Hoti ethnobotany: exploring the interactions between plants and people in the venezuelan amazon
Zent, Eglee Mariana Lopez
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This study describes the ethnobotany of the Hoti, a group of about 800 Indians living in the Serranía de Maigualida of the Venezuelan Amazon. Field research was conducted between 1996 to 1999, mostly in four socioecologically different Hoti communities: Caño Iguana, Caño Mosquito, Caño Majagua y Kayamá. The methodology includes quantitative and qualitative approaches. The research had four main goals.|1. Initiate the documentation of the botanical diversity of a previous unknown region of Venezuela. A total of 2340 botanical specimens were collected, of which approximately 1500 have been determined botanically. Botanical inventories and ecological measurements (density, dominance, frequency, and importance values) were made in four one-hectare plots set up in different ecological areas, and on the basis of this data different forest types were defined. A total of 59 families, 247 genera and 399 species were identified in the four plots.|2. Explore Hoti cultural ecology, one of the least known ethnic groups in Venezuela. The subsistence ecology (foraging, hunting, fishing, horticulture) is described, with particular emphasis on plant-people interactions, ideological and utilitarian aspects of plant use, and the role of Hoti as ecological disturbance agents.|3. Test empirically theoretical proposals on the nature of ethnobiological classifications. The Hoti ethnobotanical classification system is described and analyzed in the light of current theory. The system exhibits well defined ethnobotanical categories: Kingdom (unnamed), Life Form (10 taxa), Generic (565 taxa), Specific (509 taxa) and Varietal (5 taxa). The percentage of polytipic generic taxa, (108) 23,6%, is in agreement with the 20% predicted by the theory.|4. Test the hypothesis that the Hoti, described as incipient horticulturalists, have less extensive and less detailed knowledge of the plant world than more horticultural lowland groups. Data from the ethnobotanical plot surveys in fact shows that the Hoti possess a comparatively higher knowledge of their botanical surroundings in comparison to other groups, thus falsifying the null hypothesis. The global use percentages of the plot species are between 49% to 100%, corresponding to the least (Kayama) and the most (Mosquito) traditional environments respectively.