Lianas and Livelihoods: The Role of Fibrous Forest Plants in Food Security and Society around Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda

O. Muhwezi, Tony Cunningham, [No Value] Bukenya-Ziraba

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    This paper documents the role thatfibrous plants play in rural economies of farming communities in southwestern Uganda.Thirty-five plant species from 20 plant families are used to weave baskets, stretchers,granaries, and protective coverings for clay pots. These products play a crucial role in localculture, the local economy, and social institutions as well as in food security due to their use incarrying, processing, or storing crops. Lianas (Loeseneriella apocynoides, Smilax anceps, andto a lesser extent, Cyphostemma bambuseti, Flabellaria paniculata, Hippocratea odongensis,Salacia elegans, and Urera hypselodendron) are the most important plant life-forms used,followed by bamboo (Sinarundinaria alpina). The extent of use of plant species for granariesvaried significantly with altitude, vegetation type, and land-cover across the wide altitudinalrange of the study area (1,440–2,600 m asl). Granaries used by farmers at lower altitudesused a higher diversity of species compared to those at a higher altitude, where 82% ofgranaries were constructed from bamboo (Sinarundinaria alpina). Tightly woven, durablegranaries are important for food storage and therefore to the food security and sustainablelivelihoods of subsistence farmers. Where length, strength, and durability of weaving fiberswere required, such as for stretchers (engozi) used as local “ambulances,” only two lianaspecies were favored. The most commonly used species was the forest liana Loeseneriellaapocynoides (Celastraceae), used for up to 77% of engozi stretchers and 83% of tea-pickingbaskets. While most species are abundant and can be sustainably harvested, L. apocynoidesis overexploited, posing problems for local people and the national park.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)340-352
    JournalEconomic Botany
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2009


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