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The Transmission of Home Garden Knowledge: Safeguarding Biocultural Diversity and Enhancing Social–Ecological Resilience

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The last decades have witnessed a growing research interest of local ecological knowledge (LEK), with some research focusing on its effective transmission for natural resource management. Here we contribute to this body of research by focusing on an understudied agroecosystem: home gardens in rural areas of developed countries. We characterize home garden knowledge in Vall de Gósol (Catalan Pyrenees) and analyze the modes of transmission of such knowledge to discuss how such mechanisms might affect home garden resilience. We identify a diverse local home garden knowledge, which is mainly transmitted from parents to child. Members of the parental generation other than the parents and individuals of the same generation were only important for the transmission of some specific knowledge. We conclude that home gardens are biocultural refugia in a world of decreasing complex local knowledge systems and that different cultural transmission modes confer diversity and enhance social–ecological resilience in those agroecosystems.
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Society & Natural Resources
An International Journal
ISSN: 0894-1920 (Print) 1521-0723 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/usnr20
The Transmission of Home Garden Knowledge:
Safeguarding Biocultural Diversity and Enhancing
Social–Ecological Resilience
Laura Calvet-Mir, Carles Riu-Bosoms, Marc González-Puente, Isabel Ruiz-
Mallén, Victoria Reyes-García & José Luis Molina
To cite this article: Laura Calvet-Mir, Carles Riu-Bosoms, Marc González-Puente, Isabel Ruiz-
Mallén, Victoria Reyes-García & José Luis Molina (2015): The Transmission of Home Garden
Knowledge: Safeguarding Biocultural Diversity and Enhancing Social–Ecological Resilience,
Society & Natural Resources
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08941920.2015.1094711
Published online: 14 Dec 2015.
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SOCIETY & NATURAL RESOURCES
http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08941920.2015.1094711
The Transmission of Home Garden Knowledge: Safeguarding
Biocultural Diversity and Enhancing Social–Ecological
Resilience
Laura Calvet-Mira,b, Carles Riu-Bosomsa, Marc González-Puentea, Isabel Ruiz-Malléna,b,
Victoria Reyes-Garcíac, and José Luis Molinad
aInstitut de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Bellatera, Barcelona, Spain;
bInternet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3), Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain; cICREA and Institut
de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Bellatera, Barcelona, Spain;
dDepartament d’Antropologia Social i Cultural, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Bellatera, Barcelona, Spain
ABSTRACT
The last decades have witnessed a growing research interest of local
ecological knowledge (LEK), with some research focusing on its
effective transmission for natural resource management. Here we
contribute to this body of research by focusing on an understudied
agroecosystem: home gardens in rural areas of developed countries.
We characterize home garden knowledge in Vall de Gósol (Catalan
Pyrenees) and analyze the modes of transmission of such knowledge
to discuss how such mechanisms might affect home garden resilience.
We identify a diverse local home garden knowledge, which is mainly
transmitted from parents to child. Members of the parental
generation other than the parents and individuals of the same
generation were only important for the transmission of some specific
knowledge. We conclude that home gardens are biocultural refugia in
a world of decreasing complex local knowledge systems and that
different cultural transmission modes confer diversity and enhance
social–ecological resilience in those agroecosystems.
ARTICLE HISTORY
Received 21 August 2014
Accepted 6 August 2015
KEYWORDS
Agroecosystems; cultural
transmission; Europe; local
ecological knowledge; social
memory; traditional
ecological knowledge
During the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity, the international scientific
community acknowledged the indivisible link between cultural and biological diversity
and the relevance of local ecological knowledge (sensu Berkes
1
) for their conservation
(Maxted et al. 2002). Since then, research interest has grown to deepen our understanding
of the role of local ecological knowledge (hereafter LEK) in the effective management of
natural resources and in the protection of biological and cultural diversity (hereafter
biocultural diversity), (e.g., Berkes, Colding, and Folke 2000; Calvet-Mir 2011; Barthel,
Crumley, and Svedin 2013).
Some authors have highlighted the applicability of LEK, arguing that such knowledge
systems can guide decision making for sustainable management of natural resources
(Berkes and Folke 2002). Others have shown that local experts are able to understand
and deal with multiscalar and complex social–ecological processes by intuitively using
CONTACT Dr. Laura Calvet-Mir lcalvetmir@gmail.com Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3), Universitat Oberta de
Catalunya, Av. Carl Friedrich Gauss, 5. Parc Mediterrani de la Tecnologia, Castelldefels (Barcelona) 08860, Spain.
