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Volume 7, Issue 3, June Issue - 2019, Pages:316-328

Authors: Kaustav Kalyan Sharma, Vivek Ghose, Dipamoni Nath, Dulal Chandra Boruah, Dharmeswar Barman, Sheemanta Jyoti Deka, Someswar Rao
Abstract: Since the dawn of civilization public markets have played an important role in supplying goods for maintaining health and nutrition of mankind, especially in the rural areas.  The present study was designed to document the local plants and plant products that are sold in different rural weekly markets of Goalpara district of Assam, India, which served particularly as food supplements or ingredients for local cuisine. This survey was conducted across a period of one year following a standard questionnaire, personal interviews with the sellers, documenting the plants sold, their parts used, mode of use and price range. Results showed that 71 number of plant species belonging to 41 families are being used as food and to treat various common ailments for maintaining overall health. Araceae and Rutaceae were found to be the most dominant plant families followed by Euphorbiaceae, Amaranthaceae, Apiaceae, Malvaceae, Rubiaceae and others as per the number of plant species is concerned The plant products constitute fruits, flowers, leaves, stems, tubers and rhizomes. The study gives an idea of the plant diversity of the area along with glimpses of the prevailing cultural beliefs and socio-economic condition of the locals.
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Full Text: 1 Introduction Human dependence on plants for their basic requirements like food, medicine, clothes and shelter is as old as mankind itself and still in the modern age the majority of commercial products including pharmaceutical and healthcare, food and beverages, textiles, cosmetics and aromas are obtained from plants (Goyal et al., 2007; Khanuja, 2012; Gupta et al., 2018). All around the globe, traditional markets are considered as places for trade and marketing of plant and plant products, where cultures are expressed by means of regional trade, likewise markets acts as meeting spots where various ecologically and culturally diverse communities display and sell a diverse array of minerals, animals, plants and their derivatives. (Hooper et al.,  1937; Linares & Bye, 1987; Nicholson & Arzeni, 1993; Martin, 1995; Cunningham, 2001; Parente & da Rosa, 2001; Hanlidou et al., 2004; Williams et al., 2007a; Williams et al., 2007b; Williams et al., 2009; Giraldo et al., 2009; Silalahi et al., 2015; Tinitana et al., 2016; Tibuhwa, 2018).  Indigenous people living on their traditional territory largely rely on plants and plant products sold in the public markets for general healthcare. This reliance can be attributed towards the cost-effective and easy accessible nature of the products. In general, the vendors in the market that sell plants for therapeutic and nutritional purposes acts as popular prescribers, conducting a practical exhibition and explanation of empirical knowledge about indications, preparation methods and use, plant parts and quantities used and other pertinent information (Santos et al., 2009; Silva & Peixoto 2009; Leitao et al., 2009; De Carvalho et al., 2015). Situated on the western part of Assam, Goalpara district shares its boundary with West and East Garo hills district of Meghalaya on the south, while the river Brahmaputra flows all along the north. Kamrup and Dhubri districts of Assam are located in the east and west respectively (Rabha, 2014).  Semi evergreen and mixed deciduous are the main vegetation types of the area while some other subtypes also prevails. Taking account of the immense floristic diversity, Goalpara can be considered a rich district of Assam (Deka & Nath, 2014). Goalpara district is inhabited by many tribes and communities. Muslims community and tribes such as Rabha, Koch and Garo comprises the main population of the district while other tribes and communities like Bodo, Kalita and Hindu Bengalis are also among the residents (Deka & Nath, 2014). The population of the district is 755133 in 2011 (Deka, 2016). It is quite common that different ethnic groups of the tribal dominated Goalpara district largely depends on plant and their derivatives for curing various health disorders. Herbaceous plants play a major role in disease cure and control while extracts derived from various parts of shrubs and trees are also deployed for treatment. The use of roots, stem, leaves, bark, seeds or even the whole plant is quite common. These plants are either collected from nearby forest areas or sometimes cultivated in the homesteads or home gardens. It is worth mentioning that different kinds of weeds growing in the agricultural fields as well as in the vicinity of the residences are also used for disease prevention and cure (Deka & Nath, 2014). The dependence on plant and plant based products as sources of medicine and primary health supplements is still prevailing in these areas largely because of the prevailing traditional beliefs and ancestral cultures, easy access and cost effective nature of the products. In this aspect, the markets play a vital role as these are very well organized, generally established in the same day in every week and concentrate on collection, accumulation and selling of different products from far reaching areas in the same spot. The present study aims to investigate the diversity of edible plants and plant products sold in different local markets of Goalpara district, Assam and to understand their utilization by the locals as food and in prevention, treatment and healing of diseases as well as improvement of general healthcare. 2 Material and Methods 2.1 Study area The geographical location of Goalpara district is between 25° 53' N to 26° 30' N latitude and 90° 07' E to 91° 05' E longitude (Rabha 2014). The area of Goalpara district is 1824 and the total forest area is 36915.27 hectares (Rabha, 2012). There are five revenue circles in the district viz., Lakhipur, Balijana, Rangjuli, Dudhnoi and Matia while Jaleswar, Lakhipur, Kharmuja, Balijana, Krishnai, Matia, Kushdhawa and Dudhnoi comprise the eight blocks of the district (Deka, 2016). The survey was conducted in different weekly markets of Goalpara district viz., Dhupdhara, Rangjuli, Darangiri, Dhanubhanga, Dhudhnoi, Krishnai, Tukura, Makri, Agia and Lakhipur over a period of 12 months in respective days of the weeks when the markets were held. Location map of the study area of Goalpara District of Assam, India is presented in Figure 1. 