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Ethnobotanical and Floristic Research in Belize: Accomplishments, Challenges and Lessons Learned

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Title:Ethnobotanical and Floristic Research in Belize: Accomplishments, Challenges and Lessons Learned
Authors:Balick, Michael J.
O’Brien, Hugh
Date Issued:2004
Publisher:University of Hawaii at Manoa
Citation:Balick MJ, O’Brien H. 2004. Ethnobotanical and floristic research in Belize: accomplishments, challenges and lessons learned. Ethnobotany Res Appl 2:77-88.
Abstract:Ethnobotanical and floristic research in Belize was conducted through the Belize Ethnobotany Project which was launched in 1988 as a multi-disciplinary effort of a number of individuals and institutions in Belize and internationally. The objectives of the project were the preservation of cultural and traditional knowledge, natural products research (through the National Cancer Institute), technology transfer, institutional strengthening and student training. This paper discusses the implementation of the project components, highlighting its accomplishments, challenges and lessons learned. A checklist of the flora has been produced, and includes 3,408 native and cultivated species found in Belize. The multiple use curve is introduced as a way of determining the most appropriate sample size for ethnobotanical interviews/collections. Valuation studies of medicinal plants found in two areas of local forest are described, and compared with values of traditional uses for farming, using a net present value analysis. Studies on the ecology, propagation and sustainable levels of harvest of medicinal plants were also initiated in Belize. Our experience with the production of a traditional healer’s manual is detailed, and we describe details on the benefit-sharing approach utilized to recognize intellectual property that it contains. Various local efforts at developing forest-based traditional medicine products are described, as is the natural products research and teaching program based on Belizean plants. The authors will relate an example of how negative events can be transformed to have positive results. Specifically, in the case of conflict over the management of the region’s first ethnobiomedical reserve, two competing groups claimed responsibility for its management. However, the conflict was eventually resolved and resulted in two such reserves being established, together representing over 50,000 acres of land set aside for conservation and use by traditional healers. The perspective of local participants and communities will also be presented, including a short video presentation.
Appears in Collections: 2004 - Volume 2 : Ethnobotany Research and Applications

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