Color versions of one or more of the figures in the article can be found online at www.tandfonline.com/usnr.
1
Local ecological knowledge refers to the cumulative body of knowledge, practices, and beliefs about local ecosystems and
their management evolving by adaptive processes and shared among generations by cultural transmission (adapted from
Berkes, Colding, and Folke 2000, 1252).
© 2016 Taylor & Francis
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insights from the historical perspective encoded in LEK systems (Chalmers and Fabricius
2007). Particularly, in situations of change or when uncertainty is high, LEK can provide
alternative sources of coping and adaptive strategies (Berkes, Colding, and Folke 2000;
Reyes-García, Salpeteur, and Calvet-Mir et al. 2014).
Due to the potential of LEK for biodiversity conservation, management of natural
resources, and adaptation to global change, researchers have shown interest in understand-
ing how the information encapsulated in local knowledge is generated, transmitted, adapted,
and lost (Atran, Medin, and Ross 2004; Lozada, Ladio, and Weigandt 2006; Reyes-García
et al. 2013). While research on the dynamics of LEK has been dominated by case studies
in indigenous communities (Ohmagari and Berkes 1997; Demps et al. 2012), it is still scarce
in nonindigenous rural areas where such bodies of knowledge are also present (for a state of
the art in Europe see Hernández-Morcillo et al. 2014). Such research is urgent in rural
settings in developed countries, where recent demographic, economic, and cultural changes
(i.e., reduction in the number of farms, migration to urban areas, agricultural incentives,
globalization, and simplification of diets) threaten the maintenance of diversified agroeco-
systems (Naredo 2004) and reduce complex local knowledge systems into “pockets of LEK”
(Gómez-Baggethun et al. 2010).
Aiming to contribute to such research, here we analyze LEK associated with home
gardens in Vall de Gósol, Catalan Pyrenees. We focus on home gardens because previous
research has highlighted their importance in the maintenance of LEK in developed coun-
tries (Vogl, Axmann, and Vogl-Lukasser 2004; Galluzzi, Eyzaguirre, and Negri 2010;
Calvet-Mir, Gómez-Bagetthun, and Reyes-García 2012). We define “home garden” as a
small, fenced plot close to a gardener’s homestead, where annual, biennial, and/or peren-
nial cultivated species are grown in beds (Vogl and Vogl-Lukasser 2003). Home gardens
can be seen as biocultural conservation agents (Calvet-Mir 2011) or biocultural refugia
(Barthel, Crumley, and Svedin 2013) contributing to the conservation of both biological
and cultural diversity.
In what follows, we present existing evidence on LEK transmission. We then characterize
home garden knowledge in the study area and assess how home garden knowledge is trans-
mitted among Vall de Gósol gardeners. Other than exemplifying the persistence of pockets
of LEK in rural areas of the developed world, this work helps stress the role of site-specific
experiences in storing and transmitting knowledge for ecosystems management (e.g.,
Berkes, Colding, and Folke 2003; Barthel, Folke, and Colding 2010). Understanding the
modes of transmission of knowledge that guides the management of species, habitats and
other agroecosystems features, and particularly home gardens, can help us appreciate the
central role local knowledge systems play in social–ecological resilience (Calvet-Mir 2011;
Barthel, Crumley, and Svedin 2013).
The Transmission of Local Ecological Knowledge
Researchers differentiate between processes of social learning and modes of cultural trans-
mission (Hewlett et al. 2011). Processes of social learning include the mechanisms through
which knowledge is acquired (i.e., own experimentation, teaching, emulation, imitation,
and collaborative learning; Hewlett et al. 2011). Here we focus on teaching as a process
of information transmission on home garden management and specific crop uses. Home
garden informants might be more aware of the importance of particular “teachers” than
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of the complexity entailed in other social learning processes (Reyes-García, Gallois, and
Demps 2015).
Modes of transmission refer to individuals from whom to learn (i.e., parents, elders,
peers, the prestigious, the majority). Based on the work of Cavalli-Sforza and Feldman
(1981), social anthropologists conducting empirical research on the transmission of cultural
traits have studied three nonexclusive modes in which knowledge is transmitted (i.e., from
whom people learn): (1) vertical transmission, that is, from the parental generation to the
offspring generations; (2) horizontal transmission, that is, between individuals of the same
generation; and (3) oblique transmission, that is, from members of the parental generation
other than the parents. Sociologists (Bengtson and Troll 1978) and psychologists
(Schönpflug 2008) provided arguments demonstrating that transmission is not a one-way
street. For example, some authors characterize the transmission of knowledge as a transac-
tional process in which the parent impacts the child, but in which the child might also influ-
ence the parent, a phenomenon known as retroactive transmission (Pinquart and Silbereisen
2004). Boyd and Richerson (1985) and Henrich and McElreath (2003) expanded the field
beyond the direction of knowledge transmission by modeling other nonvertical trans-
mission mechanisms such as conformist transmission, that is, copying the beliefs or prac-
tices of the majority, or prestige bias, that is, copying the successful.
