Náhuatl Homegardens of the Tehuacán Valley, Mexico

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Plant management and biodiversity conservation in Náhuatl homegardens of the Tehuacán Valley, Mexico

Larios C, Casas A, Vallejo M, Moreno-Calles AI, Blancas J
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2013 Nov 6;9:74
PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3827996

Tehuacán Valley ecoregion
Location of the Tehuacán Valley ecoregion in southeastern Puebla and northern Oaxaca states [Source: Cephas – North America second level political division 2.svg, Wikimedia Commons]
Carolina Larios of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) and coauthors conducted a study of plant species of homegardens of Náhuatl communities in the Tehuacán Valley of central Mexico, and their similarity with wild native species in the surrounding habitats.

Noting that the Tehuacán Valley is one of the arid zones with the highest biodiversity in the Americas, and one of the areas of Mesoamerica with the oldest history of plant management, the authors focused on homegardens because they are among the most ancient management systems that still provide economic benefits to people and are reservoirs of native biodiversity.

The study had three primary aims:

  • Inventorying plant species occurring in homegardens, their nomenclature, use and traditional management;
  • Determining richness, abundance and diversity of plant species composing homegardens, and their role in maintaining native plant species;
  • Evaluating harvest, consumption and incomes obtained from homegardens’ products and comparing the role of this system in people’s subsistence and culture in different ecological conditions.

The team recorded a total of 281 native plant species in homegardens, including 50 medicinal plant species. They found that “homegardens provide a high diversity of resources for subsistence of local households and significantly contribute to conservation of native biodiversity.”

From the conclusion:

“Homegardens studied in the municipality of Coyomeapan are reservoirs of high plant species diversity, nearly 34% of it being native to the Tehuacán Valle and nearly 16% to the local vegetation. The highest diversity was recorded in homegardens where the neighbouring forests had the least diversity, which suggests that management of homegardens aims at compensating scarcity of naturally available plant resources. Differently to other agroforestry systems of the area, cultivated species were markedly more abundant than plants under other management forms. Homegardens’ composition is influenced by ecological conditions and social factors according the role of the system in local people’s subsistence.

“The information documented may support local programs for agroecological practices linked to dynamic conservation of biodiversity and culture. Homegardens may be important for local and regional strategies of protection of threatened species along with those of economic importance. Promoting interchange of local experiences about use and management techniques among rural communities, as well as diffusion of ecological and cultural information about the species managed could strongly support such a process. Academic institutions and NGOs might contribute with scientific and regional and national management experiences for making decisions at different scales.”

Read the complete article at PubMed Central.

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