (uplands), Ludwigia hyssopifolia, Corchorus aestuans and Ludwigia octovalvis on the sloping hydromorphic fringes and Leersia hexandra, Ipomoea aquatica and Fimbristylis ferruginea in the valley bottoms (lowlands). Echinochloa colona, Cleome viscosa and Talinum triangulare were the three most dominant species in the dry-season crops (maize or vegetables) and Leer. hexandra, I. aquatica and Sphenoclea zeylanica were the three most dominant species in the wet-season crop (rice). Ageratum conyzoides, Synedrella nodiflora and D. horizontalis were observed throughout the catena. Problem weeds in inland-valley agro-ecosystems are those that combine a high frequency with a high submergence tolerance and ecological plasticity, C4 grasses, perennial C3 species with persistent root structures and broad-leaved species with high propagation rates. Weed management strategies that are aimed at increasing the resilience of rice-based cropping systems in the inland valleys of the southern Guinea Savanna of Africa should address the categories of problem species that were identified in this study. This can be done best by following an integrated approach, including the use of more weed-competitive cultivars and rotation crops.
    Full-text · Article · May 2014
    • In fact this is a common strategy to cope with declining forests (Shepherd, 1992). Other strategies, observed by Rodenburg et al. (2012) around inland valleys in Togo and Benin, include the establishment of a community garden with useful species and the conservation of a small community forest. These observations show that local communities depending on natural resources in – 7 – and around inland valleys are able to exploit these landscapes synergistically, balancing agricultural production with biodiversity conservation, use and management.
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: With an estimated surface area of 190 M ha, inland valleys are common landscapes in Africa. Due to their general high agricultural production potential, based on relatively high and secure water availability and high soil fertility levels compared to the surrounding uplands, these landscapes could play a pivotal role in attaining the regional objectives of food security and poverty alleviation. Besides agricultural production, i.e. mainly rice-based systems including fish-, vegetable- fruit- and livestock production, inland valleys provide local communities with forest, forage, hunting and fishing resources and they are important as water buffer and biodiversity hot spots. Degradation of natural resources in these vulnerable ecosystems, caused by indiscriminate development for the sole purpose of agricultural production, should be avoided. We estimate that, following improved water and weed management, production derived from less than 10% of the total inland valley area could equal the total current demand for rice in Africa. A significant part of the inland valley area in Africa could hence be safeguarded for other purposes.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2014
  • Article · South African Journal of Botany
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: An ethnobotanical study in lowland rice areas in East Africa was undertaken to assess farmers' knowledge on the usage of non-cultivated plants occurring in paddy fields, and to understand what rice farmers in this region do with useful species once they encounter them in their crop. Inventories of weed species in 19 rice schemes in Tanzania and Kenya were followed by interviews among 380 experienced rice farmers, community elders and traditional healers, grouped into 19 informant groups. Among informant groups, a high degree of consensus about uses of weeds growing in rice paddies was observed. From a total of 222 observed rice weed species, the informant groups identified 67 species with usages described in 1300 use reports. Among these 67 species, 20 are among the most commonly cited weed species in rice paddies in sub-Saharan Africa. Only in 42 cases (3% of the total use reports) did the farmers indicate that they collected (13 species) or spared (four species) these weeds during weeding. In all other cases, such plants were removed or killed during weeding, irrespective of their usefulness. Non-cultivated plants that are spared are those of which the putative agronomic qualities (i.e. for crop protection or soil improvement) are considered more important than their crop competition effects (i.e. Azolla filiculoides and Marsilea crenata) and those that are found in the field margins, which do not compete with the crop. Non-cultivated plants that are collected during weeding have food, fodder or medicinal purposes or a combination of purposes. The most cited species that are collected or spared during weeding were Bidens pilosa, Ipomoea aquatica, Corchorus olitorius and Stachytarpheta jamaicensis. This study revealed that lowland rice farmers in East Africa generally have a high level of understanding and consensus on the usefulness of the non-cultivated plants growing in lowland rice schemes. When they occur in their crop however, the vast majority of these species are primarily seen as weeds and consequently removed or killed.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2016