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This research was performed in four villages adjacent the boundary of Udzungwa Mountains National Park in the Kilombero River plain of Tanzania. The area adjacent the villages is characterized by self-consumption agriculture, with a population that is on average poor, still very tied to traditions and almost entirely unaffected by modernization and technology. The aim of the present study was to investigate and record local knowledge regarding the use of wild and traditionally cultivated plants used for traditional medicine and for other everyday purposes (e.g., food, fibers and timber).
Ten traditional local healers, with solid botanical knowledge, were interviewed between June and August 2014 by means of semi-structured questionnaires. For each mentioned plant species, the Swahili folk name and, when possible, the classification by family, genus and species was recorded as well as the part of the plant used, the preparation method and the main uses (medicine, food or others).
In total 196 species were mentioned of which 118 could be botanically classified. The identified species belong to 44 different botanical families, with that of the Leguminosae being the most representative (24 species). The plants were mostly used as medical treatments (33.3% of the species) and foods (36.8%), and to produce wood and fibers (19.4%).
The present study revealed that numerous plant species are still essential in the everyday life of the tribes living in Kilombero Valley. Most of the plants were usually harvested in the wild, however, after the creation of the Udzungwa Mountains National Park, the harvesting pressure has become concentrated on a few unprotected forest patches. Consequently, many useful species are becoming increasingly rare with the risk of losing the connected botanical and traditional knowledge. The present study may, therefore, contribute to record the ethnobotanical knowledge held by these populations, in order to preserve this valuable richness for future generations.