Tuesday 6
Traditional knowledge and resilience thinking
Juliana Merçon, Evodia Silva-Rivera
› 11:35 - 12:30 (55min)
› Rondelet
Cultural and biological heritage resilience through a grassroots Diversified Agroforestry Systems approach.
Evodia Silva Rivera  1, *@  , Noé Velázquez-Rosas * @
1 : Center for Tropical Research - Universidad Veracruzana  (CITRO-UV)  -  Website
Centro de Investigaciones Tropicales/Universidad Veracruzana Casco de la exhacienda Lucas Martín, Priv. de Araucarias S/N, Col. Periodistas Tel: (228) ext. 12655, fax: (228), Xalapa, Ver. México. C.P.91019 -  Mexique
* : Corresponding author

Revitalizing traditional agroecosystems in a region with a strong cultural and biological heritage could constitute a key alternative for recovering tropical vegetation and local communities' wellbeing. Such is the case of indigenous groups in Veracruz, Mexico, that conserve pre-Hispanic intangible elements, valuable for the development of more resilient sustainable agroforestry ecosystems in today's highly degraded landscapes. It has been thoroughly documented over the past two decades that traditional agroforestry systems provide important environmental services (e.g. carbon sequestration and watershed restoration); and that they may act as refuges for native fauna. There is also a high diversity of edible, medicinal plants and tree species with timber and non timber uses (for ornate, artcraft and religious purposes). We maintain that by recovering traditional agroforestry as well as local knowledge and cultural meanings, an important contribution could be made to the local economy and family wellbeing with long term repercussions. The outcomes of a collaborative relationship between a research and a grassroots initiative are noteworthy. On the one hand is a socio-ecological restoration project conducted by a team of university researchers and students. On the other hand is a large indigenous organization where members are united by the common goal of preserving a pre-Hispanic earth fertility ritual, the Dance of the Flyers, which was declared intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2009. A central element in this ritual is a tree, Zuelania guidonia, traditionally called ‘the flying pole'. In a ceremony that lasts several hours, this tree is carefully selected, cut and firmly stuck in the ground. Surrounded by music, dance and prayers; five ‘flyers' climb up the pole and perform a dance. One by one they let themselves fall, with a rope tied to one foot. Festivities require much preparation, and they last several days. However, with habitat loss, flying pole trees have become scarce. By using the flying tree as an emblem, we have put into practice socio-ecological restoration theory, where participatory action research plays a fundamental role. The indigenous organization has received guidance on the establishment of a nursery where native plants will be grown and studied. It also has negotiated the donation of a 2 ha plot where forestry research will be conducted. The socio-ecological system has become more resilient through the increasing local autonomy; and local communities place themselves at the center of this shared enterprise, becoming the protagonists responsible for the long term follow up of sustainable development actions in the region.

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