A Sudy on the Ecology and Ethnobotany of Non-Cultivated Food Plants and Wild Relatives of Cultivated Crops in Gambella Region, Southwestern Ethiopia

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Addis Ababa University


Five field trips were made between October 14, 1995 and October 10, 1996 to Gambella Region, southwestern Ethiopia to study the vegetation, the non-cultivated food plants and wild relatives of cultivated crops. Undisturbed vegetation types were studied to describe the plant conununities in which non-cultivated food plants and wild relatives of cultivated crops occur. The cover/abundance data of 220 plant species were recorded from 58 releves. For each sample stand, environmental data on topographic factors (altitude and slope), and soil from a depth of 10 cm (top soil) and 50 cm (sub soil) were collected. The soil was analyzed for pH, texture, Cation Exchange Capacity, Organic Carbon, total Nitrogen, available Phosphorus, exchangeable Potassium and Sodium. The releves were classified using a FORTRAN computer program TWINSPAN and the following seven major plant communities were described: 1, COlllmelilla-Hygrophila; 2, Sorghum plllplireo-sericelllll-Pelll/isetuln tlllll/bergii; 3, Loudetia arul/dinaceaHyparrhellia pilgeriana; 4, Combietuln adeilogollillln-Allogeissus /eiocarpa; 5, Tamarindus indicaAnogeissus leiocarpa; 6, Baphia abyssinica-Tapura fischeri; 7, Mallilkara butugi-Cordia africalla. Each community was compared with all others in their environmental factors using ANOV A. Plant communityenvironment interrelationships were investigated to see whether there are statistically significant variations between plant communities in environmental factors. Indigenous people were involved as guides, laborers and informants in the study of non-cultivated food plants and wild relatives of cultivated crops. Inquiries regarding the local name of plants, uses and mode of uses were made and recorded on the spot with other botanical field notes. The information obtained from local informants was further enriched through literature review and from notes on herbarium specimens found at the National Herbarium (ETH). A total of 469 plant specimens, which comprise 311 wild and 4 cultivated species, were collected in duplicate or triplicate, identified and deposited at ETH and Biodiversity Institute/Ethiopia. Of these, 84 plant species in 39 families and 71 genera have been recorded as non-cultivated food plants. The edible plants fall into 11 categories: fruits (36 species), leaves (30), plant ash as a source of edible salt (8), tubers (3), oil seed (3), seeds as a cereal (2), spices (2), bark for beverage (I), leaves and beans for hot drink (I), stem as a source of water (1) and flower as a source of sweet nectar (1). A total of 13 species in 9 families and 10 genera were recognized as wild relatives of cultivated crops. These plants belong to cereals (3 species), fibers/leafy vegetables (3), oil seeds (2), stimulant (I), spices (2) and tubers (2). These important plant species are distributed in the seven major plant communities. Both ex-situ and in-sitll conservation activities are recommended to protect the individual species and the plant cormnunities.