Local Perception of Environmental Change in a Semi-Arid Area of Northeast Brazil: A New Approach for the Use of Participatory Methods at the Level of Family Units [Book Review]

The diversity of plant resources in the Brazilian semi-arid region is being compromised by practices related to agriculture, pastures, and forest harvesting, especially in areas containing Caatinga vegetation (xeric shrublands and thorn forests). The impact of these practices constitutes a series of complex factors involving local issues, creating a need for further scientific studies on the social-environmental dynamics of natural resource use. Through participatory methods, the present study analyzed people’s representations about local environmental change processes in the Brazilian semi-arid region, taking into consideration local production systems, natural resources, and their importance. Environmental historical graphs were developed with nine local families to analyze landscape changes with regard to cultivated areas and pastures, and their relationship with the availability of native vegetation. Punctuation exercises were performed to observe the importance of each unit that supplied native and cultivated resources. The availability of native resources in the environment is subject to stability, as observed by a majority of the local families. The role of the production units (crops and pastures) was emphasized by most families in the study, especially because of the need for products for subsistence needs and income generation. The current decline of such practices is a consequence of an exodus of field workers and also relates to the conservation of native species that otherwise would have been deforested in favor of agricultural practices
Keywords Participatory methods  Ethnoecology  Human ecology  Environmental perception
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DOI 10.1007/s10806-010-9277-z
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