Brief history

(Esteban Hernández Bermejo & Francisca Herrera-Molina. Banco de Germoplasma Vegetal         Andaluz (Junta de Andalucía) y Universidad de Córdoba, España).

       Ethnobiological and ethnoecological studies refer to research that investigates the cognitive (knowledge), ideological (world visions) and behavioral (practical) aspects of human populations in relation to natural resources. In general, ethnobiology advocates the adoption of development models that respect the environments of local populations and recognize their rights to use resources and knowledge. Researchers and extensionists have been making efforts to maintain biological and cultural diversity, recognizing the need for effective participation of these populations in the elaboration of public policies that affect the environments on which they depend.

        Researchers associated with ethnobiology and ethnoecology should promote, disseminate and implement the principles of “Carta de Belém” (ethnobiologists' code of ethics, written in 1988 during the First International Congress of Ethnobiology), and follow the principles of "Code of Ethics of the International Society of Ethnobiology (ISE)". The main purposes of this entity are to gather people interested in the development of ethnobiological and ethnoecological studies, to increase training and professional recognition as indispensable elements in the inventory and study of Brazilian natural and cultural heritage, provide technical support and establish professional ethics standards to young researchers. In September 1992, Córdoba (Spain) organized the First International Congress of Ethnobotany, with the participation of more than 500 researchers and experts in different fields: anthropology, botany, agronomy, phytochemistry, genetics, sociology, history and other sciences related to Ethnobotany. The objective was to make a deep reflection on the degree of transfer of useful species and germplasm, as well as the popular and scientific knowledge of plants that resulted from the trips from the Old World to the New World after 1492. After this first event, the ICEBs were carried out every four to five years in Mérida (Mexico), Naples (Italy), Istanbul (Turkey), Bariloche (Argentina) and again in Cordoba (Spain).

     These six stages reveal a long path, a path marked by hundreds of publications, doctoral theses, books, projects, exhibitions, inventories of traditional knowledge, ethnoflora, and even new museums and ethnobotanical gardens. All these achievements are links of the same chain of commitment that involves the compilation and protection of traditional knowledge, working with local communities and indigenous peoples.

ICEBs have also shown a special interest in the interdisciplinary study of germplasm transfer processes and associated traditional knowledge, ways of preserving and improving knowledge, and the consequences for the lifestyles of human societies, whether are they traditional or not. The previous ICEB, which took place in 2014, involved more than 250 participants from 29 different countries, with 188 oral presentations, 96 posters, 13 symposia and 5 round tables. Among the most significant contributions, we can mention:

  • The prospective and retrospective view of Prof. Heywood at his inaugural conference on ethnobotany, as an expanding interdisciplinary science.

  • The role of family farming, urban and suburban yards, conservation of agrobiodiversity and social structuring.

  • The important role of markets in the transfer of germplasm and associated traditional knowledge.

  • The role of culinary and traditional eating habits as a source of knowledge for agricultural innovation and as a tool in the fight against hunger and health deficits in the world.

  • The challenges of ethnobotany and economic botany within the framework of global change.

  • The new marketing perspectives of products after the domestication and cultivation of wild species and the generation of new cultures from the popular experience.

  • The new advances in the exploration of the diversity of medicinal plants.

  • The importance of historical documents in the collection of ethnobotanical heritage of many peoples and cultures.

  • The new challenges in the recovery of neglected and underutilized species (NUS) and the role of germplasm banks and conservation networks in this mission.


Below is a brief history of previous ICEBs:


  • I International Congress of Ethnobotany

September 1992, Córdoba, Spain. In September 1992, Cordoba (Spain) organized and hosted the first International Congress of Ethnobotany, in which more than 500 researchers and experts from various fields of science were involved: Anthropology, Botany, Agronomy, Phytochemistry, Genetics, Sociology, History and others related to ethnobotany.


  • II International Congress of Ethnobotany

October 1997, Merida, Yucatan, Mexico. The second event was held in Merida, Yucatán, Mexico, between October 12 and 17, 1997. It was sponsored by the Autonomous University of Yucatan and the National Autonomous University of Mexico. It focused primarily on American ethnobotany. The congress had more than 400 participants.


  • III International Congress of Ethnobotany

September 2001, Naples, Italy. The third meeting was held in Naples, Campania, Italy, from September 22 to 30, 2001, and was organized by the Botanical Garden of Naples and the University of Naples "Federico II". Its theme was "Ethnobotany in the third millennium". Participation in this congress was affected by the events of September 11 and many American delegates were unable to attend. Despite this, more than 250 participants attended the event.


  • IV International Congress of Ethnobotany

August 2005, Istanbul, Turkey. The fourth event took place in Istanbul, Turkey. There were over 300 participants from about 45 countries (with little representation of the countries of South America). More than 100 oral presentations were held among 11 symposia and 220 posters. There were also two exhibitions and two workshops. The theme of this congress was "Ethnobotany: in the conjunction of continents and disciplines" and was chosen to highlight the strategic location of ethnobotany among different disciplines, knowledge systems, cultures and regions.


  • V International Congress of Ethnobotany

September 2009, Bariloche, Argentina. The fifth meeting was held in Bariloche from September 21 to 24, 2009, bringing together around 500 participants, with a great participation of Latin American ethnobotanists and representatives from other areas of the Southern Hemisphere. The ICEB 2009 theme was "Tradition and transformations in Ethnobotany", referring to the dynamic and adaptive nature of traditional botanical knowledge and the importance of ethnobotany in preserving this knowledge, valued by different communities.


  • VI International Congress of Ethnobotany

November 2014, Córdoba, Spain. The first objective of ICEB 2014 was to recapitulate the itinerary followed by successive ICEBs that left a trail of interaction and mutual knowledge between ethnobotanists and related science experts around the world. The event brought together around 250 participants.