Cross-cultural ethnobotany and conservation of medicinal and aromatic plants in the Nilgiris, Western Ghats: A case study
*Corresponding author: Sunil Nautiyal E-mail: email@example.com
The Indian sub-continent is endowed with a huge plant biodiversity. The two important landscapes, viz. the Himalayas and the Western Ghats in India, are the home for more than 6,000 endemic plant species thus listed among the 34 biodiversity hotspots worldwide. We have carried out a study in the Nilgiris, located in Western Ghats, India to understand the human and plant interactions and role of plant bio-diversity in ecosystem conservation and development of the local economy. The majority of the people in the study region are non-tribal and about 15% belong to various tribal communities. Tribal people remained isolated from the main stream for the last generations so, they are still different from other communities in terms of their unique cultural practices. These tribal groups have been using a variety of wild plants to cure various ailments in their traditional health care system. More specifically, their unique medicinal practices were not known to the other communities of the region and have so far been poorly documented. The objective of this current study was to document the ethnic knowledge on medicinal plants in their cross cultural practices used by the various tribal groups of the Nilgiris in Western Ghats. Since the Nilgiris is the confluence of the Western and the Eastern Ghats, two of the most floristically rich areas in India, they support diverse communities of flora and fauna. The study encompasses documenting medicinal plants used by different tribal communities, the market economics of some of these medicinal plants, the interest of people on traditional medicine and domestication of medicinal plants. The study found that traditional medicinal practices are deteriorating at a much faster rate, due to acculturation taking place in the society on one hand and the influence of allopathic medicinal practices on the other. The economic status of these tribal people, as thoroughly discussed in this article, can be improved by helping them with training in processing and marketing of the medicinal plants. At the beginning, kitchen gardening should be used for demonstrating the cultivation practices of medicinal plants, while selecting some important endangered species. Once farmers are well versed with the technical know-how of cultivation of medicinal and aromatic plants, then the area of such herbal gardens can be expanded in the form of bringing them under cultivation in the main agricultural land used in the region. With the help of a few successful demonstration models, this approach will be a new means of conservation through cultivation, and simultaneously, the interest of young minds shall be ignited for conservation and sustainable livelihood development.
Medicinal plants, documentation, Nilgiris hills, Western Ghats, India.