Nevin Manimala Statistics

Keeping their own and integrating the other: medicinal plant use among Ormurs and Pathans in South Waziristan, Pakistan

J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2023 Dec 17;19(1):62. doi: 10.1186/s13002-023-00634-z.


BACKGROUND: In multicultural societies, traditional knowledge among minorities faces several challenges. Minority groups often face difficult situations living in specific peripheral geographies and striving to retain their biocultural heritage, including medicinal plant knowledge and practices. Folk medicinal plant knowledge is a dynamic eco-cultural complex influenced by various environmental, socio-cultural, and political factors. Examining medicinal plant knowledge among minorities has been an increasingly popular topic in cross-cultural ethnobiology. It also helps understand the dynamics of local/traditional ecological knowledge (LEK/TEK) change within a given community. The current study was designed to investigate the status of medicinal plant knowledge among two linguistic groups, i.e. Ormurs and Pathans, living in a remote valley of West Pakistan.

METHODS: We recruited 70 male study participants from the studied groups for semi-structured interviews to record the medicinal plant use of their communities. Data were compared among the two studied communities using the stacked charts employing the presence or absence of data with Past 4.03 and Venn diagrams. Use reports (URs) were counted for each recorded taxon.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION: A total of seventy-four medicinal plants were quoted as used as ethnomedicines by the researched communities. Most of the reported plants were used to treat digestive and liver problems. The cross-cultural comparison revealed a considerable homogeneity of medicinal plant knowledge (the two groups commonly used more than seventy plants); however, comparing uses recorded for the widely utilised medicinal plants showed numerous idiosyncratic uses among Ormurs but very few among Pathans. Ormurs reported a higher number of cultivated, wild, and imported plant uses than did Pathans. These results indicate that, compared to Pathans, the Ormur linguistic minority retain more folk medicinal plant knowledge, which may be explained by the fact that they have incorporated different folk remedies: their “own knowledge” plus that of Pathans, with whom they have lived together for centuries. Moreover, the local plant nomenclature among Ormurs was highly affected by the plant nomenclature of Pathans.

CONCLUSION: The current study revealed that living together for a few centuries has not implied sharing plant knowledge (as the Pathans do not seem to have learnt from the Ormurs) or, in other words, that plant knowledge exchanges have been unidirectional. The findings show that the Pashto dominant culture may have possibly put pressure on the minority groups and affected local plant-centred cultural practices, as we see in the case of local plant nomenclature hybridisation among Omuri speakers. Hence, it is imperative to employ diverse educational strategies to revitalise the decline of medicinal plant knowledge in the studied communities, especially among Ormurs, who need more attention as they face more challenges than the other group. Locally based strategies should be devised to restore the fading connection with nature, which will be advantageous for revitalising plant knowledge.

PMID:38105177 | DOI:10.1186/s13002-023-00634-z

By Nevin Manimala

Portfolio Website for Nevin Manimala