Although several anthropologists have argued that LEK is mainly transmitted vertically
(Lancy 1999; Hewlett, De Silvestri, and Guglielmino 2002), other works showed that trans-
mission modes are context dependent (Hewlett et al. 2011; Demps et al. 2012). That is,
depending on the type of knowledge or skills to be transmitted, or on the age in which
knowledge is acquired, other modes of transmission might be dominant. The importance
of vertical transmission has thus been overrated (Aunger 2000), although it is expected
that neither oblique nor horizontal transmission dominates across all cultural domains
(McElreath and Strimling 2008).
Despite the proliferation of literature in the fields of LEK and its transmission among
rural and indigenous societies, there are important gaps in the research in the context of
developed countries. As LEK is mainly built, assimilated, and spread in the natural
environment (Atran, Medin, and Ross 2004), the study of LEK transmission in remaining
home gardens in developed settings, where severe deruralization processes have occurred
in the last decades, is relevant to avoid the loss of this knowledge.
Methods
Study Site
Vall de Gósol is the name of a valley situated at the foot of Pedraforca’s massif, in the central
Catalan Pyrenees, among Cadí, Verd, and Ensija mountains. The valley is approximately
20 km
2
and includes 4 villages, taking the name of the largest of them, Gósol (Figure 1).
Around 220 inhabitants live in these four villages, although most of them are concentrated
in Gósol (198 inhabitants).
Customarily, men in the area worked as sheep or cattle dealers, often spending parts of
the year out of the valley working as agricultural wage laborers. Women were in charge of
household chores including home garden tasks, although some tasks were mainly per-
formed by men (e.g., fertilization and disease management). Traditional division of work
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has been recently reversed, since men manage 71%of the home gardens studied
(Riu-Bosoms, Calvet-Mir, and Reyes-García 2014). Such a trend is explained by overall
changes in the area that parallel demographic, economic, and cultural changes found in
other rural areas of the Iberian Peninsula (Naredo 2004). Since the 1960s, subsistence agri-
culture has been progressively abandoned due to the introduction of the commercial dairy
sector in the area. Soon after, at the end of the 1970s, the opening of a road that connected
previously isolated villages with the local market town (Berga) resulted in a complete inte-
gration of the local economic system into the market economy. The majority of farms were
no longer multifunctional and they specialized their production, increasing their market
dependence. The valley’s population experienced a steep decline, as many families decided
to leave the valley in search of employment opportunities in the Barcelona metropolitan
area. Thus, in the last 60 years, the number of people living in the area has decreased by
about 60%, basically due to urban migration (INE 2015), resulting in the decline of the
number of farms. Currently, only 10%of the population is devoted to agrarian activities
(IDESCAT 2015), whereas there is a clear predominance of the service sector, with an occu-
pancy rate of 60%because people combine agricultural activities with tourist services. The
industry sector employs 18%of the population, while 12%work in the construction sector.
As a consequence of the geographic isolation of the area, home gardens played a key role
in the subsistence of local population for many years. Currently, they are still deeply inte-
grated in the valley’s day-to-day life, although nowadays gardeners do not depend on home
gardens for subsistence. Home gardens have an average size of 202 m
2
, ranging from 25 to
711 m
2
. In a previous work, we found 10 crops that conformed to the definition of landrace,
Figure 1. Map of the study area.
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a high number for the relatively small geographical area studied, which highlights the
importance of home gardens to preserving the agricultural genetic pool in Vall de Gósol
(Riu-Bosoms, Calvet-Mir, and Reyes-García 2014).
Sampling
We conducted research in the four villages that are geographically within Vall de Gósol and
that share ecological and cultural characteristics. We did not extend the sample outside the
valley because there are substantial differences in the environmental conditions and dialectal
variations of the local language, Catalan. We collected data with two different samples. First,
to describe and characterize home garden knowledge, we followed Calvet-Mir et al. (2011)
and chose experienced gardeners (or people who have managed a home garden as primary
gardener for more than 25 years). We found seven people (four women and three men) with
such characteristics. The selected gardeners were aged between 71 and 88 years. Second, to
assess the prevalence of modes of transmission of home garden knowledge, we interviewed
all the people in the valley currently managing a home garden. In total, we interviewed 24
gardeners, 7 women and 17 men, aged between 21 and 85 years.
