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Project Title

Conservation of traditional botanical knowledge of Laz people in Adjara-southwest Georgia

Summary

Adjara region, Laz people’s one of the last populated area in Georgia, is one of the World 234 plant diversity centers. However, there is lack of systematic research for this valuable plant potential. Conversely there is an increasing threat for the biodiversity and cultural diversity in the region. The aim of this project is to describe the relationship between the culture of Laz people, their language and their uses of plants and introduce them to young generations. To achieve this, Ethnobotanical database of Laz people and a community herbarium will be constructed. Also ethnobotanical education workshops will be held at schools.

The Origin of the Work

Southwest Georgia, is one of the 25 biodiversity hotspots of the world (Myers et al. 2000).  Moreover it has a great diversity of local landraces, varieties and even endemic species of cultivated plants. (Akhalkatsi et al. 2010)

Adjara region where Laz people’s one of the last and most populated area in Georgia has a very rich plant diversity. Dmitrieva’s study (cited in Manvelidze, Eminağaoğlu, Memiadze & Kharazishvili, 2009) shows that more than 1800 plant species have been estimated to found in this area. Many of them are used as edible, medicinal, tinder and fuel, animal fodder or in handcrafts. Although there is some research on the medicinal purposes of plants in some regions, (Keloglu & Varshanidze, 2013), there is still a lack of systematic efforts to explore and exploit this valuable potential with their all area of usage in the region where Laz people are living.

Conversely, recently this region is threatened by dam constructions in Chorokhi river, by massive infrastructural projects and waste dump problem. Also, introduced crops resulting in genetic erosion of ancient crop varieties decrease the agrobiodiversity (Akhalkatsi et al. 2010). Moreover, migration to urban areas and in excessive communication between generations results in the loss of traditional knowledge and practices. All those threaten the biocultural diversity.

References:

-Myers, N., R. A. Mittermeier, C. G. Mittermeier, G. A. B. da Fonseca, and J. Kent. 2000. Biodiversity hotspots for conservation priorities.Nature 403, 853-858

-Akhalkatsi, M., Ekhvaia, J., Mosulishvili, M., Nakhutsrishvili, G., Abdaladze, O. & Batsatsashvili, K. (2010). Reasons and processes leading to the erosion of crop genetic diversity in mountainous regions of Georgia. Mountain Research and Development, Vol.30, No.3, (August 2010), pp.304-310. ISSN: 0276-4741.

-Manvelidze Z., Eminağaoğlu Ö, Memiadze N., & Kharazishvili D. 2009 Species Diversity and Conservation Priorities for Endemic Plants of Georgian-Turkish Transboundary Zone in the West Lesser Caucasus Corridor.   In Zazanashvili, N. and Mallon, D. (Editors) 2009. Status and Protection of Globally Threatened Species in the Caucasus. Tbilisi: CEPF, WWF. Contour Ltd., 232 pp. ISBN 978-9941-0-2203-6

The Contribution of the Work

First of all this project will add considerable value to the up to date information of traditional plant knowledge of Laz people, which is very scarce in the literature. This will both facilitate further studies of researchers from different disciplines and also supports the decisions of local authorities.

Secondly, the project will enable this traditional knowledge also the local language spread both inside and outside of this community which will increase remembrance and the increase use of this knowledge. Especially, increases in awareness of ancient crop varieties such as wheat, barley, rye, oat, common millet, Italian millet, and legumes, including common vetch, pea, lentil, chickpea, alfalfa, flax, and a number of herbal and spice plants will slowdown the genetic erosion of these crop varieties. This knowledge may also be an opportunity for the villagers to market natural and agricultural goods and products in the future. All of those will contribute to preservation of traditional ways of life. Spread and increase use of traditional knowledge in daily life will increase ecologically friendly activities and activities destroying natural habitats will decrease.

Lastly, community herbarium and ethnobotanical education activities at schools will keep traditional plant knowledge alive amongst the young generation which will have a long lasting impact on nature love and conservation of biodiversity.

In summary, with this project the complex relationship between the culture of Laz people, their language and their uses of plants will be described, explained and introduced to young generations. This will promote people be aware of the value of nature and their traditional culture. As a result the project will contribute to conservation of biocultural diversity in the region.

Outcomes

1) Ethnobotanical database (EBD) of Laz people in Adjara region will be constructed in 3 languages (Laz language, Georgian, English)

This database will contribute to both biodiversity and agrobiodiversity information of the region and also create public and governmental awareness to those. Moreover it will create opportunities for conservation studies of researchers and students from different disciplines (such as Botany, Ethnobotany, Medical Anthropology, Forestry) as a suitable tool for identification of plants.

2) A Reference Ethnobotanical community herbarium will be constructed.

Herbarium specimens will both guarantee for the identity of the plants being studied and will themselves be documents of plant use by people. Ethnobotanical herbarium will reinforce links between communities and the environment which is essential for conservation of bicultural diversity. Herbarium will help local communities define their needs for plant resources more clearly, thus assisting them to state their cases for continuing access to certain areas of land or for provision of alternative to wild gathering.

3)  Ethnobotanical education workshops for students will be held at schools and in community herbarium

We need a profound change in values, and it begins with young minds. We will link up with schools to introduce the idea of ethnobotany in the curriculum, and to foster students’ curiosity and caring for the diversity of plants and culture. This will contribute to transfer of traditional plant knowledge between generations creating awareness to nature conservation attempts.

