Traditional use of plant resources by bankariya ethnic group in Makawanpur district, central Nepal

Scientific Study, 2008

25 Pages, Grade: none

Y. Uprety (Author)


Table of Contents


1. Introduction

2. Research Problem, Objectives and Guiding Hypothesis

3. Materials and Methods

4. Results
4.1 Ethnobotanical Documentation
4.2 Diversity of Plant Species
4.3 Category of Ethnobotanical Plant Species
4.4 Plants and Habit Categories
4.5 Plants of Medicinal Plants Used

5. Discussion of Results
5.1 Medical Uses of Plants
5.2 Plants as a Source of Food
5.3 Plants and Livestock Farming
5.4 Miscellaneous Plant Species
5.5 Decline in Traditional Ethnobotanical Knowledge

6. Conclusion

7. Acknowledgements

8. Bibliography

List of Figures, Tables and Appendix :

Figure 1: Map of Nepal Showing the Study Area

Figure 2: Categories of Ethnobotanical Plant Species

Figure 3: Habitat Categories of Plant Species

Figure 4: Parts of Medicinal Plants Used

Table 1: Diversity Species

Appendix 1: List of Plants Used by ‘Bankariya’ Ethnic Group


An ethonobotanical study was conducted to document the traditional use of plants and to find out the potential economic value of plants used by the indigenous ‘Bankariya’ people of Central Nepal. Personal interviews and group discussions were conducted to gather information on the indigenous knowledge of this ethnic group. A checklist of ‘categories of plant use’ was developed and used to identify, categorize and document plant species in the Twanrakhola community. Altogether, 109 plant species belonging to 49 families and 84 genera used for a wide range of purposes in the community are recorded. The people are highly dependent on forest and forest products. Because of their long experience with forests, the ‘Bankariya’ people have acquired rich knowledge about the utilization of plant resources in various ways. The Twanrakhola community harbours a high diversity of medicinal plants and wild edible plants. Despite the gradual economic and socio-cultural transformation in the life style of the community members because of globalisation, the Bankariya people still possess substantial knowledge of plants and their uses. Sustainable harvesting of and trade in medicinal and wild edible plants could be a significant source of subsistence and income generation for the local population.

Key words: ‘Bankariya’ people, indigenous knowledge, livelihood, medicinal plants, Nepal,

1. Introduction

Hundreds of millions of people, mostly in developing countries, derive a significant part of their subsistence needs and income from gathered plant products (Schippmann et al., 2002). In this respect, studying and documenting the indigenous knowledge of plant utilization using an ethnobotanical approach is important for the conservation and utilization of plants, the maintenance of cultural diversities and a sustainable utilization of resources (Gemedo Dalle et al., 2005). Several studies have pointed to the increasing significance of indigenous knowledge systems in sustainable development (Boon & Hens, 2007). Particularly, the Convention on Biological Diversity emphasizes the importance of working with indigenous peoples to respect, preserve, and maintain traditional knowledge relevant for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity (CBD, 1992).

Nepal lies at the junction of two major phytogeographical divisions of the world, the Holarctic Kingdom in the north and the Paleotropical Kingdom in the south (Takhtajan, 1986). The altitudinal gradients covering cis and trans Himalayan region favours tropical to alpine vegetation and houses about 6,500 species of flowering plants of which over 370 (≈18%) species are found to be endemic (WCMC, 1992). Likewise, hundreds of ethic groups with their traditional lifestyle and culture flourise Nepal and make it a unique country in the world. The characteristic features of different ethnic groups have been influenced by conquests and the history of their settlement (Thapa & Thapa, 1969). These different ethnic groups which settled throughout the country have their own way of life style, even in the use of plant resources.

2. Research Problem, Objectives and Guiding Hypothesis

Ethnobotanical research and the inventorization of indigenous knowledge of plant use in traditional societies are of immense importance for biodiversity conservation and knowledge documentation (Alcorn, 1995; Chaudhary, 1998; Cunningham, 2001; Martin, 1995). Indigenous knowledge and biodiversity are essential complementary phenomena for enhancing human development (Warren, 1992). Unfortunately, ethnobotanical knowledge in Nepal is in danger of being lost mainly due to changes in land use, over-exploitation of species, deforestation and destruction of habitats of useful plants, socio-cultural transformation and the passing away of elderly people without transfering their knowledge to the young generations.

There is therefore an urgent need to document the knowledge and skills pertaining to traditional plant resources before the on-going socio-cultural transformations cause their complete extinction. The documentation of indigenous knowledge on plant utilization is not only for maintaining plant biodiversity but also for checking the loss and erosion of traditional knowledge (Uprety et al., 2004). Although many studies have been undertaken in this regard (Bhattarai, 1991; Manandhar, 1991; Mueller-Boker, 1993; Shrestha, 2003), studies on the knowledge of ‘Bankariya’ people, who have been exposed to the outside world only recently, are almost non-existent.

