Interaction, Ecology and Society Department
Research Scientist at CNRS
Ethnobiologist / geographer
Department Interaction, Ecology and Societies
Team Biocultural Interactions
Campus du CNRS
1919, route de Mende
34293 Montpellier 5
Tél. : +33/0 4 67 61 32 34
Fax : +33/0 4 67 61 33 36
List of publications
My research concerns two subjects: the interactions between societies and their environment, and the local management of agrobiodiversity. I am analysing how both components of the concept of Biodiversity – the cultural and biological diversity – interact, and how they modify the adaptation potential of societies that have to deal with quicker and more global changes. In my past research, I hypothesised that the social organisation found in a village could inform the biological structuration of plants (from landscape to gene level). Nowadays, I have reversed my hypothesis: history of plants can help to understand the history of their curators. The object of research has shifted from the study of key plants to all useful plants, including cultivated, protected and harvested ones. The goal is to cleverly analyse relationships (knowledge, practices and representations) between people, space and plants that best explain the creation and/or the destruction (i.e. management) of agrobiodiversity.
In order to describe and understand the complexity of agrobiodiversity that depend on both biological and cultural factors, I have, along my research, confronted and integrated tools and concepts from different disciplines in social and biological sciences. This research also needs a multi-scalar approach on numerous sites (Vanuatu, the Amazonian Region, South Tanzania and North Cameroon) in order to go global.
Disciplines: Ethnobiology, Cultural geography.
Countries: Vanuatu, Amazonia (Peru, Ecuador and Brazil), Tanzania, Cameroon.
Thematic: People-Place-Plants relationships
Other key-words: agrodiversity, bio-cultural interactions, cultural diversity, in situ conservation, land rights, migration, participative plant breeding, vegeculture.
Honors and Distinctions
2005 Ph.D.“with honors” in Geography.
Title: Towards a dynamic conservation of agrobiodiversity: Locally managing the varietal diversity of a tree "from the Whites" (coconut, Cocos nucifera L.) and of a plant “from the ancestors” (taro, Colocasia esculenta (L.) Schott) in Vanuatu, vol.1(523p.), vol.2(260p.). Under the supervision of Dr. Jean-Paul Lescure (Ethnobotanist, IRD).
2004 First prize of the Young Researchers competition organized by the French Institute of Biodiversity (IFB).
Editorial and associative activities
2009- Member of the scientific committee of Anthropobotanica (MNHN Editions, an open access journal)
2009- Member (fellow status) of the Australian Anthropological Society (AAS)
2009- Member of the network « White book » in Social and Human Sciences (LBSHS)-Pacific )))
2007- Member of the Société des Océanistes
2011-2014 Strengthening management of agrobiodiversity through social networks. An interdisciplinary method for analyzing how local seed systems impact the diversity of domesticated plants (NetSeed)
PI: Doyle McKey (Ecologist, Montpellier II University) in collaboration with Sophie Caillon, François Massol (Ecologist, Cemagref) and 15 international research teams.
Funding: Programme CEntre de Synthèse et de méta-Analyse sur la Biodiversité (CESAB) from the Fondation pour la Recherche sur la Biodiversité (FRB).
Maintaining and managing agrobiodiversity is the key to achieving food security while using ecosystems sustainably. Effects of seed flows can vary, from weakening locally adapted systems by introducing inappropriate material to strengthening these systems by increasing adaptability to global change. Through meta-analyses of datasets combining information on exchanged seeds and on the social relationships between giver and recipient, we are studying seed exchange networks (SEENs) among farmers to assess how their structure – the signification, direction and intensity of seed fluxes among individuals or groups, and the distribution of genealogical, sociocultural or geographical distance among these individuals or social entities impacts agrobiodiversity. We are examining how SEEN structure interacts with socio-economic factors. Frequent limitations of work on SEENs are overcome by taking into account complementarities among cultivated species (instead of focusing on one key species) and by integrating processes at several spatial scales and levels of analysis.
