Knowledge and valuation of Andean agroforestry species: the role of sex, age, and migration among members of a rural community in Bolivia

Brandt, Regine; Mathez-Stiefel, Sarah-Lan; Lachmuth, Susanne; Hensen, Isabell; Rist, Stephan (2013). Knowledge and valuation of Andean agroforestry species: the role of sex, age, and migration among members of a rural community in Bolivia. Journal of ethnobiology and ethnomedicine, 9(1), p. 83. Biomed Central 10.1186/1746-4269-9-83

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Background Agroforestry is a sustainable land use method with a long tradition in the Bolivian Andes. A better understanding of people’s knowledge and valuation of woody species can help to adjust actor-oriented agroforestry systems. In this case study, carried out in a peasant community of the Bolivian Andes, we aimed at calculating the cultural importance of selected agroforestry species, and at analysing the intracultural variation in the cultural importance and knowledge of plants according to peasants’ sex, age, and migration. Methods Data collection was based on semi-structured interviews and freelisting exercises. Two ethnobotanical indices (Composite Salience, Cultural Importance) were used for calculating the cultural importance of plants. Intracultural variation in the cultural importance and knowledge of plants was detected by using linear and generalised linear (mixed) models. Results and discussion The culturally most important woody species were mainly trees and exotic species (e.g. Schinus molle, Prosopis laevigata, Eucalyptus globulus). We found that knowledge and valuation of plants increased with age but that they were lower for migrants; sex, by contrast, played a minor role. The age effects possibly result from decreasing ecological apparency of valuable native species, and their substitution by exotic marketable trees, loss of traditional plant uses or the use of other materials (e.g. plastic) instead of wood. Decreasing dedication to traditional farming may have led to successive abandonment of traditional tool uses, and the overall transformation of woody plant use is possibly related to diminishing medicinal knowledge. Conclusions Age and migration affect how people value woody species and what they know about their uses. For this reason, we recommend paying particular attention to the potential of native species, which could open promising perspectives especially for the young migrating peasant generation and draw their interest in agroforestry. These native species should be ecologically sound and selected on their potential to provide subsistence and promising commercial uses. In addition to offering socio-economic and environmental services, agroforestry initiatives using native trees and shrubs can play a crucial role in recovering elements of the lost ancient landscape that still forms part of local people’s collective identity.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


10 Strategic Research Centers > Centre for Development and Environment (CDE)
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography > Geographies of Sustainability > Unit Critical Sustainability Studies (CSS)
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography > NCCR North-South Management Centre [discontinued]

UniBE Contributor:

Mathez-Stiefel, Sarah-Lan, Rist, Stephan


500 Science > 570 Life sciences; biology
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 330 Economics
900 History > 910 Geography & travel




Biomed Central




Sarah-Lan Mathez-Stiefel

Date Deposited:

18 Jun 2014 10:39

Last Modified:

16 Feb 2023 23:21

Publisher DOI:





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