South-south exchange: design, planning and implementation of indigenous biocultural territories

Contributed by Tammy Stenner

The Asociacion ANDES and the Association of Communities of the Potato Park organized a second international workshop on ‘Designing, Planning and Implementing Biocultural Territories as Agrobiodiversity Conservation Areas, in Cusco and the Potato Park, Cusco, Peru from November 12 to 23, 2010. The workshop was organized within the framework of the ‘Multi Year Plan of Action for South-South Cooperation on Biodiversity for Development’ of the CBD, as adopted at COP 10.

The Potato Park has become an internationally recognized hands-on example and demonstrative case of a biocultural approach for an effective plant genetic resources conservation and endogenous development model. The workshop was organized to promote the replication and scaling up of this conservation-development model based on indigenous territoriality. This model responds to local socioeconomic interests, and also serves as a conduit for the implementation of international frameworks such as the UNDRIPs, CBD and FAO’s ITPGRFA.

Eighteen participants from Ethiopia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Colombia participated in the workshop together with members of communities of the Potato Park, ANDES personnel and a group of international volunteers. The group engaged in a variety of learning activities in academic and field workshops, heard from invited guests and were actively involved in practical activities for designing, planning and implementing biocultural territories. Participants have acquired tools which can be used to implement biocultural territories based on the particular characteristics of their own regions and communities. In addition, participants formed a network of communities from centres of origin of important foods to allow for continued sharing and collaboration in the future.

Read more information on the exchange.

Society of Ethnobiology 2011 conference report

Contributed by Leslie Main Johnson, Newsletter Editor and ISE Secretary

Amish horses

The Society of Ethnobiology annual conference was held in Columbus, Ohio (USA) May 4-7 of this year.  The meeting’s theme was Historical and Archaeological Perspectives in Ethnobiology. Paper sessions covered diverse topics, including birds in historical, cultural and archaeological context; ethnomedicine; paleoecology historical ecology; ethnoecology and landscape; perception, knowledge and meaning; traditional environmental knowledge–conservation, loss and resilience; traditional resource use, sustainability and conservation; traditional cultivation systems; colonization, modernization and change; and ethnobiological perspectives on environmental justice.  Abstracts may be viewed on the Society’s website.

One of the highlights of the meeting this year was a well-attended and diverse poster session, largely by students and young ethnobiologists.  The award for the best poster went to Michel Rapinksi (cosupervised by Alain Cuerrier and John Thor Arnason) of the Institut de recherche en biologie végétale, Quebec for the poster “Geographical Variations in the Phytochemical Profiles of Cree Antidiabetic Medicines” describing phytochemical variation in several key herbal remedies used by the James Bay Cree for diabetes treatment.

Dr. Richard I. Ford received the Distinguished Ethnobiologist award for his long career promoting the discipline.  His inspiring acceptance speech amply indicated his ongoing service to the Zuni communities he worked with, and his commitment to training young ethnobiologists.  His work spanned both archaeobotanical work and contemporary ethnobotany and his influence has been enormous in succeeding generations of ethnobiologists.   Dick received a standing ovation.

It was also announced at the meeting that Dr. Catherine (Kay) Fowler, recently retired from the University of Nevada, Reno, has been elected to the National Academy of Science, a fitting culmination to a long career of impeccable scholarship and work with indigenous communities of the American Great Basin.  She has also served on the Board of Directors of the Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.  Kay continues to be an inspiration for the quality of her research and her commitment to ethnobiology and Indigenous peoples.

The fieldtrips of the Society of Ethnobiology conference are always a high point, and this year’s trips included one focusing on the archaeology of the Mound Builders (middle Woodland period), a trip to Point Pelee Park on Lake Eerie to watch the spring bird migration, and a trip to an Amish organic farm to learn about sustainable agriculture.  I chose the third option. The farmer, David Kline, is a keen amateur ornithologist and an eloquent spokesperson for farming sustainably as a viable and rewarding way of life.

The Society of Ethnobiology’s next conference will be in Denver, Colorado (USA) in April 2012.