Agriculture and Human Values 21 (4):329-346 (2004)

The Totonac homegarden is a traditionally designed agroecosystem mixing different elements, such as cultivated and wild plants, and livestock. Our objective was to understand the role and importance of homegardens as a strategy for subsistence and natural resources management. Anthropological fieldwork was carried out in Coxquihui, Veracruz, Mexico, a Totonac community. Conventional sampling using a questionnaire yielded a sample of 40 individuals, each representing a family group. Personal interviews, life stories, observations, and field transects enriched survey information. Fieldwork permitted identification of four types of Totonac homegardens: backyards, cropping fields, acahuales or fallow fields, and fences or field edges. Each of these gardens yields an array of products and services important for several cultural roles and natural resource management aims. Totonacs see land as the dominant and most critical resource. A great deal of terrain is steeply sloped and soils are poor. Homegardens play a key role in a production system that minimizes these site limitations, striking a balance between resource maintenance and subsistence needs. Their functions are ecological, to foster a multistrata vegetation cover, and a continuous supply of organic matter to the soil; economic, serving as living storehouses where diverse products (food, timber, firewood, forage, animals, ceremonial supplies, medicinal products), are kept through the annual cycle; and social, performing various social roles such as growing medicinal, ritual, and edible plants, thus supporting beliefs and culture continuity. Studies like this contribute to a better understanding of Totonac culture and native ecology, and give ideas for a better land management
Keywords Backyard orchards  Family reproduction  Homegardens  Indigenous ecology  Natural resource conservation
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DOI 10.1007/s10460-004-1219-9
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