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Folksong based appraisal of bioecocultural heritage of sorghum (Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench): A new approach in ethnobiology

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Author(s): Mekbib Firew

Journal: Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine
ISSN 1746-4269

Volume: 5;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 19;
Date: 2009;
Original page

ABSTRACT
Abstract Background Sorghum is one of the main staple crops for the world's poorest and most food insecure people. As Ethiopia is the centre of origin and diversity for sorghum, the crop has been cultivated for thousands of years and hence the heritage of the crop is expected to be rich. Folksong based appraisal of bioecocultural heritage has not been done before. Methods In order to assess the bioecocultural heritage of sorghum by folksongs various research methods were employed. These included focus group discussions with 360 farmers, direct on-farm participatory monitoring and observation with 120 farmers, and key informant interviews with 60 farmers and development agents. Relevant secondary data was also collected from the museum curators and historians. Results The crop is intimately associated with the life of the farmers. The association of sorghum with the farmers from seed selection to utilization is presented using folksongs. These include both tune and textual (ballad stories or poems) types. Folksongs described how farmers maintain a number of varieties on-farm for many biological, socio-economic, ecological, ethnological and cultural reasons. Farmers describe sorghum as follows: Leaf number is less than twenty; Panicle hold a thousand seeds; a clever farmer takes hold of it. In addition, they described the various farmers' varieties ethnobotanically by songs. The relative importance of sorghum vis-à-vis others crops is similarly explained in folksong terms. Conclusion The qualitative description of farmers' characterisation of the crop systems based on folksongs is a new system of appraising farmers' bioecocultural heritage. Hence, researchers, in addition to formal and quantitative descriptions, should use the folksong system for enhanced characterisation and utilization of bioecocultural heritages. In general, the salient characteristics of the folksongs used in describing the bioecocultural heritages are their oral traditions, varied function, communal or individual recreation and message transmissions.

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