2010-2013 Research group "Agroecosystems, Agrobiodiversities and Environment, Domestication and Innovations" (MOSAÏQUE 3353)
PI: Yildiz Aumeeruddy-Thomas (Ethnobiologist, CNRS).
Funding: Institut Ecology and Environment (INEE).
By comparing numerous interdisciplinary field works, the Research Group MOSAÏQUE is investigating the relationship between societies and their environment through a diachronic approach. How do people order and think the living, how do they shape the diversity and how do they establish meaningful relationship between different forms of diversities (ecosystems, habitats, species, varieties)? The objective of this Research Group is to explore the social, historical, biological and political processes that have contributed to shape the agroecosystems and their associated agrobiodiversity? We distinguish and confront two rhythms of evolution: 1. The one which has lead to the current agroecosystems after a long-term evolution of the interactions between societies and natural ecosystems; 2. The one at a present stage which is the witness of rapid and deep transformations of the agroecosystems. This diachronic approach allows to develop an original thinking on sustainability, resilience and innovations that are based on relations between societies and agrobiodiversity.
(…) What happens to ‘Melanesian dividuals’ when they migrate? A case-study from the Banks islands (Vanuatu)
PI: Sophie Caillon in collaboration with Sabine Hess (Anthropologist, Heidelberg University). Project waiting for funding.
This project seeks to analyse the phenomenon of migration at the intersection of person and place which is at the heart of ‘Melanesian dividual’ identity. The ‘dividuality’ suggests that a person, their clan and their place are understood as one. In an event of migration, the question is how the separation from the original place affects people’s concept of self.
In order to understand how the migrant’s identity is affected by a change of place, we will study their plants’ history and identity. Transported plants are the memory of their land of origin and ancestors, whereas the ones found or exchanged on the settlement site are the tangible proof of their “integration”. Detailed geographic and ethnographic documentation will allow us to extend the dividual concept to include person, place, and plants. We choose to focus on small scale contemporary migrations of people from the overpopulated island of Mota Lava who began to migrate in significant numbers from the 1980s to the feebly populated Vanua Lava.
2011-2014 Sustainable management of marine resources: for a better participation of local communities in Vanuatu(GESTRAD)
PI: Sophie Caillon in collaboration with Marc Leopold (Ichthyologist, IRD).
Funding: Pacific Funds and the French Embassy in Vanuatu.
Coastal marine resources are crucial to maintain food security (protein component) in Vanuatu. The inhabitants are locally in charge to manage these resources, at the noteworthy exception of the exported species. The main objective of this project is to contribute to the National fishery policy act for the littoral, and to enhance the participation of Ni-Vanuatu in designing such policies. On a selected sample of villages based on the islands of Efate, Santo and Malakula, we are evaluating how this management is locally undertaken, how it is evolving through time, and what factors and constraints are the most important. These data are compared to the information that researchers from the Vanuatu Cultural Center have collected ten years ago. In the frame of a Regional workshop, policy makers, fishermen, researchers and other local stakeholders will balance advantages and drawbacks of public fishery legislation versus local management of resources in the South Pacific.
2009-2010 Environmental and social impacts of migrants on islands of the South Pacific
PI: Sophie Caillon in collaboration with Patrick Heuret (Botanist, INRA) and Hervé Bohbot (Geographer, CNRS).
Funding: Scientific Council of Montpellier II University.
In Vanuatu, migrants from Mota Lava, a small over-populated island (26 km², 1146 habitants), start to migrate since the 1980’s toward the uninhabited east coast of the large island of Vanua Lava (332 km², 1933 habitants). Their settlements have social and environmental consequences. By investing a “virgin” territory, migrants perturb the ecosystem, but also introduce immaterial and material objects that can be either natural or manufactured. If they do not locally compete, these objects participate to the transformation and the increase of both biological and cultural diversities. Plants, and more precisely vegetatively propagated ones (ex. taro, yams), are the only unchanging objects of this fragile environment that has to face numerous cyclones and abundant precipitations. Transported plants have been chosen not only to guarantee a comfortable settlement (alimentation, medical supply, construction, etc.), but also to conserve the memory of the land of origin associated to their ancestors. What are the environmental and social impacts caused by a human migration? To answer this question, we are 1. Identifying the nature – and the interactions with the autochthones plants – of the plant species (crops and forestry resources) transported through the migration, and 2. Analyzing the “treatment” (uses, perceptions, and representations) of the new settlement place both on Vanua lava and Mota Lava.
