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Parks and Wildlife Commission of the Northern Territory

The quantity and quality of works produced by Glenn Wightman and his colleagues have set a standard that many future ethnobotanical projects will try to emulate. Their approach has been so successful that they are having difficulty finding time and resources to assist all the Aboriginal people who contact the Parks and Wildlife Commission for help in perpetuating traditional plant and animal use. /GJM

The Ethnobiology Project of the Parks and Wildlife Commission of the Northern Territory has been working with Aboriginal peoples of the Top End of the Northern Territory since 1986. This project, at the request of Aboriginal elders, aims to assist Aboriginal language groups to record and conserve traditional plant knowledge for future generations.

Based on the results of fieldwork with elders of various communities, a series of Northern Territory Botanical Bulletins relating to individual language groups has been published. The Bulletins, which cover 12 languages thus far, record traditional plant knowledge and present it in a format that is suitable for young Aboriginal people to learn about traditional culture in their contemporary school curriculum. A Bulletin relating to Sundanese ethnobotany has also been produced in conjunction with the Indonesian Botanic Gardens.

The Ethnobiology Project aims to raise public awareness and understanding of traditional plant knowledge. Self-guided Aboriginal plant use walks have been developed at the Darwin Botanic Gardens. Additional materials produced include a series of plant use posters, the books Traditional Bush Medicines - an Aboriginal Pharmacopoeia and Traditional Aboriginal Medicines in the Northern Territory of Australia and illustrated plant identification kits on Desert Bush Tucker (non-domesticated edible plants and animals), Bush Medicine and Jawoyn plant use.

‘The stimulus for the preparation of this book came from the Ngarinyman people. In particular it was the desire of the senior clan members to record in a permanent format the ethnobotanical aspects of their traditional culture. The Ngarinyman people recognize that due to disruptions to traditional living and learning patterns it is necessary to adapt various aspects of their culture to suit contemporary learning situations. Thus it was determined to record the traditional Ngarinyman names and uses of plants in a booklet which would conserve this knowledge and thus make it available for future generations.The desire to record various aspects of traditional Aboriginal culture before they are lost has been expressed by senior Aboriginal people in various parts of the Northern Territory.’Smith, N., B. Wididburu, R.N. Harrington and G. Wightman. 1993. Ngarinyman Ethnobotany: Aboriginal Plant Use From The Victoria River Area, Northern Australia. Northern Territory Botanical Bulletin No. 16. Palmerston, Conservation Commission of the Northern Territory.

Smith, N., B. Wididburu, R.N. Harrington and G. Wightman. 1993. Ngarinyman Ethnobotany: Aboriginal Plant Use From The Victoria River Area, Northern Australia. Northern Territory Botanical Bulletin No. 16. Palmerston, Conservation Commission of the Northern Territory.


  • Glenn Wightman, Ethnobiology Project, Parks and Wildlife Commission of the Northern Territory, P.O. Box 496, Palmerston, N.T. 0831, Australia; Tel. +61.8.89994513, Fax +61.8.89323849
Of the over 6000 languages known to exist in the world today, some 260 are considered to be endemic to Australia.


Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau

After years of high rates of deforestation and environmental degradation, the Philippines – thanks in part to the people power movement of the 1980s – has become a hotbed of grassroots efforts to protect and manage remaining forests. This spirit of innovation has now spread to many government agencies, including the DENR. /GJM

In the Philippines, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is the primary government agency responsible for the conservation, management, development and proper use of the environment and natural resources. It is responsible for the licensing and regulation of all natural resources in order to ensure equitable sharing of any benefits for the welfare of the present and future generations of the Philippines. The Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) is one of the many offices under the Department which aim to fulfill DENR’s mission. It initiates, pursues, and promotes the conservation of biological diversity and protected areas to safeguard the life support system fundamental for sustainable development. The Bureau encourages dynamic participation of all sectors in the effective management of biological resources and promotes the development of a well-motivated citizenry.

PAWB has been using folk media and an outreach program as tools to teach sustainable development and biodiversity in schools and communities near protected areas. Under the Dalaw-Turo (‘School Visits’) Nature Conservation and Awareness Outreach Program, PAWB staff have been training DENR field extension personnel and information officers around the country in the use of various non-formal environmental education teaching methodologies since 1992.

The project involves six days of training in protected areas on the use and development of various Dalaw-Turo methodologies such as street theater, environmental games, creative workshops, nature interpretation strategies, group discussion and lectures. The participants are given hands-on practical experience by visiting five schools and two communities to carry out their educational action plans under observation by PAWB trainers. After final revisions, the participants return to their work areas with a Dalaw-Turo action plan to be implemented in their own regional program.

