Dr. Merlin Franco, F., is an Ethnobiologist hailing from a beautiful village near Kuzhithurai of Kanyakumari District. He earned a Ph.D in Ethnobotany from the University of Madras through Madras Christian College (MCC). He has published more than 10 papers in refereed journals and has worked with research institutes of repute such as the CIKS and the Earthwatch Institute. Franco is interested in understanding the various relationships between nature and human beings and believes that the primary goal of science is to empower people so as to achieve social justice.
Understanding the ecological knowledge of tribal and rural societies is necessary to conserve and sustain natural resources. This volume discusses the history and importance of ethnobotany with specific reference to four tribal communities of Odisha, India. It begins with an account of the nature of the tribes involved in the study. Based on participatory fieldwork, it presents an insider's account of the tribal culture and its relationship with plants. It provides the ethnobotanical descriptions of 210 species of plants belonging to 77 families, presenting their local names, origin and the medicinal, cultural, culinary, economic, ecological uses of the species. It takes up study of the plants used by tribes in the drug-based and spiritual healing processes elaborating the philosophies behind knowledge transmission such as divination, hereditary, discipleship and kinship. Related aspects such as disease diagnosis, diet restrictions and rituals are depicted in detail. There is a special chapter on forests and non-timber forest products (NTFPs) that details the efforts of communities in forest conservation, their land-use patterns, forest classification systems, list of NTFPs and their harvest-consumption patterns. It also deals with the role of NGOs, middlemen and government agencies in this. Throughout, the emphasis is on the philosophical relationship of the communities with their ecosystem. The book would prove extremely useful to policy-makers, academicians, social workers and general readers looking forward to accompany the tribal communities towards ethno-sensitive development.