Data Collection
We collected data between March and July 2011 and between January and June 2012
through mixed methods.
We used participant and nonparticipant observation throughout all the research period
to achieve a better understanding of knowledge, practices, and beliefs associated with home
gardens management. Data were collected through annotations. The second author of this
article, a resident of the valley, managed a home garden under the instruction of an elder
gardener. In addition, during fieldwork we occasionally helped gardeners in daily tasks
such as planting and harvesting. Interactions in these informal occasions helped us to gain
a deeper understanding of gardeners’ knowledge and skills to manage a home garden.
In 2011 we conducted semistructured interviews with the experienced gardeners, asking
them about the origin of crop seeds, crop distribution in the home garden, crop uses, and
specific characteristics of each crop (i.e., soil preference, seed selection criteria, seasonality).
We also asked about sayings and proverbs associated with crops and home gardens man-
agement, weather forecasts, and home garden beliefs. Information from semistructured
interviews was mostly noted down during interviews.
During January and June 2012 we conducted a survey to assess (1) the individual knowl-
edge related to home garden management and (2) the gardener’s main teacher, according to
the gardener’s perception. The survey was constructed using information gathered in semi-
structured interviews (see also Riu-Bosoms, Calvet-Mir, and Reyes-García 2014). We first
presented respondents with seven hypothetical situations covering different fields of home
garden knowledge (e.g., sowing and harvesting a specific crop). We then asked the inform-
ant how she or he would deal with the situation. The question mobilized information on
skills, practices, knowledge, and beliefs that the informant would use to manage this situ-
ation. After that, we asked about the main source of information for the answers provided.
For example, after the informant had presented the most appropriate fertilization technique
for black pea (Pisum sativum L.) landrace, we asked the person to name the person who
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taught him or her about this technique. Finally, we collected sociodemographic information
on the gardeners (i.e., age, years living in the valley, years tending a garden).
In June 2012 we organized a participatory workshop with eight gardeners. The second
author as facilitator of the workshop engaged participants in a dialogue and discussion to
reflect about the topics of the semistructured interviews (Steiner 1999). We recorded the
workshop and transcribed participants’ contributions to validate the information obtained
in semistructured interviews and to avoid recall bias (i.e., the differences in the accuracy or
completeness of the recollections retrieved by study participants regarding events or experi-
ences from the past).
Data Analysis
We coded data gathered through participant and nonparticipant observation, semistruc-
tured interviews, and the participatory workshop by using six categories, not predefined,
that emerged across an inductive process (Newing 2011), which related to their knowledge
on home garden management: (1) crop sowing and harvesting; (2) water management; (3)
fertilization; (4) pest and disease management; (5) seed selection and storage; and (6) crop
uses. For each management category we selected an example of the most common cultural
display (i.e., sayings, predictions, specific management techniques, recipes, and festivities).
We then drew on the literature on modes of cultural transmission to classify sources of
information from each particular situation presented in the survey (Cavalli-Sforza and
Feldman 1981; Hewlett et al. 2011). Verbatim answers on sources of information for each
management practice were classified as (1) parents; (2) older kin and non-kin (excluding
parents); (3) own cohort; and (4) younger cohort. We used descriptive statistics to explore
the sources of home garden management knowledge. We first used background data to
build a general model that we graphically represented with a network diagram. We then
ran descriptive statistics on the source of information for the seven hypothetical situations
in our survey. These situations match with the six categories created for classifying home
garden knowledge, but we include another situation to cover a new form of knowledge
present in home gardens that comes from new technologies.
Results
Local Ecological Knowledge in Vall De Gósol Home Gardens
Our results show that there is a rich and diverse knowledge related to both the general man-
agement of home gardens and the management and uses of specific crops grown in home
gardens (Figure 2). We found a total of 55 sayings, predictions, practices, recipes, and others
cultural manifestations related to home garden knowledge. In this section, we present one
example of a common cultural display for each management category so to exemplify the
diversity of home garden knowledge.
Crop Sowing and Harvesting
The sowing and harvesting calendar is usually expressed through oral sayings relying
upon the Catholic and the lunar calendar. For example, the sowing of garlic (all, Allium
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sativum L.) is marked by both Catholic festivities and individual organoleptic preferences, as
gardeners argue that garlic taste changes according to the time of sowing. According to a
local saying: “If you want a good garlic harvest, sow it during the old moon of January
[the period that goes from full to new moon], if you want a good and mellow garlic, sow
it during Saint Martin [November eleventh], and if you want a pungent garlic, sow it during
advent time [December].”
