Diversity of Roots and Tubers Grown and Known by Indigenous Peoples of Northern Philippines

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


Since the olden times, indigenous peoples of Northern Philippines like the Ivatans, Isnegs, Kalingas, Tingguians, Applais, Bagos, Kankana-eys, Iyattukas, Ibalois, Kalanguyas, Bugkalots, Aetas and Mangyans have considered rootcrops as their staple food. With the changing lifestyles of the younger generation of indigenous peoples, indigenous root and tuber resources are at risk of disappearing. There has likewise been lack of documentation on these. Thus, this study was conducted to determine the diversity of roots and tubers grown and known by indigenous peoples of Northern Philippines. More than 20 roots and tubers consisting of 10 cultivated species and more than 10 species of wild roots and tubers were identified by indigenous people in Northern Philippines. The roots and tubers planted are cassava (Manihot esculenta), sweetpotato (Ipomoea batata), greater yam (Dioscorea alata), taro (Colocasia esculenta), tannia (Xanthosoma sagittifolium), lesser yam (Dioscorea esculenta), arrowroot (Maranta arundinacea), potato (Solanum tuberosum), yacon or Peruvian ground apple (Smallanthus sanchifolius) and yambean (Pachyrhizus spp.). Wild roots and tubers include nami (Dioscorea hispida), elephant yam (Amorphopallus campanulatus), giant taro (Alocasia macrorrhizos; Cyrtosperma chamissonis), canna (Cannaceae), wild yam bean and wild species of taro, greater yam and lesser yam known only by their local names. The indigenous peoples’ familiarity with the local names has helped increase the number of roots and tubers they have grown or utilized. This ranged from 6-9 kinds among the Bugkalots, Iyattukas, Ivatans and Mangyans,10-13 kinds among the Kalanguyas, Aetas, Bagos, Kankana-eys, Applai-Kankana-eys and Isnegs and 14-15 kinds among the Kalingas, Ibalois and Tingguians. The diversity of roots and tubers observed is a reflection of the Indigenous peoples’ food security practices and coping mechanisms during food scarcity.

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