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Oral history and traditional ecological knowledge in social innovation and smallholder sovereignty: a case study of erva-mate in Southern Brazil

Evelyn R. Nimmo, Department of History, Universidade Estadual de Ponta Grossa; Museu Paranaense
Alessandra I. de Carvalho, Department of History, Universidade Estadual de Ponta Grossa
Robson Laverdi, Department of History, Universidade Estadual de Ponta Grossa
André E. B. Lacerda, Embrapa Forestry


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We outline preliminary results of an ongoing research project conducted in collaboration with traditional erva-mate (yerba mate) producers in Southern Paraná and Northern Santa Catarina, Brazil. The multidisciplinary project includes researchers in the natural and social sciences, forest engineers, historians, rural outreach workers, and farmers and is the result of a long-term engagement with smallholder erva-mate producers. Previous research on forest conservation and use in the region had highlighted the important role smallholder farmers play in maintaining forest cover, but knowledge about how farmers and their families perceive traditional erva-mate production systems and understand their environment were needed. Taking a participatory action research approach, our goal is to work with communities to cocreate and share knowledge, ensuring that the research is based on collectively defined goals. Herein, we focus on some of the major themes identified through oral history interviews, particularly in terms of tensions between smallholder farmers and legal frameworks, as well as insecurity in terms of the continuation of traditional, agroecological practices and their importance for the forest. The project aims to engage a range of stakeholders and actors and incorporate a variety of perspectives in understanding forest conservation through use in agroforestry and agroecological systems, particularly in terms of erva-mate production.

Key words

agroecology; agroforestry; Brazil; environmental oral history; forest conservation; nature-based solutions; participatory action research; yerba mate

Copyright © 2020 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087