Water Management
Local knowledge about water management includes weather forecast based on two types of
indicators: (1) elements of the local geography and (2) animal behavior. For example,
according to local tradition, the presence of clouds on “Els Tres Collets” (local toponym
of a mountain) at mid-morning time indicates scattered rainfall in the afternoon of the
same day, whereas a cloud accumulation looking like a castle on top of “El Verd” (local
toponym of another mountain) indicates a generalized rain over the valley. Animal beha-
vior has also been used as indicator to predict rainfall, as it is reflected in a saying according
to which a specific cuckoo singing predicts the arrival of rains. Such observations guide
local decisions on the irrigation of home gardens and fields.
Figure 2. Management categories and most common cultural display of local ecological knowledge in
Vall de Gósol home gardens.
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Fertilization
Organic fertilization is a traditional and generalized practice in the valley. Crops are
fertilized using livestock and hens’ dung, ashes, or other natural fertilizers. According to
local knowledge, each type of crop requires a different fertilizer, in specific doses, that should
be applied using specific techniques. Furthermore, to ensure proper supply of nutrients,
gardeners must also make crop rotations. For instance, a landrace of black pea (pèsol negre,
Pisum sativum L.) is not fertilized and is sown in sandy soil, rather poor in nutrients, to
avoid the plant growing very tall and lying on the ground. According to gardeners, this
avoids the preparation of trellises, without affecting pea production. On the contrary,
cabbage (col d’hivern, Brassica oleracea L. var. oleracea) needs to be fertilized often for
adequate yields, preferably with hens’ manure, which is a very concentrated manure that
is not considered suitable for all crops.
Pest and Disease Management
Gardeners also manage their crops so to reduce the chances of crop failure. For example,
gardeners plant potatoes in fields located in areas of high elevation. Subsequently, they
select seed potatoes from those fields, which they plant in lower elevation fields where
the so-selected seeds would have a higher yield and would also be more convenient to
harvest. According to local gardeners, this technique prevents diseases, as at high altitudes
potatoes are less likely to suffer diseases. Differently, and still according to gardeners,
cereals’ yields increase if the seeds are sowed at altitudes higher than the altitude of the
place where they were produced. Such practices are encoded in a local saying: “Barley
wants to go up and potato wants to go down.”
Seed Selection and Storage
Gardeners use specific methods and criteria to select and store seeds for different crops. In
the case of garlic, the common practice is to make a garlic braid of 100 bulbs (locally known
as “forc”). Gardeners hang garlic braids in a cool and dry place to preserve them for later
consumption or sowing. Garlic seed selection depends on size, color, and situation into the
bulb. For example, to conserve the pungent qualities of garlic, the selected seed must be big,
reddish, and placed in the external part of the bulb.
Crop Uses
While some crops are mainly used for culinary purposes, others are multipurpose. For
example, a local landrace of cabbage is harvested for human consumption only after the
first frost, although its leaves are harvested before, as fodder for hens and rabbits. The same
crop can also be used as a medicinal, to diminish stomachache. Nowadays some species
that used to play an important role in daily diet in the past are only grown for cultural
reasons. For example, this is the case of a wheat landrace (forment, Triticum aestivum
L.) that is sowed to be harvested and threshed using traditional tools and methods in
the context of the festivity of “Harvest and Threshing” that takes place on the first Sunday
of August.
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Modes of Transmission of Home Garden Knowledge
Survey data suggest that gardeners acquire home garden knowledge mainly from parents
(i.e., vertical transmission), first father and then mother, together representing about
50%of the responses (Figure 3). They also learn from members of the parental generation
other than the parents (i.e., oblique transmission), representing about 30%of the responses,
and from individuals of the same generation (i.e., horizontal transmission). Results also
show another mode of transmission: from members of younger to members of older gen-
erations, which we call here “retroactive transmission,” following the work of Bengtson
and Troll (1978), who used the term to refer to child-to-parent transmission. Horizontal
and retroactive modes of transmission are minor compared with the previous ones, but very
important for some specific bodies of knowledge, as described in the following.
