Background: Ensete ventricosum (Welw.) Cheesman is a major food security crop in Southern Ethiopia, where it was originally domesticated and during millennia became pivotal crop around which an entire farming system has developed. Although its cultivation is highly localized, the enset-based farming system provides sustenance to more than 20 million people. Precise ethnobotanical information of intra-specific enset diversity and local knowledge on how communities maintain, manage and benefit from enset genetic resources is imperative for the promotion, conservation and improvement of this crop and its farming system. Methods: This study was conducted in Southern Ethiopia among the Wolaita 'enset culture' community. The research sample consisted of 270 households from 12 Kebeles (villages) representing three agro-ecological ranges. By establishing Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) based interactions and applying ethnobotanical interviewing methods of free-listing and open-ended questionnaires, information on the use and management of enset diversity, and its associated folk-biosystematics, food traditions and material culture was collected and analyzed. Results: While enset agriculture is seen as cultural heritage and identity for the Wolaita, enset intra-specific diversity holds scenic, prestige and symbolic values for the household. In the present study we recorded 67 enset landraces under cultivation, and through a comprehensive literature review we identified 28 landraces reported from other areas of Wolaita, but not encountered in our survey. Landraces, identified using 11 descriptors primarily related to agro-morphological traits, are named after perceived places of origin, agro-morphological characteristics and cooking quality attributes. Folk classification of enset is based on its domestication status, 'gender', agro-ecological adaptability and landrace suitability for different food and other uses (fiber, feed, medicinal). Enset as a food crop is used to prepare 10 different dishes in Wolaita, 8 of which are exclusively prepared using enset, and their consumption ranges from daily staple to specialty food in festive occasions and ceremonies. On-farm landrace diversity and richness is guided by household needs; its dynamics is managed through regular propagation, harvesting restrain, control of landrace composition and arrangement in the enset homegardens. Conclusions: This study reported on the knowledge system, socio-cultural process and community practices that drive the maintenance of intra-specific on-farm enset diversity in Wolaita, Southern Ethiopia. The information is crucial for developing community based complementary in situ and ex situ conservation strategies to foster conservation of enset genetic resources and associated indigenous knowledge system. © 2014 Olango et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.
Olango, T. M., Tesfaye, B., Catellani, M., & Pè, M. E. (2014). Indigenous knowledge, use and on-farm management of enset (Ensete ventricosum (Welw.) Cheesman) diversity in Wolaita, Southern Ethiopia. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine, 10(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/1746-4269-10-41