2007 Local management of cassava diversity in Vanuatu (Tanna island)
PI: Doyle McKey (Ecologist, Montpellier II University) in collaboration with Sophie Caillon and Caroline Roullier (Geneticist, ENS).
Funding: Ethnobotanical Price of Yves Rocher-Institut de France (2006).
The objective of this project is to compare the evolutive dynamism of the cassava diversity between its area of origin (study case in French Guyana and Guyana) and its area of introduction (Gabon and Vanuatu). By linking practices and diversity in each of these areas, we are testing the fact that Vanuatu could be taken as a witness of what happened in countries where cassava was introduced much earlier.
2001-2005 Local management and in situconservation of coconut and taro diversity in Vanuatu
PhD Supervisor: Dr. J.-P. Lescure (Ethnoecologist, IRD).
Institutions: University of Orléans, IRD, CIRAD, VKS.
Funding: Fellowship Région Centre, IRD and CIRAD.
The varietal diversity of coconut ad taro in an isolated village from Vanuatu are identified using tools from agronomy, anthropology, genetics and geography. The result of this interdisciplinary work suggests that its validation, both from the local as well as scientific points of view, depends not only upon the social relationships with the plants, which have been shaped by their biology and their history, but also upon the purposes for which they are intended, namely, to preserve a cultural diversity, a phenotypic variability, an evolutionary potential and the place’s memory through ancestral links.
The contrasting examples of the taro (a socially valued object, cultivated on land inherited “from the ancestors”, and linked to an important cultural diversity and a narrow genetic-base) and the coconut (a socially valued object, planted in a crop space at the prompting of “the Whites” and genetically diverse despite few named categories) demonstrate that the same farmers make up a society that, through its management of taro, affirms traditional ecological knowledge, and all the while participates in a market economy by intensifying its crop of coconuts.
This project illustrates that the integration of cultural and biological diversity into the biodiversity concept can lead to contradictions if this knowledge, reduced to simple formulae, is abstracted from its cognitive and socio-cultural settings. In questioning the feasibility of in situ conservation and participatory plant breeding politics, it underlines that an interdisciplinary approach is necessary to optimize the effectiveness and conciliation of conservation and development programs for subsequent populations that are confronted with globalisation processes.
2010-2014 Brazil: Transmission of uses, knowledge and representations of the Amazonian territory (USART)PI: François-Michel Le Tourneau (Geographer, CNRS).
Funding: The French National Research Agency (ANR),Program « Young Researchers ».
During the 1990ies and 2000ies, a great number of “traditional” communities were granted land rights in Brazil. Innovative legal status were created, either for the sake of environmental protection or in function of the peculiar social status of some social groups, mainly indigenous people and remnants of escaped slave communities. At the core of these rights is the recognition of a “special relationship” between the traditional communities and their territories. Traditional communities thus are facing a double and contradictory pressure. On the one hand, they were granted land under the assumption that they would maintain the original ecosystems. On the other hand, they are more and more inserted in a market economy, and are challenged to improve their life conditions by developing their economic activities.
Our work focuses on the quilombo status through two case studies: one (village of Cunani) in the Amapá state and the other one (village of Abuí) in the Pará state. We study how these two communities did react to improved rights on their lands (after decades of conflicts) and to the new economic context of the Amazon region. How does the globalization of food market influence the way traditional populations reorganize, perceive, and manage their territories? Are those new configurations compatible with the “special relationship” recognized by the Brazilian State?
2000 Ecuador: Exchange strategies of cassava varieties in Amazonia (Ecuador)
Master Supervisor: Dr. F. Pinton (Sociologist, Paris X University).