This paper aims to document the indigenous knowledge of the ‘Bankariya’ people. It also seeks to find out the potential economic plant species in the study area as a way of ensuring that they are sustainably managed by the local people to contribute towards livelihood enhancement. The guiding hypothesis of the paper is that the ‘Bankariya’ ethnic people possess significant traditional knowledge on utilization of local plant resources.

3. Materials and Methods

A field study was carried out in Twanrakhola community of the Hadikhola Village Development Committee (VDC) in Makawanpur district in Nepal. The district lies between 27o 21’ to 27 o 40’ North; 84o 35’ to 84 o 41’ East. The hilltop of this village is inhabited by the ‘Bankariya’ people in fenced temporary houses (Figure 1). The ‘Bankariya’ ethnic group was not even mentioned in the population census documents of Nepal till 2001 (CBS, 2001). It is only known quite recently (Uprety, 2005). The total population of this group is about 75 individuals. The research carried out for the write-up of this paper covered 45 people above 20 to 70 years old.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 1: Map of Nepal Showing the Study area (Makawanpur District and Hadikhola VDC)

Interviews and focal group discussions were the instruments used to collect ethnobotanical information and data in 2005. Interview and group discussion guidelines were developed to facilitate the collection of information and data. Personal interviews and group discussions with local informants and elders were conducted to gather information on plant uses, parts used and mode of utilization. A checklist of the categories of plants used was developed and used for the documentation of the species in various use categories. Herbarium specimens were collected for each species and identified with the help of references (Hara et al., 1982; Hara and Williams, 1979; Polunin and Stainton, 1987; Press et al., 2000) and experts.

4. Results

4.1 Ethnobotanical Documentation

Altogether, 109 plant species used for various purposes by the ‘Bankariya’ ethnic group are identified and their respective uses documented (Appendix 1). These plants are arranged in alphabetical order on the basis of their scientific name followed by the family and local vernacular name(s).

4.2 Diversity of Plant Species

Among the 109 species documented, Angiosperms are the most prevalent (96.33%) with 105 species, while Pteridophytes and Fungi share the same percentage (1.82%) with two species. A total of 40 herbs (36.69%), 38 trees (34.86%), 23 shrubs (21.10%) and 8 climbers (7.33%) are recorded. These plant species represent 49 families and 84 genera (Table 1).

Table 1: Diversity of Plant Species

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Source: Field survey, 2005.

4.3 Category of Ethnobotanical Plant Species

All the documented plants have been grouped into four broad categories as medicinal, fodder, edible and miscellaneous (Figure 2). Some of these plants have multiple uses and are therefore clustered in more than one category. Forty two (38.53%) species recorded are used for medicinal proposes; 47 (43.11%) species are edible plants; 19 (17.43%) species are used for fodder/forages; and 31 (28.44%) species have miscellaneous uses. Plants in the miscellaneous category include species which are used for fermenting purposes, fish poisoning, thatching, making ropes, fuelwood, musical instruments, fencing, etc.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

4.4 Plants and Habit Categories

Among the 109 species, 40 (36.69%) species are herbs, 23 (21.10%) species are shrubs, 38 (34.86%) species are trees and 8 (7.33%) species are climbers/twinners (Figure 3).

illustration not visible in this excerpt

4.5 Parts of Medicinal Plants Used

Parts of 42 medicinal plants which are used for treatment of various diseases and disorders were identified and grouped into seven categories, including whole plants, rhizome/root, fruit/seeds, bark/wood, flower, gum/latex and leaves. Whole plant parts of 14 (33.33%) species, rhizome/root of 10 (23.80%) species, fruit /seeds of nine (21.42%) species, bark/wood of six (14.28%) species and two (4.76%) species of each category i.e flower, gum/latex, leaves are documented (Figure 4). Multiple parts of few species are used.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

5. Discussion of Results

Plants have always been an inevitable part of the life and culture of the Nepalese people. It is therefore natural that all aspects of the Nepalese folk-life and beliefs bear a narration about plants and their parts (Shrestha et al., 2004). There is a regular practice of collection of several species of plants for fulfilling the daily requirements by the ‘Bankariya’ ethnic group. Their knowledge of the uses of medicinal plants and wild edible plants is very sound. This is basically because they spend most of their time in the forest. Almost the whole population depends upon forest resources for their livelihood.

Among the 109 plant species documented, 105 species are identified with their scientific names. These species fall under 49 taxonomic families and 84 genera. Among them, 45 (91.83%) families are from Angiosperms, two (4.08%) are from Pteridophytes and two (4.08%) are Fungi. Leguminosae is the largest family with 12 species followed by Compositae and Gramineae with eight species each, Labiatae seven species, Moraceae six species and Euphorbiaceae six species. Other families include not more than one or two species.