Vertical, horizontal, and oblique transmissions are represented in five of the six categories
analyzed in Figure 2—that is, in all except “pest and disease management,” for which hori-
zontal transmission was not reported. Vertical and oblique transmissions are the main modes
of cultural transmission in all categories (Table 1). For “crop sowing and harvesting,” vertical
transmission represents 72.72%of the cases. “Water management” is mainly obliquely trans-
mitted (53.85%). The transmission of fertilization knowledge is principally performed by ver-
tical transmission (73.33%). In this category, horizontal transmission also takes a relevant
role (20%). “Pest and disease management” is acquired via both vertical (52.94%) and obli-
que (47.06%) transmission. Similarly “seed selection and storage” is acquired through vertical
(36.84%) and oblique transmission (52.63%). Lastly, the knowledge embedded in the “crop
uses” category mainly comes from vertical (47.82%) and oblique (43.48%) transmission.
Figure 3. Modes of transmission of home garden knowledge in Vall de Gósol. Note: Nodes (gardener
and the different sources of knowledge acquisition) are shaped by the sex of the node (triangle for men,
circle for women, and a square for the gardener, since gardener includes both men and women),
and shaded for the percentage of knowledge transmitted by each source. The text next to the node
corresponds to the transmission mode.
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Interestingly, new technologies are being integrated into home garden management and
seem to be used as coping mechanisms to deal with social–ecological changes. For instance,
gardeners reported that black peas (Pisum sativum L.) were affected by the pea weevil
(Bruchus pisorum), a previously unknown pest in the area, which they attribute to the rise
of temperatures. To preserve peas from black weevil, once harvested, gardeners stored peas
in the freezer for 3 days, avoiding the proliferation of the pest. When we analyzed the
modes of transmission of such new knowledge we realized that the patterns were substan-
tially different from the ones previously described, with horizontal transmission having a
main role, as about 50%of the knowledge gathered by the gardeners is transmitted by their
peers. It should be stressed that about 30%of the people reported as teachers are younger
than the informant, highlighting the importance of retroactive transmission. Another
distinguishing feature here is the low weight of transmission from older generations, that
is, vertical and oblique transmission.
Discussion
We start the discussion by highlighting two limitations of the work presented here, before
we discuss our main results. First, the use of fixed categories to classify LEK is artificial, as
the successful management of a species depends on information that we have coded under
different categories, and partial knowledge (i.e., knowledge regarding a single category)
might result in crop failure. Despite acknowledging the holistic nature of LEK, we decided
to categorize it to ease our understanding of a complex process. Second, in our interviews,
we only recorded the perceived main source of information. It is probable, however, that
gardeners combine information from several sources, which likely means that our results
underestimate the importance of certain modes of transmission.
Although our case study is limited to a small and rather isolated geographical area, this
study is valuable since it provides a first understanding of the relation between cultural
transmission and LEK in home gardens in developed countries, a subject not studied before.
In that sense, two significant findings of this study stand out. First, results from this work
highlight that home gardens in a developed country have associated a rich and diverse pool
of LEK; we argue that in such a context LEK is critical in maintaining home gardens as
biocultural refugia. Second, we found that home garden knowledge is transmitted through
Table 1. Percentage of the different modes of knowledge transmission for the different situations
presented to gardeners.
Situation N(%)
a
Vertical
transmission (%)
Oblique
transmission (%)
Horizontal
transmission (%)
Retroactive
transmission (%)
Crop sowing and
harvesting
22 (91.67) 72.72 9.09 13.63 4.54
Water management 13 (54.17) 38.46 53.85 7.69 0
Fertilization 15 (62.50) 73.33 6.67 20.00 0
Pest and disease
management
17 (70.83) 52.94 47.06 0 0
Seed selection and
storage
19 (79.17) 36.84 52.63 10.53 0
Crop uses 23 (95.83) 47.82 43.48 8.70 0
New technologies 21 (87.50) 4.76 9.52 57.14 28.57
a
Gardeners whose response matched information reported in surveys and were asked about the source of transmission.
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several sources; we argue that such diversity in sources for the transmission of knowledge
might enhance the social–ecological resilience of home gardens.
Maintaining LEK to Preserve Biocultural Diversity in Home Gardens
In accordance with previous research, our results show that in contemporary developed
societies, local knowledge related to home gardens (1) helps in home gardens management
(Brookfield, Parsons, and Brookfield 2003); (2) provides information on different crop uses
(Negri 2003); (3) preserves intra- and interspecific crop genetic diversity (Galluzzi,
Eyzaguirre, and Negri 2010); and (4) allows for adaptation to change (Reyes-García,
Aceituno-Mata, and Calvet-Mir et al. 2014).