Institutions: University of Orléans, IRD (Orléans, Equateur) and Universidad de la Catolica (Equateur).
Study of the varietal diversity and analyse of the planting material exchange networks of cassava among and between communities of Huaorani and Quichua who are living in the National Parc of Yasuni.
1999 Peru: Innovation in Amazonia. The case of ornamental flowers
Master Supervisor: Pr. O.T. Coomes (Geographer, McGill University).
Institutions: McGill University (Canada) and the French National School of Agronomic Science of Toulouse (ENSAT).
Ornamental flowers: History of the creation of their economic expansion, study of the current socio-economical situation, and analyse of the social networks that allow the exchange of their propagation material among and between villages of mestizos living along the Amazon River (Iquitos area).
Lake Chad basin
2008-2012 Evolution of crop genetic resources in the Lake Chad basin (Plantadiv)
PI: Eric Garine (Anthropologist, Paris IX University).
Funding: The French National Research Agency (ANR), program “Biodiversity”.
In the Sudano-Sahelian region, agro-pastoral activities are structured in complex systems based on a large panel of domesticated species and landraces which ensure not only social and economic functions but also allow farmers to cope with environmental constraints.
How do farmers manage the trade-off between intra- and inter-specific diversities at the farm level, to face environmental or social changes? The aims of the Plantadiv project are: 1. to describe the agrobiodiversity maintained in the agrosystems of the Lake Chad Basin, 2. to understand at the species and varieties level, its evolution under the social and environmental pressures during the 20th century, and 3. to analyse, through an experimental study, the consequences of actors’ choices on the adaptive diversity of millet and sorghum, two major crops in the study area.
I will personally work on the evolution of the agrosystem, in particular of the biennal rotations that the Maffa and the Xidé people have undertaken for centuries in the Mandara Mountains (North Cameroon).
2005-2009 Migration and agrobiodiversity in Rufiji valley (South Tanzania)
PI: Stéphanie Duvail (IRD, Geographer).
Institutions: IFB, MNHN, IRD.
Funding: Program “Yound-Researchers” from the French Institute on Biodiversity (IFB).
In a context of short and long-term changes (seasonality framed by floods and rain, population displacements during the Ujamaa, climate disturbance), the team of young researchers composed of geographers, ethnobiologists, economists and lawyers is describing the migratory experience from the floodplain to the terraces (and inversely) of the inhabitants from the Rufiji valley. I am in particular in charge of analysing how farmers adapt their agricultural strategies such as the location of their agroecosystems, the schedule of plantation, and their choice of the biological material at the specific and varietal level (for rice, corn, sorghum, cassava and sweet potatoes).
2005-2007 Cultivated plants conserved in herbariu
Institutions: National Museum of Natural History (MNHN, Paris), Department People, Natures and Societies.
Funding: Project realised in the frame of a teacher assistant position (ATER) at MNHN.
Inventory, classification and ethnobiological analyses of West African cereals.
From 2001 to 2009
I have taught in the frame of
Students in formation
2007 July-December: Vanuatu
Gap year of the Ecole Normale Supérieure (graduate school).
Principal adviser: Doyle McKey (Ecologist, Montpellier II University) in collaboration with Sophie Caillon.
Funding: Ethnobotanical Price of Yves Rocher-Institut de France (2006).
Title: How biology and culture shape genetic diversity of cassava (Manihot esculentaCrantz) in Tanna
2011 April-August: Vanuatu
Master Ecology and Biodiversity, Option Evolutionary Bioloy (BE), Sub-option Erasmus Mundus Master Programme in Evolutionary Ecology (MEME).
Principal adviser: Sophie Caillon in collaboration with Adeline Barnaud (Geneticist, IRD), Laure Benoit (Geneticist, CIRAD), Doyle McKey (Ecologist, CNRS), Nora Scarcelli (Geneticist, IRD), Hâna Chair (Geneticist, CIRAD) and Roger Malapa (Agronomic scientist, VARTC).
