Understanding TEK to Unravel a Unique Nestedness between Gene and Meme: A Case Study of Paudi Bhuyans of Northern Odisha
Traditional Ethnoecological Knowledge (TEK) is changing and diminishing with continuous change in land use, changing demographics and migration patterns. This paper elucidates plant related TEK among populations of one of the Primitive Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) of India- Paudi Bhuyans. Populations of this tribe are now migrating downhills from their original habitation over hill tops in Keonjhar district to northern parts in Angul district, Odisha. Migration and impact of several socio-economic factors have resulted in defining a new set of relationships of these populations with natural resources. Plant based traditional knowledge in eleven villages which are spread over 270 km2 and situated at altitudes varying between 180m to 613m were documented and three parameters proxied and presented as TEK. These include knowledge about edible species, their ethnomedicinal value, and prevalence of biocultural practices amongst Paudi Bhuyan populations. Nestedness between changing demographics caused due to intermixing of the tribes, and socioeconomic factors that influence the culture and TEK status in these eleven villages are presented. The study pitches for a strong need to adopt a ‘uniform prescribed category or criteria’ to prioritize and safeguard the ‘pool of TEK” in tribal populations.