5.1 Medicinal Uses of Plants

Forty two species are used for medicinal purposes. In this category, the use of species include the treatment of several diseases and disorders such as cuts and wounds, bone factures, fever/typhoid, cold, cough, diarrhoea, dysentery and other stomach disorders, eye troubles, throat troubles, etc.

Despite the prevalence of various health related facilities in the nearby markets which provide allopathic treatment, the indigenous ‘Bankariya’ people still believe in traditional herbs. As indicated in other studies (Shrestha, 2003; Shrestha and Dhillion, 2003) the reliance on folk medicines for health care is associated with poverty, the lack of easy access to modern medicines and medication, and the traditional belief that traditional medicine is effective. Use of whole plants or their various parts varies from disease to disease. In most cases, paste and powder of leaves, roots, shoots, and fruits are prepared. Potential medicinal plant species include Acorus calamus, Aegle marmelos, Asparagus racemosus, Phyllanthus emblica, Terminalia bellirica and Terminalia chebula. These species have a high demand and value in the region (Tiwari et al., 2004). Acorus and Asparagus can be domesticated in the community forest and private forests. Studies on medicinal plants farming reveals that the practice is profitable and the potential average income is greater than from cultivating other crops (Kala, 2006). It is therefore possible to promote these species for purposes of income generation and improving the livelihood of the people.

5.2 Plants as a Source of Food

Many wild and cultivated plant species are utilized as a source of food. The highest number of species is recorded in this category and includes 47 species which are mostly wild while few are cultivated. Various plant parts like fruit, flower, root/rhizome, shoot, seeds, etc. are employed directly or indirectly as food. These plants particularly serve as food during the famine period and are therefore considered to be very essential by the local people. The diversity in wild species offers variety in family diet and contributes to household food security (Balemie and Kebebew, 2006).

Potential wild economic species include Aegle marmelos, Artocarpus heterophyllus, Artocarpus lakoocha, Asparagus racemosus, Bauhinia vahlii, Bauhinia variegata, Colocasia esculenta, Dioscorea bulbifera, Dioscorea deltoidea, Diplazium esculentum, Ficus spp. , Hydnum repandum, Manihot esculenta, Phoenix humilis, Phyllanthus emblica, Rubus ellipticus, Schleichera oleosa, Syzygium cumini, Terminalia bellirica, Terminalia chebula, and Termitomyces eurhizus. Many of these species are also traded in the local market to supplement the income of families. Sustainable utilization of such potential species is important for rural income as well as sustainable forestry (FAO, 1995).

Medicinal uses is the largest plant use category for most of the indigenous people (eg. Rossato et al., 1999). But for the ‘Bankariya’ ethnic group it is the wild edible plants category. The relatively higher percentage of wild edible plants in the present study is because until recently people inhabited the forest and had to depend on only wild plants to survive. Because this ethnic group neither practises animal husbandry nor crop production, the contribution of wild plants to food security in the area is very critical.

5.3 Plants and Livestock Farming

Only nineteen species are recorded in the fodder and forages use category. The practice of livestock farming is observed as a recent trend and hence most of the households are less familiar with the use of fodder and forages. It has also been observed that the people of ‘Bankariya’ are less familiar with the selection of fodder and forage plants. However, improving livestock production and animal products could be a viable source of food security and enhancement of the livelihood of the local people. To achieve this goal, a sustainable use and effective conservation of plant resources are the key issues that need to be well addressed by development agencies and stakeholders (Gemedo-Dalle et al., 2005).

5.4 Miscellaneous Plant Species

Thirty one species of plants are documented in the miscellaneous use category by the ‘Bankariya’ people. This category includes species used during various religious functions; in the preparation of fermenting agents; for fish poisoning; as thatching materials timber, and firewood; for fencing; for making household implements; etc.

Use of Cynodon dactylon and Musa paradisica in religious functions is common in Nepal (Shrestha et al., 2004), mostly in hindu religion. Elephantopus scaber is most widely used species in fermentation and Spilanthes paniculata in fish poisoning by majority of the indigenous people in Nepal (Rajbhandary, 2001) and is also recorded in the present study.


Excerpt out of 25 pages


Traditional use of plant resources by bankariya ethnic group in Makawanpur district, central Nepal
Vrije University Brussel  (Human Ecology Department)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
659 KB
Traditional, Makawanpur, Nepal
Quote paper
Y. Uprety (Author)Prof. Dr. Emmanuel Boon (Author)R.C. Poudel (Author), 2008, Traditional use of plant resources by bankariya ethnic group in Makawanpur district, central Nepal, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • guest on 8/4/2008

    Good reference article !.

    This article looks like good referece article for traditional knowledge related works.

Read the ebook
Title: Traditional use of plant resources by bankariya ethnic group in Makawanpur district, central Nepal

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free