Selected Publications - Abstract

Soleri, Daniela and David A. Cleveland (1993) Hopi Crop Diversity and Change. Journal of Ethnobiology 13(2):203-231.

There is increasing interest in conserving indigenous crop genetic diversity ex situ as a vital resource for industrial agriculture. However, crop diversity is also important for conserving indigenously based, small-scale agriculture and the farm communities which practice it. Conservation of these resources may best be accomplished, therefore, by ensuring their survival in situ as part of local farming communities like the Hopi. The Hopi are foremost among Native American farmers in the United States in retaining their indigenous agriculture and folk crop varieties (FVs), yet little is known about the dynamics of change and persistence in their crop repertoires. The purpose of our research was to investigate agricultural crop diversity in the form of individual Hopi farmers' crop repertoires, to establish the relative importance of Hopi FVs and non-Hopi crop varieties in those repertoires, and to explore the reasons for change or persistence in these repertoires. We report data from a 1989 survey of a small (n=50), opportunistic sample of Hopi farmers and discuss the dynamics of change based on cross-sectional comparisons of the data on crop variety distribution, on farmers' answers to questions about change in their crop repertoires, and on the limited comparisons possible with a 1935 survey of Hopi seed sources. Because ours is a small, nonprobabilistic sample, it is not possible to make valid extrapolations to Hopi farmers in general. It is, however, possible for us to suggest some hypothesis about crop diversity and change based on our results and illustrated with examples. The fate of each FV depends on the unique combination of the biophysical and sociocultural environment of that FV. FVs will tend to be lost when changes in the local biophysical and/or sociocultural environment reduce the importance of the FV's adaptation. FVs will tend to be retained when the biophysical and/or sociocultural environmental remains the same, or changes in ways that increase the importance of the FV's adaptation. When changes in the biophysical and sociocultural environments make loss of FVs possible, the availability of seeds and alternative food or other products will become important.