Potential and Prospects of Utilization, Development, and Conservation of Wild Edible Plants of the Meinit Ethnic Community in Bench-Maji Zone, Southwestern Ethiopia
Background: Meinit sociocultural community widely use wild plants for food, medicine, and income generation. However, the diversity of wild edible plants is declining drastically, and the indigenous knowledge on their preservation and utilization is disappearing.
Objective: The study was conducted to document the available knowledge on wild edible plant species (WEPS) used by the Meinit socio-cultural community of Southwestern Ethiopia.
Material and Methods: An ethnobotanical study was conducted on the use of WEPS by Meinit community in Bench-Maji Zone, Southwestern Ethiopia, from May 2019 to March 2021. Individual interviews were conducted using a semi-structured interview questionnaire and focus group discussions. A total of 198 participants aged between 18 and 70 years were drawn from the community and interviewed. Descriptive statistics were used to analyze the data.
Results: A total of 66 wild edible plants were recorded, which belong to 34 families and 50 genera. The genus Asteraceae and Fabaceae contributed six species each, followed by Amaranthaceae and Moraceae, each of which contributed five species. Of these species, 28 are herbs, 14 are shrubs, 13 are climbers, and 11 are trees. Leaves (42), fruits (19), roots and tubers (5), seeds (3) and aerial parts (2) of the WEPS were found to be used for food. From the documented WEPS, 12 species were identified to have medicinal values, and one has a market value. The WEPS are consumed as raw, boiled, and local beverage. The anthropogenic factors are major potential threats to WEPS and associated knowledge.
Conclusions: It is concluded that a high diversity of WEPS exists in the study districts, and the identified plant resources are used by the community mainly for food, medicine, and income generation. The tesults imply that WEPS can play significant roles in dietary diversity, food security, and health of rural households if they are conserved and used for food and medicine and further developed and improved. Therefore, these plant species should be domesticated, and their nutritional, phytochemical, and toxicological properties studied for enhanced use and conservation.
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