The immediate goal of PAWB is to ensure that in every region of the country with a protected area, there is a team which is undertaking Dalaw-Turo. As the DENR network becomes established, PAWB hopes to respond to the many requests that are received from teachers and NGOs for the same type of training and extension work.

‘A typical Dalaw-Turo lasts two hours, takes place during the school day, and is performed for 70 children in grades 4 through 6. The first hour might include a skit, a short talk, a game, and role-playing about biodiversity in their area. During the second hour, the children divide into small groups. They are encouraged to express their feelings about their local environment and then draw a picture, write a poem, or otherwise create some way of expressing their feelings. Their work is displayed in the school, published in a newsletter, or otherwise shared with their families and other students. The project evaluates student learning at three stages. Students are surveyed one month before the school visits to determine their existing environmental knowledge. After the school visits, the students are evaluated to assess the immediate impact of the project.

Finally, three months later, a “post-evaluation” monitors longer-term changes in the students’ attitudes about the environment.’

Anonymous. 1996. Folk art and environmental education: communicating creatively in the Philippines. Human Nature 1(1):3.


  • Ma. Roscela Pamela S. Poyatos, Project Leader, Dalaw-Turo Nature Conservation and Awareness Outreach Program, Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Quezon Avenue, Quezon City, Philippines; Tel. +63.2.9246031 to 9246035,Fax +63.2.9240109


Common Ground

Common Ground is an innovative and highly effective organization. Through its original projects and ideas, it has made an invaluable contribution towards raising awareness of the value of diversity in nature, culture and place. Common Ground’s role as a catalyst has enabled it to reach a very large audience despite its small size. /ALH

Common Ground is a charity that encourages local people to value and enjoy their own familiar surroundings and to create a popular culture of caring for nature. Founded in 1983, it builds links between people and organizations, acting as a catalyst and mentor. Common Ground works in England, but many of the issues which it seeks to address are universal and some of its projects and initiatives are being copied and adapted in other parts of the world.

The Parish Maps project encourages people to share, record and act upon information about their locality as a first step to becoming involved in its care. The project was launched in 1987, and since then hundreds of maps have been drawn by artists, parish councils, schools, civic societies, women’s groups and environmental organizations. In the process of creating a map of their parish, many people have been stimulated to consider what they value about their area and how they would like it to be.

Save our Orchards is a project on genetic diversity and the importance of keeping knowledge and practice alive in their place of origin. Although the orchard is a rich example of Britain’s cultural landscape, about a third have been lost since 1960. With the loss of an orchard goes the loss of landscape richness, knowledge of local recipes, songs, customs, cider-making, storage buildings and wildlife, as well as wisdom about trees and growing food. There are thousands of varieties of apples and other orchard fruits many of which are particular to a locality; however, only a handful are widely known and used. Common Ground is working to excite people into finding, growing and using local fruits. It has produced pamphlets, exhibitions and articles and an Apple Map of Britain. Common Ground promotes community orchards and many are now being created and conserved by local communities and schools in both cities and the countryside. The apple has proved a rich symbol of the physical, cultural and genetic diversity which is at risk. Every year since 1990, Apple Day (October 21st) has been dedicated to demonstrating the variety of apples available and the richness of their associated culture and environment. Thousands of people are involved in hundreds of events which they run themselves.Common Ground has initiated Tree Dressing Day, drawing on traditions from across the world. Each year, in the first weekend in December, people gather to decorate a tree in a public place, and to sing, dance and tell stories. Trees have been venerated for millennia, and in reinventing this traditional practice, local people draw attention to the trees which they have been taking for granted and motivate each other to look after them.

‘These kinds of traditions – rhymes, songs, rituals – provide an essential link with our history, playing us tantalising hints of the lives of our forebears. They remind us that though much may have changed, a good deal of it for the better, there are still common elements which time cannot erode. The simple pleasures in life are not so very different now – a bite of a crisp, juicy apple, apple pie with cream, a stroll through a blossoming apple orchard, the changing seasons. These are things that we can share and celebrate with the generations that came before us ...In many parts of the country it was considered lucky to leave an apple or two either on the ground or on the tree after the harvest, to keep any wandering spirits happy. In Yorkshire a small apple was left as a propitiating gift and care was taken to thank the tree for its fruit. In other parts of the country the small or damaged apples were left on the tree for the birds, who were the guardian spirits. These apples were thought to be the property of the fairy folk, the pixie harvest.'

Anonymous. 1994. Apple Games and Customs. London, Common Ground.


  • Sue Clifford, Common Ground, Seven Dials Warehouse, 44 Earlham Street, London WC2H 9LA, UK; Tel. +44.171.3793109, Fax +44.171.8365741


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