This article was originally published on Mongabay


Highlights:

  • Residents of the rural Sri Lankan village of Pitekele relied on the nearby rainforest as a source of food, fuel, fiber and medicine for millennia until it was made into a park.
  • The forest’s new conservation status and strict rules for accessing traditional products caused traditional “home garden” agroforestry plots to replace the forest’s role in villagers’ incomes and food procurement strategies.
  • These unusually diverse agroforestry systems have reduced the pressure on native primary rainforest and serve to provide habitat, forest cover, biodiversity and food security within the buffer zone, where land is otherwise quickly being converted to tea plantations.
  • Sri Lanka is a biodiversity hotspot, and the home gardens in Pitekele boast a total species richness of 219 species in 181 genera and 73 families, much higher than others in neighboring areas.

“…Scholars believe home gardens in Sri Lanka are an ancient agroforestry system that has been practiced for more than 2,500 years. The age of tropical home gardens is less well understood, but Vijaykumara W.* knows his family has maintained a home garden in Pitekele for at least 200 years. “I am the fifth generation here,” he says, “this is my ancestral village.”

According to village elders like Vijaykumara, most of the home gardens in Pitekele were planted between 30 and 50 years ago, established by children when setting up their own households. Some home gardens, those of the older households, are more than 100 years old.

These home gardens also feature a high level of diversity compared to other regions of Sri Lanka. A forthcoming study on Pitekele by Klaus Geiger et al. in association with Yale University finds that the tropical home gardens found here demonstrate a much higher species richness than those found in other studies of Sri Lankan home gardens. Through their survey of 10 home gardens in the village, the authors found a total species richness of 219 species in 181 genera and 73 families. Similarly, their mean species richness per home garden of 64 species is much higher compared to other estimates of Sri Lankan home gardens, which range from 42 to 46 in a 2009 study by K. Kumari et al…”

Read on at: Mongabay.