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Semiarid ethnoagroforestry management: Tajos in the Sierra Gorda, Guanajuato, Mexico

Hoogesteger van Dijk, VincentM., Casas, Alejandro, Moreno-Calles, AnaIsabel
Journal of ethnobiology and ethnomedicine 2017 v.13 no.1 pp. 34
beans, botanical composition, corn, crops, forest management, forests, households, interviews, introduced plants, land management, people, perennials, rivers, sediments, semiarid zones, soil, terraces, valleys, Mexico
BACKGROUND: The semi-arid environments harbor nearly 40% of biodiversity, and half of indigenous cultures of Mexico. Thousands of communities settled in these areas depend on agriculture and using wild biodiversity for their subsistence. Water, soil, and biodiversity management strategies are therefore crucial for people’s life. The tajos, from Sierra Gorda, are important, poorly studied, biocultural systems established in narrow, arid alluvial valleys. The systems are constructed with stone-walls for capturing sediments, gradually creating fertile soils in terraces suitable for agriculture in places where it would not be possible. We analyzed biocultural, ecological, economic and technological relevance of the artificial oasis-like tajos, hypothesizing their high capacity for maintaining agricultural and wild biodiversity while providing resources to people. METHODS: We conducted our research in three sections of the Mezquital-Xichú River, in three communities of Guanajuato, Mexico. Agroforestry management practices were documented through semi-structured and in-depth qualitative interviews. Vegetation composition of local forests and that maintained in tajos was sampled and compared. RESULTS: Tajos harbor high agrobiodiversity, including native varieties of maize and beans, seven secondary crops, 47 native and 25 introduced perennial plant species. Perennial plants cover on average 26.8% of the total surface of plots. Tajos provide nearly 70% of the products required by households’ subsistence and are part of their cultural identity. CONCLUSIONS: Tajos are heritage of TEK and land management forms of pre-Columbian Mexican and Mediterranean agricultural techniques, adapting and integrating modern agricultural practices. Tajos are valuable biocultural systems adapted to local semiarid conditions and sources of technology for similar areas of the World.