Scientific Publication

Gender differences in traditional knowledge of useful plants in a Brazilian community


Genders differ in traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) about plants, but how gender influences TEK sharing is still poorly understood. Here, we examined how gender is associated with the diversity, transmission, and structure of TEK. We tested whether women and men differ in terms of plant knowledge (species richness, α-diversity), knowledge heterogeneity (β-diversity), and in the structure of social-ecological networks they form. The study was carried out in a suburban community in the city of Ouro Preto, Southeastern, Brazil. Using the snow-ball technique, semi-structured interviews, guided tours, and participant observation, we gathered information from 33 women and 33 men in the community. We collected information about their culture, social-economic profiles, and plant knowledge from which we identified 291 plant species in 10 use categories. Overall, our results indicated that the cognition and sharing of ethnobotanical knowledge are structured by gender. Women rated better in their plant knowledge repertory (greater α-diversity), while plant knowledge among men was more heterogeneous (greater β-diversity), suggesting less information sharing among them. We observed that the network among women is more connected, exhibited greater information sharing, with a greater number of central individuals, who likely provide the cohesion and maintenance of TEK in the community. Our findings indicate how social-ecological networks can provide insights and information to unveil social patterns of knowledge transmission. Understanding how TEK is fostered and shared among community members will favor better planning of ethnobotanical studies, as well as inform decision-makers about strategies for the conservation of plant TEK.