Micronesian Ethnobotany Project

Terrestrial Program | Comments Off on Micronesian Ethnobotany Project

A species of fern, Pohnpei

Among the many important conservation projects carried out by its dedicated staff, CSP welcomed the Micronesia Ethnobotany Project (ethno project) to its team in January 2006.  The ethno project, formerly of The Nature Conservancy, was established in 1997 by its founder Dr. Michael Balick of the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG).  With funding provided by the NYBG Mrs. Fransisca Sohl supervises the ethno project and current team members include Ranger Relio Lengsi, and Ranger Primo Eperiam.

Ethnobotany, the study of the relationship between plants and people, is a relatively new field to Micronesia that aims to preserve, protect, and document traditional uses of plants.  The ethno project is a multi fold process whereby plant use information is carefully obtained through interviews and plant collection.  Specimens of designated plants are collected, dried, and submitted to the NYBG (and other herbaria institutions) for plant identification and herbaria purposes.  In efforts of preserving and furthering our knowledge of Pohnpei’s rich plant diversity and their important uses, ethno project plant specimens are returned and stored at the College of Micronesia herbarium, Palikir campus.

Documentation of traditional uses of plants on Pohnpei will be included in two books, a Primary Health Care Manual and Ethnobotany of Pohnpei, Plants, People and Island Culture. The Primary Health Care Manual will include local plant uses for common ailments and will be made available to health care professionals on Pohnpei including the many dispensaries around the island. Ethnobotany of Pohnpei, Plants, People and Island Culture will be a collection of the information gathered by the Ethnobotany team to date, and will not only serve to educate people about Pohnpei’s plants and their many uses, but also serve as a record of Pohnpei’s traditional plant knowledge. The Pohnpei Pants and People of Micronesia was published in January 2009. One thing that is unique about this book is it will be copyrighted in the name of Pohnpei’s traditional leaders and Pohnpei State government ensuring that this important knowledge remains the property of Pohnpei’s people.

Weipwul, Indian Mulberry (Noni)

Interviews were conducted with people who were willing to share their local knowledge of the collected plants. These interviews do not seek to obtain secret or family-centered plant uses, but rather to record information about the common uses of Pohnpei’s native plants. The interviews document what is known about the plants of Pohnpei before this knowledge is lost over time. These people have been very generous to the project and CSP wants to take this opportunity to thank the people for the information they provided as well as their time with our staff.

Based on the Ethno project team’s work with students through CSP’s Youth to Youth program they have realized the lack of plant knowledge in Pohnpei’s younger generations. To meet this need  the Ehno project team is expanding its public awareness campaign and welcomes opportunities such as school visits, youth groups, presentations, etc. CSP is in the process of developing  posters of the most important  plants of Pohnpei and an informational booklet for children to be incorporated into CSP’s Green Road Show Program.  Please contact CSP at 320-5409 or CSP@mail.fm if you have questions or comments about the project.