(Written by: Allah Dad Khan and Junaid Hafeez)
Why is indigenous knowledge important?
Indigenous knowledge provides the basis for problem-solving strategies for local communities, especially the poor. It represents an important component of global knowledge on development issues. IK is an underutilized resource in the development process. Learning from IK, by investigating first what local communities know and have, can improve understanding of local conditions and provide a productive context for activities designed to help the communities. Understanding IK can increases pensiveness to clients. Adapting international practices to the local setting can help improve the impact and sustainability of development assistance. Sharing IK within and across communities can help enhance cross-cultural understanding and promote the cultural dimension of development. Most importantly, investing in the exchange of IK and its integration into the assistance programs of the World Bank and its development partners can help to reduce poverty.
How is indigenous knowledge exchanged?
The integration of IK into the development process is essentially a process of exchange of information from one community to another. The process of exchange of IK within and between developing countries and between developing and industrial countries involves essentially six steps:
- Recognition and Identification: some IK may be embedded in a mix of technologies or incultural values, rendering them unrecognizable at first glance to the external observer (technical and social analyses may, therefore, be required to identify IK).
- Validation: This involves an assessment of IK’s significance and relevance (to solvingproblems), reliability (i.e., not being an accidental occurrence), functionality (how well does itwork?), effectiveness and transferability; recording and documentation is a major challenge because of the tacit nature of IK (it is typically exchanged through personal communication from master to apprentice, from parentto child, etc.). In some cases, modern tools could be used, while in other circumstances it may be appropriate to rely on more traditional methods (e.g., taped narration, drawings).
- Storage in retrievable repositories: Storage is not limited to text document or electronic format; it could include tapes, films, storytelling, gene banks, etc. Transfer: This step goes beyond merely conveying the knowledge to the recipient; it also includes the testing of the knowledge in the new environment. Pilots are the most appropriate approach in this step; and dissemination to a wider community adds the developmental dimension to the exchange ofknowledge and could promote a wider and deeper ripple impact of the knowledge transfer.
What should the development community do about IK?
- Disseminating information: “Developing a database of IK practices, lessons learned, sources, partners, etc.¨ Identifying and testing instruments for capture and dissemination of IK.¨ Publishing selected cases in print and electronic format.
- Facilitating exchange of IK among developing country communities: Helping build local capacity to share IK, especially among the local IK centers. Identifying appropriate methods of capturing, disseminating IK among communities, facilitating a global network to exchange IK.
- Applying indigenous knowledge in the development process: By Raising awareness of the importance of IK among development partners. Helping countries to prepare national policies in support of indigenous practices. Integrating indigenous practices in programs/projects supported by partners.
- Building partnerships: Learning from local communities and NGOs. Leveraging limited resources of partners to obtain greater impact on the ground. Addressing the intellectual property rights issue of indigenous knowledge.
Mr. Allah Dad Khan is former DG Extension, KPK
Mr. Junaid Hafeez is Director, Agrihunt.
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