Activities and Methodology

Activities Time
Literature review February 2015
Construction of project web page February 2015
Meetings with local authorities and villagers March 2015
Botanical field surveys March 2015-March 2016
interviews with local people and sellers in bazaars March 2015-March 2016
Construction of ethnobotanical database March 2015-March 2016
Ethnobotanical booklet preparation August-October 2015
Workshops at schools June & October 2015,  April 2016
Trip to Batumi Botanical Garden and community herbarium June & October 2015,  April 2016
Construction of community herbarium June 2015-2016 May

Main Activities:

Literature review

Previous studies about botanical and traditional agricultural researches in study area and culture of people will be searched from books, articles, documentaries, herbariums and museums.

Botanical field surveys

Selected areas will be visited from March to December, known and also possible useful plants will be collected, put in newspaper sheets, their taxonomic and ethnobotanical information will noted in field notebook, plants will be arranged, pressed with plant presser then dried, labeled with their information and  kept for herbarium.

Data collection from villagers

Especially traditional healers and women will be visited and open-ended individual interviews and oral histories documentation will be performed. Moreover participant observations will be performed while staying in guesthouses. With respect to participants wish, tape, video recording or direct noting will be carried out. Data about plants that are collected from the wild and plants that are cultivated in the area, their local names, who collects/cultivates, from where, their popular use, which parts are used, preparation and administration processes will be searched. Possible useful plants that were sampled will be showed to remind it or to get more information about it.

Data collection from markets, bazaars and herbal medicine industries

Local markets/bazaars and herbal medicine industries will be visited and the people who sells wild and cultivated plants or their products will be interviewed in a semi structured way. With respect to participants wish, tape, video recording or direct noting will be carried out. Data about plants that are collected from the wild or cultivated, who collects/cultivates, from where and their direct and indirect consumption will be searched.

Possible useful plants that were sampled will be showed to remind it or to get more information about it.

Construction of community herbarium

We will ask local government and head of the villages to arrange a room for a reference herbarium.

A public building (school, community centre…) will be found for interpretation of useful plants and also ethnobotanical materials (books, journals, CD…).

The specimens will be stored in tightly sealed cabinets protected from humidity insects and excessive heat. Every specimens will have ID cards including it is scientific and local name, collection/planting time, location, usage and benefits.

Ethnobotanical education

An ethnobotanical education booklet will be prepared.

This will include general information about ethnobotany, information about popular plants used in the region and importance of plants for our life. Ethnobotanical education workshops will be held in 3 pilot schools. A presentation about ethnobotany including a small exhibition of popular plants used in the region will be presented. Field trips to community herbaria and Batumi Botanical Garden will be organised for those students.

Team and Other Contacts

Ceren Kazancı: I am a chemist and had a graduate in pharmacologic biotechnology. Now, I am planning to start my PhD in ecology in llia state university in March under the supervision of Marina Mosulishvili. I will focus on the ethnobotany of Laz people in Georgia and in Turkey. I’m interested in and excited about studying this topic, because I’m also Laz and I want to discover my traditional culture in deep and also want to contribute to conservation and continuity of it. This project will both help me to construct the baseline of PhD study and also add value to my experience on biocultural diversity conservation. I’ll undertake the coordination of the project. I’ll perform the field trips (collection and storage of plants) and interviews. I’ll also construct the ethnobotanical database and workshops at schools and write a scientific article with the results of this project.

Soner Oruç: is a biologist. He has worked various biodiversity research and conservation projects in Turkey and in Georgia. (with Nature Society , Nature Conservation Centre, KuzeyDoga Society, Nature Research Association and Batumi Raptor Count Team) In this project he will support communication, media and web page works and also will assist in botanical field survey and interviews

Prof. Dr. Marine Mosulishvili: is botanist in llia State University. Her research areas are plant taxonomy, systematics, plant diversity and Agrobiodiversity.

Prof. Dr. Narthela Varshanidze: is botanist in Batumi Shota Rustaveli University. She has experience on the medicinal plants of Adjara.

They will help us to identify the plants and also participate some of the field research and interviews with us.

We have also contacted with Batumi Botanical Garden which is one of the experienced institution in the region. We will have their support during the project.

We are planning to contact with local government of Adjara

Budget

Item         Amount

       USD=$

                             Notes
Car rental       2233      50 (day) x 80 = 4000 GEL=2233 $
Fuel       698      50 (day) x 25 = 1250 GEL = 698 $
Accommodation &food       2233      50 (day) x 80 (2 pers.) =4000 GEL=2233$
Transportation       670      15 (day) (2pers.) =1200 GEL=670$
Consultants (Botanists)       780      1400 GEL = 780 $
Booklets       837      1000 x 1,5 (1 booklet) = 1500 GEL = 837 $
Digital camera+SD card       245       For plant recording and interviews
Projector      100       For presentation at schools and villages
Plant press+ventilator       200       For herbarium sampling
Voice recorder       80       For interviews
GPS       223       For field studies
TOTAL      8303 $

References

Prof.Dr.Marine Mosulishvili:

llia State University Institute of Ecology , Curator in Georgian National Museum,

5 Cholokashvili Ave.,Tbilisi 0162  GEORGIA

Contact: marine_mosulishvili@iliauni.edu.ge

Dr.Zurab Manvelidze 

Department Head of Batumi Botanical Garden 
Mtsvane Kontskhi Batumi 6411  GEORGIA

Contact: zurab58@yahoo.com

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