2.2 Data Collection: Data collection was carried out by following a standard questionnaire which includes the local name, type of plant, plant part sold, mode of use, price range, place of origin of the plant, whether cultivated or collected from wild etc. The sellers were casually interviewed of their products and photographs were taken with due permission. Emphasis was given on selecting and documenting the plants that are not so commonly found. Later the collected documents were compared with standard literatures (Patiri & Borah, 2007) to know their scientific names and other parameter such as family name, vernacular names, growth characteristics etc. 3 Results The present study was conducted to document the diversity of agricultural and non agricultural plant and plant products sold at various local markets in Goalpara district of Assam. The results represented 71 plant species belonging to 41 Families which have been traditionally used by the locals for maintaining health and nutrition. In case of family, Araceae and Rutaceae were found to be the most dominant plant families followed by Euphorbiaceae, Amaranthaceae, Rubiaceae, Malvaceae and others as per the number of plant species per family is concerned. The plants include all forms of vegetation viz., herbs, shrubs, trees, climbers and aquatic vegetation (Figure 2). Different parts of the plants were in use (Figure 3). Table 1 represent the various plants sold in different markets of Goalpara district, Assam, along with their families, local Assamese names, growth habits, parts used, their uses and sold prices. The numbers of plant species belonging to different plant families are given in Figure 4. Figure 5 and Figure 6 shows the local products in different form available at different markets from Goalpara District. 4 Discussion Rural markets represent one of the main supplementary incomes for local people that are particularly utilized at household level. Moreover, sellers along with their own goods also sell purchased products in order to meet the demands of the local people (Vlkova et al., 2015). The sellers in the weekly markets of Goalpara district constitute men and women of all age groups but it was observed that the majority of traders were women aged between of 30 – 70 years. This observation is in support of some earlier investigations that reported that the women constitute the major part of the traders of medicinal plant materials (Idu et al., 2010; Vlkova et al., 2015). The major plant products traded in the area were derived from plants of all growth habits but trees and herbs were predominant sources. The collected plants were found to be very common among the people and were used in traditional healthcares for a variety of disease conditions such as fever, jaundice and other liver problems, skin diseases, joint pain, small burns, hair fall, indigestion, dysentery, diarrhea, diabetes, constipation, cold and cough etc. and general health improvements (personal communications, table 1). The leafy vegetables, fruits and tubers also form an integral part of the regular local cuisine for the people of Goalpara district and many are used as appetite enhancers. The rates of the sold items varied from market to market, season to season depending on the quality and abundance. Occasionally locally grown mushrooms are also sold in the markets. A number of studies have been carried out on the trade of medicinal and wild edible plant from across the globe. Dogan et al. (2013) reported, a total of 46 wild edible plants sold in the local markets of Izmir, Turkey that play an important role in their diet. Plants used were either eaten raw, cooked by boiling in water, frying in oil or baked to be served as dishes such as stew, salad as hot drink. As per Dogan & Nedelcheva (2015), in  the open air markets at both sides of the Bulgarian-Turkish border a  total of 41 wild plants belonging to 20 families are sold, among which approximately 17% of the plants were common and widely reported. Kasper-Pakosz et al. (2016) recorded 468 species of plants and 32 species of mushrooms sold in the open-air markets of southeastern Poland. Likewise, Khruomo & Deb (2018) documented a total of 47 indigenous wild edible fruits belonging to 29 family and 39 genera from Nagaland, India. In another study ?uczaj et al. (2013) stated that in every market in Dalmatia (southern Croatia),  wild edible plant are sold as plant mixes, usually composed of just a few species of wild as well as cultivated vegetables to a lesser extent. In the present study many plants and plant products are documented that are rarely found in the regular day to day markets which give an idea about the species richness of these open air weekly markets of Goalpara district of Assam. A surprising fact about these open air markets is their ability to attract customers from distant places by virtue of this abundance and unique species composition. These much awaited open air markets act as support system for the sellers to generate financial assistance from the home grown or collected products as for some it is the sole source of income and livelihood. On the other hand the consumers gain advantage from the fresh and nutritive natural products sold at these markets. Conclusion  The study documented the current plant diversity of the various markets of Goalpara district of Assam, India. As many as 71 plant species being recorded, sold in the local weekly markets which fetch good income to rural communities. The edible species also form a good source of nutrients in local diets besides improving the overall health. The study reflects the high dependence on these resources .by the tribal and non tribal communities of Goalpara district. Furthermore it throws some light in identifying the fundamental plants which are being sold in these local markets, their availability, price range with their common uses. These types of studies may be helpful in identifying rare and endemic plant species for their conservation and sustainable use. Acknowledgement The authors are highly grateful to the Department of Biotechnology, Govt. of India for the financial assistance. We deeply acknowledge the co-operation received from the local people interviewed during out the survey. Conflict of Interest  No conflict of interest.

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