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New Research | Fostering Greater Recognition of Caribbean Traditional Plant Knowledge

Dr. Ina Vandebroek, Senior Lecturer, Department of Life Sciences, Faculty of Science and Technology (FST), The University of the West Indies, Mona (The UWI Mona) is the author for a recently published article around fostering greater recognition of Caribbean traditional plant knowledge. The article highlights that the Caribbean region harbors diverse and unique plants, and that traditional knowledge about these plants is rooted in the culture of communities with African heritage. The authors designed an eight-step action plan to promote the visibility and recognition of family farmers and other knowledge holders as important stewards of this botanical diversity in research, education, and policy-making. This plan is not just for the Caribbean—the eight key goals can be applied elsewhere too:

1. Building strong community relationships: Giving more importance to the knowledge and experience of Caribbean family farmers in research.

2. Changing Academic Language: Making sure academic language supports the study and recognition of Caribbean traditional plant knowledge.

3. Decolonizing Research Agendas and Methodologies: Aligning research with community views and respecting the expertise of knowledgeable Caribbean community members as teachers of plant wisdom.

4. Using a Macro-Level Approach: Seeing Caribbean traditional plant knowledge as a whole system, including its cultural and spiritual beliefs about nature.

5. Transforming Education through Interdisciplinary Learning: Bringing together natural and social sciences in a connected curriculum for students.

6. Shifting Policy: Prioritizing strategies that strengthen communities and nature together, while respecting unique cultural traditions.

7. Involving Citizen Science: Building stronger bonds with Caribbean civil society to promote traditional plant knowledge.

8. Accelerating Social Justice: Encouraging scholars to rethink and decolonize their minds, and to work together respectfully with Caribbean communities to create and knowledge together.

Photo: The second author showing Scybalium jamaicense, a Caribbean endemic holoparasite used in a traditional Jamaican fermented drink called a roots tonic.

Photo caption: Dr. Ina Vandebroek, Senior Lecturer, Department of Life Sciences, FST, The UWI Mona.

For full-text reading and downloading access until 28 December 2023:

Reference: Ina Vandebroek, Jason West, Kenneth Otero-Walker, Steve Maldonado Silvestrini (2023) Fostering Greater Recognition of Caribbean Traditional Plant Knowledge. Trends in Ecology & Evolution,

Dr. Vandebroek welcomes expressions of interest from prospective graduate students to collaborate on these topics.

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Published on 04 Dec, 2023

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