Factors influencing local ecological knowledge of forage resources: Ethnobotanical evidence from West Africa’s savannas
Recording local ecological knowledge (LEK) is a useful approach to understanding interactions of the complex social-ecological systems. In spite of the recent growing interest in LEK studies on the effects of climate and land use changes, livestock mobility decisions and other aspects of agro-pastoral systems, LEK on forage plants has still been vastly under-documented in the West African savannas. Using a study area ranging from northern Ghana to central Burkina Faso, we thus aimed at exploring how aridity and socio-demographic factors drive the distributional patterns of forage-related LEK among its holders. With stratified random sampling, we elicited LEK among 450 informants in 15 villages (seven in Ghana and eight in Burkina Faso) via free list tasks coupled with ethnobotanical walks and direct field observations. We performed generalized linear mixed-effects models (aridity- and ethnicity-based models) and robust model selection procedures. Our findings revealed that LEK for woody and herbaceous forage plants was strongly influenced by the ethnicity-based model, while aridity-based model performed better for LEK on overall forage resources and crop-related forage plants. We also found that climatic aridity had negative effect on the forage-related LEK across gender and age groups, while agro- and floristic diversity had positive effect on the body of LEK. About 135 species belonging to 95 genera and 52 families were cited. Our findings shed more light on how ethnicity and environmental harshness can markedly shape the body of LEK in the face of global climate change. Better understanding of such a place-based knowledge system is relevant for sustainable forage plants utilization and livestock production.