Funding: Project of the Scientific Council of Montpellier II University and the team Biocultural Interactions (CNRS, UMR 5175).
Title: Local malagement of wild yam (Dioscorea nummularia Lam.) on Vanua Lava island
2011 March-September: Vanuatu
Master Ecology and Biodiversity, Option Evolutionary Bioloy (BE), Sub-option Engineering in Ecology and Management of Biodiversity (IEGB).
Principal adviser: Marc Leopold (Ichthyologist, IRD) in collaboration with Sophie Caillon.
Funding: Project GESTRAD financed by Pacific Funds, the French Embassy in Vanuatu and IRD-New Caledonia.
Title: Local management of Marine protected area on Efate island
2011 March-September: New Caledonia
Last (fifth) year at ISTOM (Ecole Supérieure d’Agro-Développement International).
Principal adviser: Jean-Yves LeMeur (Anthropologist, IRD) in collaboration with Sophie Caillon, Vanesse Labeyrie (Agronomic scientist, CIRAD), Roger Malapa (Agronomic scientist, VARTC) and Vincent Lebot (Agronomic scientist, CIRAD).
Funding: Customary Senate of New-Caledonia.
Title: Impact of livelihoods on the great yam (Dioscorea alata L.) agrobiodiversity: the case-study of rural Kanak villages in Canala region
Eloy L., Nasuti S., Caillon S., Couly C., Greissing A., Kohler F., Lacascade E., Lombardi V., Marchand G., Serges D, et Le Tourneau F.-M. (2013). Patrimonialisation identitaire et spatiale : les Quilombolas d'Abuí (fleuve Trombetas, Brésil) - In D. Juhé-Beaulaton, M.-C. Cormier-Salem, P. de Robert. & B. Roussel (éds.), Effervescence patrimoniale au Sud. Enjeux, questions, limites. À paraître aux éditions de l'IRD, coll. Latitude 23..
Garine E., Luxereau A., Wencelius J., Violon C., Robert T., Barnaud A., Caillon S., et Raimond C. (2013). De qui les variétés traditionnelles de plantes cultivées pourraient-elles être le patrimoine ? Réflexions depuis le Bassin du Lac Tchad. - In D. Juhé-Beaulaton, M.-C. Cormier-Salem, P. de Robert. & B. Roussel (éds.), Effervescence patrimoniale au Sud. Enjeux, questions, limites. À paraître aux éditions de l'IRD, coll. Latitude 23..
Leopold M., Beckensteiner J., Kalatavara J., Raubani J. and Caillon S. (2013). Community-based management of coastal fisheries in Vanuatu: what works? - Marine Policy 42: 167-176.
Pautasso M., Aistara G., Barnaud A., Caillon S., Clouvel P., Coomes, Deletre M., Demeulenaere E., De Santis P., Doring, Eloy L., Emperaire L., Garine E., Goldringer I., Jarvis D., Joly H.I., Leclerc C., Louafi S., Martin P., Massol F., McGuire S., McKey D., Padoch C., Soler C., Thomas M., Tramontini S. (2013). Seed exchange networks for agrobiodiversity conservation. A review - Agronomy for Sustainable Development 33(1): 151-175.
Caillon S. (2012). Produce to exchange. The taro water-gardens on Vanua Lava (Vanuatu), a social and sustainable place - in Matthew Spriggs, David Addisson et Peter J. Matthews (eds.) Irrigated taro (Colocasia esculenta) in the Indo-Pacific. Biological, social and historical perspectives. Senri Ethnological Series 78, National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka, Japon.: 189-208.
Caillon S. and Coomes O.T. (2012). Agriculture traditionnelle et fleurs coupees : un mariage réussi en Amazonie - Journal des anthropologues, 128-129 : 85-114.
Caillon S. (2011). Ethnobotanique du cocotier (#Cocos nucifera# L.) sur l'île de Vanua Lava (Vanuatu) - Journal de la Société des Océanistes 133 : 333-352.
