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Narrating changing foodways : wild edible plant knowledge and traditional food systems in Mapuche lands of the Andean temperate forests, Chile Barreau Daly, Antonia

Abstract

Despite increases in food production worldwide, we face a global food crisis. Yet, the literature on food vulnerability tends to emphasize cultivated foods, overlooking the importance of wild edible plants. This work explores the state of ethnobotanical knowledge on wild edible plants and changing foodways in a Mapuche community residing in the Andean temperate forests, Chile. This research contributes to an understanding of the influence of historical and contemporary eco-cultural processes on traditional ecological knowledge and food systems. I used ethnography, complemented with ethnobotanical techniques, weekly food diaries, local market surveys and oral histories. A total of 47 wild edible plants (28% exotic) belonging to 34 families were recorded. While some species were still consumed, many were no longer used. Despite a wealth of knowledge held by adults and elders, new generations were not learning what the elders had once learned. Since the Mapuche pedagogy is oral and in situ, the lack of access to forests and the formal school regime were reported as interrupting the transmission of environmental knowledge and skills. The decreasing consumption of wild edibles was mostly associated with a lack of access to gathering sites due to land grabbing, the scarcity of many species, the absence of children to go gathering and the loss of knowledge as a result of temporary migration. Wild edible plants are part of a wider Mapuche food system which, according to participants, has drastically shifted overtime. These shifts and increasing dependence on industrialized foods were associated with common chronic health conditions and lower life expectations. The decreased use of wild edibles and the changes on traditional foodways are interlinked, and land tenure regimes are a key for understanding current scenarios. While ancestral land claims remain unresolved, protected areas that surround the community may play an important role for local wellbeing by reinforcing knowledge systems and traditional practices related to food procurement and healthcare. Projects aiming to revitalize traditional foods are needed to recover the local food cultures of indigenous peoples for long-term collective health, and the reclamation of food sovereignty as a right.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada

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