Our results are also consistent with findings from previous research in a geographically
and culturally close area (Vall Fosca), where home gardens are a marker of cultural identity
(Calvet-Mir et al. 2011; Calvet-Mir, Gómez-Bagetthun, and Reyes-García 2012). Individual
sense of place might act as an incentive to conserve landraces in the area (Riu-Bosoms,
Calvet-Mir, and Reyes-García 2014), and a motivation for people to preserve the LEK asso-
ciated to these landraces. According to Clayton (2007), psychological benefits on managing
a home garden can be partly attributed to the sense of place. Other authors have also high-
lighted the importance of LEK to preserve site-specific cultural identity, promoting social
cohesion and collective identity (Brookfield, Parsons, and Brookfield 2003). The future
trend of such a sense of place among young generations, however, is uncertain. On the
one side, the urbanization process, which is pushing young people to migrate to cities in
search of employment, might undermine the transmission of home garden knowledge
and thus negatively affect the resilience of the system. On the other side, such a sense of
place could be strengthened by the growing number of young people who seek to redis-
cover traditional ways of making a living, which might thus contribute to LEK conser-
vation. In sum, a main finding of our research is that the rich and diverse pool of LEK
associated with home gardens remaining in rural areas of developed countries allows such
home gardens to become biocultural refugia (Barthel, Crumley, and Svedin 2013). Specific
knowledge and experiences about practical management of biodiversity and ecosystem ser-
vices remain thus embedded in home gardens (Nabhan 2008; Calvet-Mir et al. 2011;
Calvet-Mir, Gómez-Bagetthun, and Reyes-García 2012; Barthel, Crumley, and Svedin
2013). Diversity and knowledge encountered and stored in home gardens are part of what
has been called social memory (Barthel, Folke, and Colding 2010) or biocultural memory
(Toledo and Barrera-Bassols 2008), the present-day expression of a long historical legacy of
interrelations between humans and nature, which enhances social–ecological resilience
(Nykvist and von Heland 2014).
Cultural Transmission as a Source of Resilience
We have documented modes of transmission of home gardens knowledge in Vall de Gósol.
Our results are in agreement with other studies of LEK transmission that suggests that the
different features of LEK might explain the existence of different modes of cultural trans-
mission (Aunger 2000). Although vertical transmission appears as dominant (for similar
results see Lancy 1999; Hewlett, De Silvestri, and Guglielmino 2002), we also observe that
other transmission modes (i.e., oblique and horizontal) are common. Furthermore, our
SOCIETY & NATURAL RESOURCES 11
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data suggest a previously neglected mode of cultural transmission: retroactive transmission,
in which information seems to flow from members of younger to members of older gen-
erations. This neglected mode of transmission is found in relation to the adoption of new
technologies. Technological knowledge is transversal and transmitted through networks of
informal contacts between gardeners and seems to promote a type of syncretism with LEK
systems, a phenomenon that has also been documented regarding marine (Aswani et al.
2007), forest (Mehring et al. 2011), and agricultural systems (Reyes-García et al. 2013).
We argue that the combination of different modes of transmission of knowledge relevant
for the management of home gardens may increase their resilience. Resilience has been
defined as the system’s ability to recover positively from a perturbation while maintaining
social and ecological functions through increasing people’s ability to anticipate changes and
plan for the future (Adger et al. 2005,2011; Gómez-Baggethun et al. 2012). In the context of
this study, the combination of different transmission modes might confer to home garden
managers diversified information, all-important for the adaptive management of social–eco-
logical systems. Such features include social memory, heterogeneity, social learning, and
adaptive capacity (Berkes and Folke 1998; Berkes, Colding, and Folke 2000; Bodin, Crona,
and Ernstson 2006). Thus, vertical transmission allows for the accumulation of large bodies
of LEK, maintaining social memory, or the collective knowledge and experience to be used
in times of change and uncertainty. Simultaneous reliance on different modes of trans-
mission (i.e., vertical, oblique, horizontal, and retroactive) ensures flexibility in multiple
learning pathways, giving the opportunity to shift learning from one source to another,
according to the need. Moreover, simultaneous reliance on different modes of transmission
might broaden the collective knowledge base and increase the capacity for innovation and
maintenance of different knowledge systems and frameworks for interpretation, thus con-
ferring heterogeneity onto home gardens. Local communities are involved in a process of
continuous social learning through the transmission and sharing of knowledge and ideas,
and thus resource management can be updated and adapted to changing conditions. Finally,
retroactive transmission gives adaptive capacity to home gardens since it is based on the
acquisition of new knowledge to cope with changing conditions or innovation to meet
new needs.
