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Dietary use and conservation concern of edible wetland plants at indo-burma hotspot: a case study from northeast India

Author(s): Jain A | Sundriyal M | Roshnibala S | Kotoky R | Kanjilal PB | Singh HB | Sundriyal RC

Journal: Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine
ISSN 1746-4269

Volume: 7;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 29;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Keywords: Wetland plant resources | tribal communities | dietary use | ethnobotanical survey | livelihood | marketing | nutritive value | conservation

Abstract Background The wetlands of the North East India fall among the global hotspots of biodiversity. However, they have received very little attention with relation to their intrinsic values to human kind; therefore their conservation is hardly addressed. These wetlands are critical for the sustenance of the tribal communities. Methods Field research was conducted during 2003 to 2006 in seven major wetlands of four districts of Manipur state, Northeast India (viz. Imphal-East, Imphal-West, Thoubal, and Bishnupur). A total of 224 wetland-plant-collectors were interviewed for the use and economics of species using semi-structured questionnaires and interview schedules. Imphal, Bishenpur and Thoubal markets were investigated in detail for influx and consumption pattern of these plants. The collectors were also inquired for medicinal use of wetland species. Nutritive values of 21 species were analyzed in laboratory. The vouchers were collected for all the species and deposited in the CSIR-NEIST (Formerly Regional Research Laboratory), Substation, Lamphelpat, Imphal, Manipur, India. Results We recorded 51 edible wetland species used by indigenous people for food and medicinal purposes. Thirty eight species had high medicinal values and used in the traditional system to treat over 22 diseases. At least 27 species were traded in three markets studied (i.e. Imphal, Thoubal and Bishenpur), involving an annual turnover of 113 tons of wetland edible plants and a gross revenue of Rs. 907, 770/- (US$1 = Rs. 45/-). The Imphal market alone supplies 60% of the total business. Eighty per cent of the above mentioned species are very often used by the community. The community has a general opinion that the availability of 45% species has depleted in recent times, 15 species need consideration for conservation while another 7 species deserved immediate protection measures. The nutrient analysis showed that these species contribute to the dietary balance of tribal communities. Conclusions Considering the importance of wild wetland plants in local sustenance, it is suggested to protect their habitats, develop domestication protocols of selected species, and build programs for the long-term management of wetland areas by involving local people. Some medicinal plants may also be used to develop into modern medicines.

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