Kohler F., Eloy L., Le Tourneau F.-M., Couly C., Nasuti S., Serges D., Caillon S., Marchand G. Greissing A, and Greissing A. (2011). Globalization in the Brazilian Amazon region: Conflicting answers from Extractivist communities - .
Caillon S. (2010). Biennial rotations: Why do Mafa farmers abandon such an efficient agricultural system? (Mandara Mountains, North Cameroon) - The 12th International Congress of Ethnobiology, Tofino, British Columbia, Canada, May 9-14 (poster).
Collectif USART (Le Tourneau F.-M., Kohler F., Caillon S., Eloy L., Greissing A., Marchand G., and Nasuti S.) (2009). Géographie et anthropologie. Deux regards complémentaires pour l'étude des territoires des populations traditionnelles d'Amazonie brésilienne - EchoGéo « Sur le Métier. Hommage à Claude Lévi-Strauss », 7 (décembre 2008 - février 2009).
Caillon S. (2007). Arbre d'antan, arbre "des Blancs". Evolution de la valeur sociale des cocotiers et de leur espace à Vanua Lava (Vanuatu) - Géographie et Culture « Médiance et Géographicité », 63: 87-104.
Caillon S. and Degeorges P. J. (2007). Biodiversity: negotiating the border between nature and culture - Biodiversity and Conservation, 16(10): 2919-2931.
Caillon S., Lebrun P., Berger A., Baudouin L., Labouisse J.-P., Bonnot F., Rouzière A. and Lescure J.-P. (2006). Mesures croisées de la diversité variétale. Cas des cocotiers du Vanuatu - Bureau des Ressources Génétiques. La Rochelle, 2-4 octobre (poster).
Caillon S., Quero-García J., Lescure J.-P. and Lebot V. (2006). Nature of taro (#Colocasia esculenta# (L.) Schott) genetic diversity prevalent in a Pacific Ocean island, Vanua Lava, Vanuatu - Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution 53(6): 1273-1289.
Caillon S. (2005). Les taros du Vanuatu : Que conserver et comment? - Nature Sciences et Sociétés, 13(3): 306-310.
Caillon S. and Degeorges P. (2005). Biodiversités, quand les frontières entre culture et nature s'effacent
- Ecologie & Politique, 30: 85-95.
Caillon S. and Lanouguère-Bruneau V. (2005). Gestion de l'agrobiodiversité dans un village de Vanua Lava (Vanuatu) : stratégies de sélection et enjeux sociaux - Journal de la Société des Océanistes, 120-121(1): 129-148.
Caillon S. (2004). Kokonas mo taros blong Vanuatu: nem mo storian - IRD, Orléans, 70p.
Caillon S. and Lanouguère-Bruneau V. (2004). Taro diversity in a village of Vanua Lava island (Vanuatu): Where, What, Who, How and Why? - Third Taro Symposium, Nadi, Fiji, 22-24 mai : 56-61.
Caillon S., Quero-García J. and Guarino L. (2004). Taros in Vanuatu: toward a dynamic conservation strategy - Low External Input and Sustainable Agriculture, 20(1): 18-20.
Caillon S., Quero-García J. and Lebot V. (2003). Taro (#Colocasia esculenta#) diversity in a village of Vanuatu: a multidisciplinary approach - Third Taro Symposium. Nadi, Fidji, 22-24 mai (poster).
Caillon S. and Malau E.F. (2002). Coconuts and taro from the West Coast of Vanua Lava (Vanuatu): an ethno-agronomic inventory - IRD, Orléans, 30p.
Caillon S. and Malau E.F. (2002). Kokonas mo taros blong weskos Vanua Lava: wan katalog - 1. IRD, Orléans, 49p.
Labouisse J.-P. and Caillon S. (2001). Une approche de la conservation in situ par l'étude d'un système semencier informel : cas du cocotier au Vanuatu (Pacifique Sud) - Oléagineux Corps gras Lipides, 8(5): 534-539.
Publications de l'équipe 2011 - 2012
(Chercheur Université Tokyo)
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