A recent review on the implications of traditional ecological knowledge for social–
ecological resilience in the context of community-based biodiversity conservation initiatives
(Ruiz-Mallén and Corbera 2013) highlights the importance of transmission and mainte-
nance of traditional ecological knowledge to cope with disturbances. We hypothesize that
the same mechanism might help confer resilience to Vall de Gósol home gardens and it
is related to the dynamic nature of LEK. Furthermore, as in community-based conservation
contexts, we suggest that, even though current environmental change is faster than the
processes of generating and transmitting LEK, gardeners in Vall the Gósol have been able
to learn from experience and errors, have engaged young people in learning processes,
and have innovated and generated new knowledge to overcome crisis.
Conclusions
Our findings suggest that the maintenance of home gardens and associated LEK is inextri-
cable; moreover, LEK helps transform home gardens from an agricultural system to biocul-
tural refugia. Furthermore, the different pathways through which information on home
12 L. CALVET-MIR ET AL.
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gardens management flows may make up an important factor explaining the rich and
diverse body of knowledge present in home gardens, also conferring resilience to those
agroecosystems.
As the conservation of LEK has been deemed a priority worldwide, the implications of
our findings are not limited to Vall de Gósol home gardens. However, further research is
needed to verify how generalizable or widely applicable our findings are. This will require
deeply analyzing the dynamics of LEK (creation, acquisition, transformation, transmission,
maintenance and loss) and their influence in the social–ecological resilience of home
gardens in the current context of urbanization and globalization.
We conclude by raising some environmental policy implications of our work. In
developed settings where huge changes in social relations, demography, and culture take
place, home gardens might act as important settings to preserve the long historical legacy
of interrelations between humans and nature (social memory). Furthermore, home gardens
knowledge seems to play a central role in the resilience of the social–ecological systems in
which they are embedded. In such situation, it is of paramount importance to support and
promote, both informally and officially, the maintenance of home gardens, including rural
home gardens and other types of gardens such as urban allotments or community gardens
that are nowadays gaining importance in urban planning.
Funding
This research was conducted under the framework of two projects funded by the Ministerio de Edu-
cación y Ciencia (España) (SEJ2007-60873/SOCI) and the Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación
(CSO2011_27565) (Spain).
Acknowledgments
We thank all the gardeners who collaborated in the project, sharing their knowledge, and especially
Maria Tort Guitart. Three anonymous reviewers and the journal editor also provided very useful
comments to improve the article. Thanks also go to Karla Berrens for English editing and to Daniel
Corbacho Monné for help with the figures.
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... Private gardens in the tropical zones have been more frequently discussed in their current relation to self-provisioning, presenting an important part of the livelihoods of economically struggling communities [8][9][10][11][12]. A broad variety of plants used as food are reported in a number of studies dedicated to the past and present of the cultivation of edible species in European home gardens [13][14][15][16][17]. However, being largely supplanted by the globalized agri-food industry, temperate and especially European home gardens and their owners have drawn less attention [5,16]. ...
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... Such environmental education programs assembling diverse knowledge emanating from different sources, they argued, can support the resilience of the system by expanding the options to enable adaptation in the face of disturbances such as food insecurity. This finding is in line with ethnoecological research suggesting that the diverse body of knowledge present in and conferring resilience to home gardens results from different transmission pathways (Calvet-Mir et al. 2016). Moreover, the study of Krasny and Tidball (2010) on the environmental education programs identified some elements of the self-organization attribute, understood as "the emergence of larger-scale patterns from independent smaller-scale processes" (ibid, 474). ...
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INTRODUCTION Transmission may be understood as the deliberate or unintended transfer of information from a transmitter to a transmittee. The concept of cultural transmission, however, indicates the transmission of culture or cultural elements that are widely distributed: social orientations (e.g., values), skills (e.g., reading and writing), knowledge (e.g., the healing power of certain herbs), and behaviors (e.g., the exchange of rings in a wedding ceremony). The scope of this distribution defines the boundaries of the respective culture. The research traditions presented herein reveal that theorists have generally thought of cultural transmission as a process of replication of whatever is transmitted in another individual or in other groups. However, as pointed out by Reynolds (1981) (see also Henrich & Boyd, 2002), the replication has its limits. This debate is elaborated on throughout this chapter. The transmission of culture is a necessary process to maintain culture; thus, it has always taken place, from ancient to newly developed cultures. In traditional, slowly changing societies, the transmission of culture is a common undertaking of the older generation applied to the younger generation. The mechanisms involved in the cultural transmission of either slowly or rapidly changing societies form the basis of various theories that have been developed in the history of transmission research. The history of cultural transmission theories and research is characterized by interdisciplinary contributions. This chapter traces the origins and ramifications of theoretical approaches and looks at empirical evidence and counter-evidence.