Research Article
Tribal Way of Livestock Husbandry: An Ethnobotanical Survey of Purulia District, India in Search for Fodder Plants: Neutraceutical and Pharmaceutical Relevance

Abhijit Dey and Anuradha Mukherjee

Research Journal of Medicinal Plants, 2015, 9(3), 105-115.


An ethnobotanical survey was conducted in the Purulia district, India in order to explore the use of plants as fodder as a part of the traditional livestock husbandry practiced by the aboriginal groups such as Santhal, Bhumija, Munda, Oraon, Birhor, Mal Paharya, Kharia, Kharwar, Gond and Ho. A total number of 103 informants (78 males and 25 females) were chosen for the interviews and 33 ethnobotanicals were reported as fodder plants for the domesticated animals. Poaceae and Moraceae represent maximum number of forage plants (6 each) whereas, leaves represent the most prolific plant part consumed by the animals. Aspects such as nutrient and anti-nutrient content, pharmacological and neutraceutical significance of the forage plants were added which reflects the scientific and economic aspects of such folkloric uses.

ASCI-ID: 82-287

Omino and Kokwaro, 1991; Guarrera et al., 2005; Bussmann, 2006; Bussmann and Sharon, 2006; Bussmann et al., 2006; Gonzalez et al., 2011). Fodder plants were evaluated for nutritional and elemental resources, anti-nutrient contents, edibility related toxicity, pharmaceutical and neutraceutical considerations. Nutritional analyses were performed in some of the fodders reported from the traditional systems (Bahadur et al., 2011). Some of these plants were also evaluated for their potential use in terms of nutrient and anti-nutrient contents (Ngodigha and Oji, 2009). Fodder plants are considered as one of the prime aspects of agroforestry considering its economic aspects (Von Carlowitz, 1989). The fodder and food trees not only provide food security but can add to the economic benefits to the aboriginals using them in the rural livelihood. The present study focuses on some of the well and less known or non-conventional food resources used by the ethnic groups of a remote district of West Bengal, India. The article also provides a light on the possible exploitation of such forage plants by considering their nutrient, anti-nutrient, pharmacological and neutraceutical aspects.


Study area: Purulia, the Western-most district of West Bengal state of India is located between 22°51’N and 23°42’N and 85°51’E and 86°54’E and represented by undulated terrain and extreme weather. It constitutes an area of 6529 sq km with an altitudinal variation from 250-700 m above sea level (asl). Ajodhya is one of the important hill ranges of the district with a highest peak of Gorgaburu (677 m asl). Santhal, Bhumija, Munda, Oraon, Birhor, Mal Paharya, Kharia, Kharwar, Gond and Ho are the various ethnic groups present in the area (Dey and De, 2012a, b). Several small hills and hillocks are present throughout the landscape. Unsuitable topography and less rainfall are responsible for lack of cropping agriculture in the district. As a result of that, the tribal people residing in the forests of hills and hillocks and open villages, depend on the surrounding wild vegetation for survival. Similarly, the livestock forage is also collected from the forest botanicals.

Data collection: Initially, several surveys were conducted at different parts of the rural areas of the district. Informal camps were arranged and villagers were asked for the use of ethnobotanicals to feed the domestic animals. It was a venture associated with the study of ethnomedicine for human being and cattle. An ethnobotanical approach was taken during the surveys as described by Dey and De (2012a, b) with slight modifications in approach as and when required. A total number of 103 informants (78 males and 25 females) were chosen on the basis of their relevant experience and a semi-structured questionnaire was given to them regarding the use of plants as fodder for the cattle. The data was collected and documented as name of the plant, family, vernacular names(s), reporting tribe, consumed part(s) and reporting area(s). Authors have noted a social hierarchy among the tribals and domesticated animal husbandry was found to be a privilege of the upper segment.



A total number of 33 ethnobotanicals were reported as fodder (Table 1). Among the plant families, Poaceae and Moraceae represent the maximum number of forage plants (6 each) followed by Fabaceae (4), Combretaceae, Malvaceae, Commelinaceae, Rubiaceae (2 each) and others (1 each) (Fig. 1). Among the consumed part(s), leaves were found to be the most popular diet eaten by the animals (50% of the total plant parts), followed by stem (21%), whole plant (15.8%), fruits (10.5%) and receptacles (2.6%) (Fig. 2).

Use Value (UV) was calculated following the equation reported by Phillips et al. (1994):

UV = ΣU/n

where, U is use report number for a forage plant reported by each informant, n is total informants interviewed for a specific forage plant).

Fig. 1:Distribution of fodder plant families

Fig. 2:Percentage distribution of the consumed plant part(s)

Table 1:Use of ethnobotanicals as fodder plants by the tribals of Purulia district

Quotation Frequency (QF) was calculated following (Mustafa et al. 2012). +, ++ and +++ indicate "quoted by <10, >10 and <40 and >40% of the informants, respectively (Table 1). In the end, the collected data was supported by consulting with the existing reports on the botanicals value as fodder/forage, nutrient, anti-nutrient content, pharmacological and neutraceutical aspects (Table 2).

The results reflect the potential of fodder plants used by the indigenous people of Purulia district in animal husbandry. Earlier ethnobotanical excursions were carried out in the area and plants were reported as active against gastrointestinal problems, snake venom and as potential medicine against diseases of mother, newborn and children and also as ethnoveterinary medicine (Dey and De, 2010, 2011, 2012a, b).

Table 2:Relevant reports on fodder, nutrient/anti-nutrient content and pharmaceutical/neutraceutical aspects of the reported botanicals
NCF: No citation found

They not only use the medicinal herbs to treat several ailments, a huge number of plants are consumed by human (unpublished data) and animals directly and/or indirectly. Table 2 represents the relevant literature survey involving the nutrient, anti-nutrient content, pharmacological and neutraceutical aspects of the plants reported in the present investigation.

Fig. 3:Scientific and economic aspects of fodder plants used by the tribals of Purulia district

Interestingly, most of the plants were evaluated for nutritional and/or pharmacological efficacy indicating a possible role of food for healing which is these days termed as neutraceutical ability of certain foodstuff (Fig. 3). Fodder plants also hold their importance in agroforestry management. Moreover, edibility related toxicity is another important aspect of plant foods which is more often than not, ignored by the rural people. Proper scientific evaluation of forage plants for anti-nutrient content (such as phenolics, tannins etc.) and toxic chemicals prevent an error of judgement when choosing a herb to feed livestock. In the rural livelihood, the ignorant aboriginals must be conveyed with the latest scientific outcome related to herbal use in order to promote the use of botanicals and prevent the hazardous aspects of toxic plants.


Proper conservation and documentation of both the indigenous knowledge and the flora are required in order to develop a sustainable man-plant relationship. Rapid urbanization, pollution and lack of interest in traditional methods of animal husbandry result in a decline in certain practices. Proper care and scientific evaluation of the folklore is an immediate need for survival and sustenance.


The authors are immensely thankful to the contribution of Late Dr. J. N. De for his active participation in the field work.

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