Greater Yam (Dioscorea alata) Varieties Grown by the Ethno-linguistic Groups in Northern Philippines

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Grace S. Backian Betty T. Gayao Dalen T. Meldoz


This study was done to document indigenous greater yam varieties and wild yam species among the Aeta, Bago, Biga-Kalinga, Bugkalot, Buhid-Mangyan, Ibaloi, Isneg, Ivatan, Iyattuka, Kalanguya, Kankana-ey, Applai-Kankana-ey, Tingguian and two other major groups, the Kapampangans and Ilocanos. Economic, environmental and climatic conditions are changing diets and livelihoods such that indigenous greater yam varieties are at risk of disappearing, hence this documentation. Secondary data, interview, workshops and field observations were used to document information. Seventy-seven indigenous greater yam varieties were known, grown and utilized within the farming communities of 169 farmer respondents from selected ethno-linguistic groups in Northern Philippines. Fifty-one were commonly planted, 24 were planted less and five have already been lost.The Ivatans named the highest number with 18 varieties while the Kankana-eys of Benguet were able to name only one variety. The 18 wild species were gathered from the forest (bakir/ kabakiran) only in times of food and feed scarcity. The two major groups - the Kapampangans and Ilocanos are not familiar with greater yam varieties as these are mostly planted by their Aeta neighbors. Tuber shape and flesh color were the characteristics of the indigenous greater yam varieties that the ethno-lingistic groups could easily mention. Some domesticated wild species served as insurance crop for food security.

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