Regional Sustainability ›› 2022, Vol. 3 ›› Issue (2): 95-109.doi: 10.1016/j.regsus.2022.04.002

• Full Length Article •     Next Articles

Any alternatives to rice? Ethnobotanical insights into the dietary use of edible plants by the Higaonon tribe in Bukidnon Province, the Philippines

Dave Paladin BUENAVISTAa,b,*(), Eefke Maria MOLLEEb, Morag MCDONALDb   

  1. aDepartment of Biology, Central Mindanao University, University Town, Musuan, Maramag, 8714, The Philippines
    bSchool of Natural Sciences, Bangor University, Bangor, LL57 2DG, United Kingdom
  • Received:2021-08-26 Revised:2022-02-21 Accepted:2022-04-18 Online:2022-06-30 Published:2022-09-19
  • Contact: Dave Paladin BUENAVISTA


Though considered an agricultural country, the Philippines is the world’s largest importer of rice. The persistent problem of insufficient rice supply, however, has been exacerbated by economic crises and natural calamities. Yet, for the Higaonon tribe in Bukidnon Province, the Philippines, the rich agrobiodiversity and wild edible plants are vital for food security and resilience since the mountainous terrain in this province presents a challenge for rice cultivation. To gain insight from the indigenous edible plant knowledge of the Higaonon tribe, we conducted an ethnobotanical research to document the diversity, utilization, and biocultural refugia of both cultivated and wild edible plants. A total of 76 edible plant species belonging to 62 genera and 36 botanical families were documented. The most represented botanical families included the Fabaceae, Solanaceae, and Zingiberaceae. In terms of dietary usage, 3 species were categorized as cereals; 8 species were white roots, tubers, and plantains; 3 species were vitamin A-rich vegetables and tubers; 16 species were green leafy vegetables; 12 species were categorized as other vegetables; 2 species were vitamin A-rich fruits; 27 species were classified as other fruits; 7 species were legumes, nuts, and seeds; and 8 species were used as spices, condiments, and beverages. Using the statistical software R with ethnobotanyR package, we further calculated the ethnobotanical indices (use-report (UR), use-value (UV), number of use (NU), and fidelity level (FL)) from 1254 URs in all 9 food use-categories. The species with the highest UV and UR were from a variety of nutrient-rich edible plants such as Ipomoea batatas (L.) Lam., Musa species, Colocasia esculenta (L.) Schott, Zea mays L., and Manihot esculenta Crantz. The extensive utilization of root and tuber crops along with corn and plantain that contain a higher amount of energy and protein, carbohydrates, minerals, and vitamins were shown to be an important nutrient-rich alternatives to rice. Whilst males appeared to be more knowledgeable of edible plant species collected from the forests and communal areas, there were no significant differences between males and females in terms of knowledge of edible plants collected from homegardens, riverbanks, and farms. The various food collection sites of the Higaonon tribe may be considered as food biocultural refugia given their socio-ecological function in food security, biodiversity conservation, and preservation of indigenous knowledge.

Key words: Sustainable Development Goals Food security, Neglected and underutilized species, Indigenous peoples, Ethnobotany, Nutrition, The Philippines