Composition, use and conservation of tree species in homegardens of small-scale farmers in the dry forests of northern Minas Gerais, Brazil

Reinaldo Duque-Brasil, Gustavo Taboada Soldati, Mário Marcos Espírito-Santo, Maíra Q. Rezende, Santos D’Ângelo-Neto, France Maria Gontijo Coelho


Homegardens contain agroforestry systems that provide diverse resources for family
consumption in rural communities. The aim of this study was to perform an ethnobotanical inventory of the tree species
and their uses in the homegardens of two small-scale rural farming communities situated near the Mata Seca State Park,
Minas Gerais, Brazil, and to understand the potential role of these agroecosystems in the conservation of native tree
species. Local knowledge about species used was assessed using free lists with 20 small-scale farmers selected using the
snowball sampling technique in each community. All shrub and tree species with a circumference at the soil level  10 cm
were sampled in each homegarden. We confirmed that most plant species listed provided food (48.3%) and shade (35.6%),
showing the importance of fruit trees and evergreens in the homegarden flora in this local semi-arid context. Other species
were also cited as medicinal and ornamental plants. Besides that, some species listed were used for construction, fuel,
fodder, fertilizer and other uses. Amongst the 87 tree species, 44 are Brazilian natives, and 23 can be found in the dry
forests of the region. These results showed that homegardens can contribute to conservation and enhancement of local
biodiversity functioning as a reservoir of species with different biogeographic origins, including regionally endemic and
native trees. Furthermore we conclude that homegardens are important sources of plant resources for home consumption
and contribute towards a balanced diet and to the welfare of the people living in the communities of north Minas Gerais’
semi-arid region.



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