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, 10, 31

Resilience at the Border: Traditional Botanical Knowledge Among Macedonians and Albanians Living in Gollobordo, Eastern Albania

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Resilience at the Border: Traditional Botanical Knowledge Among Macedonians and Albanians Living in Gollobordo, Eastern Albania

Andrea Pieroni et al. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed.

Abstract

Background: Ethnobotany in South-Eastern Europe is gaining the interest of several scholars and stakeholders, since it is increasingly considered a key point for the re-evaluation of local bio-cultural heritage. The region of Gollobordo, located in Eastern Albania and bordering the Republic of Macedonia, is of particular interest for conducting ethnobiological studies, since it remained relatively isolated for the larger part of the 20th Century and is traditionally inhabited by a majority of ethnic Macedonians and a minority of Albanians (nowadays both sharing the Muslim faith).

Methods: An ethnobotanical survey focused on local food, medicinal, and veterinary plant uses was conducted with 58 participants using open and semi-structured interviews and via participant observation.

Results: We recorded and identified 115 taxa of vascular plants, which are locally used for food, medicinal, and veterinary purposes (representing 268 total plant reports). The Macedonian Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) was greater than the Albanian TEK, especially in the herbal and ritual domains. This phenomenon may be linked to the long socio-cultural and linguistic isolation of this group during the time when the borders between Albania and the former Yugoslavia were completely closed. Moreover, the unusual current food utilisation of cooked potatoes leaves, still in use nowadays among Macedonians, could represent the side effect of an extreme adaptation that locals underwent over the past century when the introduction of the potato crop made new strategies available for establishing stable settlements around the highest pastures. Additionally, the difference in use of Helichrysum plicatum, which is popular in the local Macedonian folk medicine but absent among Albanians, confirms the particular significance of this taxon as it relates to the yellow colour of its flowers in South Slavic folklore.

Conclusion: Botanical studies with an ethnographic approach are crucial for understanding patterns of use of plants within given cultures. Importantly, such studies can also allow for analysis of the dynamics of change in these TEK patterns over the time. The results of this study may be important as baseline data set to be used in rural development programs in Gollobordo, aimed at fostering community-based strategies of management of natural resources.

Figures

Figure 1
Figure 1
The study area.
Figure 2
Figure 2
Typical Macedonian house inhabited nowadays only in the late spring and summer season in Gjinovec (1,252 m.a.s.l.).
Figure 3
Figure 3
Dried flowering aerial parts of Helichrysum sp.
Figure 4
Figure 4
Diagram representing the overlaps between the food, medicinal, and veterinary plant reports recorded among Macedonians and Albanians in the study area.

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