Main content area

Conservation of biological and nutritional diversity by identification and characterization of neglected and underutilized species in northeastern Cambodia

Bicksler, A. J., Cantril, T., Siem, S., Thompson, K. W.
Acta horticulturae 2018 no.1205 pp. 67-74
agroforestry, biodiversity, commercialization, crops, domestication, farmers, food plants, food security, forests, highlands, home gardens, interviews, minorities (people), population growth, traditions, Cambodia
Agricultural crop biodiversity is a key component of food and nutritional security among smallholder farmers in the developing world. Among a pool of 250,000-300,000 edible plant species in the world, only a small percentage are commercialized and used in any sort of large-scale agronomic application, with many having gone extinct in the last century. Upland indigenous minority groups in Cambodia, as in other parts of Southeast Asia, have traditionally relied upon shifting swidden-fallow agricultural systems to maintain crop biodiversity and food security. However, with increasing population, land concessions, and forest encroachment pressures, these communities are vulnerable to environmental and social unknowns and face the possibility of food and nutritional insecurity and loss of culture. Community-based research conducted in 2015 utilized mixed-method analysis tools to identify and characterize the presence, usage, and associated traditions for using indigenous and naturalized annual and perennial species among 7 diverse ethnic communities in the uplands of northeast Cambodia. Numerous neglected and underutilized species (NUS) of promise were identified using card sorts; culinary traditions were characterized in household interviews; and seed systems were explored surrounding these plants. Many of these species have the potential for domestication, the scale-up of backyard gardens, agroforestry applications, and commercialization that can be utilized for increased food security and the conservation and promotion of biological, cultural, and nutritional diversity in northeast Cambodia and other upland communities throughout Southeast Asia.