Ethnobotanical knowledge of the Rejang tribe in Indonesia is under threat of extinction, with the youngest generation having the lowest level of knowledge.
Indonesia boasts a high diversity of food plants. This riches is not, however, efficiently used. The increasing population growth without a corresponding increase in food productivity has led to a dependence on rice imports.
One of the disciplines focused on the use of biological variation within ethnic groups is ethnobotany. Ethnobotany has the potential to be the solution to reaching food security if used correctly.
On the other hand, ethnobotanical knowledge is currently under threat of shifting and extinction. One of the ethnic groups in Indonesia with potential ethnobotanical understanding that can serve as a role model and still be preserved is the Rejang tribe.
A team of UGM students researched the retention of ethnobotanical knowledge among the Rejang tribe regarding shifts, inheritance, and conservation strategies based on age groups.
“We used an interdisciplinary approach, including calculating the ethnobotanical knowledge index to measure knowledge shifts between generations, and ethnography and history to examine knowledge inheritance patterns,” said team member Abdilla (History 2020) on Thursday, October 5.
In addition to Abdila, other research team members included Ilham Nur Rahman (Agro-Industrial Technology 2021), Mia Fadilah (Biology 2020), Ilham Andriyanto (Anthropology 2021), and Hanieke Syahla Magular (Anthropology 2020), guided by Dr. Aprilia Firmonasari.
The research targeted members of the Rejang tribe residing in Rindu Hati Village, Central Bengkulu Regency, Bengkulu Province.
The team surveyed 40 Rejang individuals using observation and interviews with the tribe members.
“As supporting data, we also reviewed archives, literature, including local literature about the local farming system,” Abdilla explained.
From the research findings, Abdila explained that ethnobotanical knowledge was most prevalent among the 60-year-old age group and the 45-60-year-old age group.
“The lowest was in the youngest age group of 15-30 years at 39.09%,” he said.
Hanieke Magular mentioned that the inheritance of ethnobotanical knowledge among the Rejang tribe occurs in three ways: through oral traditions, from older generations to younger generations through storytelling.
Secondly, ethnobotanical knowledge is naturally inherited through daily activities.
“There is also informal knowledge inheritance without structural elements in Rejang society,” she explained.
Magular highlighted the absence of local institutions in efforts to inherit the ethnobotanical knowledge of the Rejang tribe, which weakens the process of passing down this knowledge.
She recommended a new partnership involving conservationists, academics, government actors, and the local community as the knowledge holders.
“This partnership should prioritize community empowerment, focusing on the local community’s role in implementation. Thus, it is hoped that cultural justice will be achieved for those involved in conserving and inheriting ethnobotanical knowledge,” Magular concluded.
Author: Gusti Grehenson