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Agriculture & Development

8. Can traditional knowldedge contribute to agriculture?

    The Executive Summary of the IAASTD Synthesis Report states:

    Traditional and local knowledge and community-based innovation

    Once AKST [Agricultural Knowledge Science and Technology] is directed simultaneously toward production, profitability, ecosystem services and food systems that are site-specific and evolving, then formal, traditional and local knowledge need to be integrated. Traditional and local knowledge constitutes an extensive realm of accumulated practical knowledge and knowledge-generating capacity that is needed if sustainability and development goals are to be reached. The traditional knowledge, identities and practices of indigenous and local communities are recognized under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity as embodying ways of life relevant for conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity; and by others as generated by the purposeful interaction of material and non-material worlds embedded in place-based cultures and identities. Local knowledge refers to capacities and activities that exist among rural people in all parts of the world.

    Traditional and local knowledge is dynamic; it may sometimes fail but also has had well-documented, extensive, positive impacts. Participatory collaboration in knowledge generation, technology development and innovation has been shown to add value to science-based technology development, for instance in Farmer-Researcher groups in the Andes, in Participatory Plant Breeding, the domestication of wild and semi-wild tree species and in soil and water management.

    Options for action with proven contribution to achieving sustainability and development goals include collaboration in the conservation, development and use of local and traditional biological materials; incentives for and development of capacity among scientists and formal research organizations to work with local and indigenous people and their organizations; a higher profile in scientific education for indigenous and local knowledge as well as for professional and community-based archiving and assessment of such knowledge and practices. The role of modern Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in achieving effective collaboration is critical to evolving culturally appropriate integration and merits larger investments and support.

    Effective collaboration and integration would be supported by international intellectual property and other regimes that allow more scope for dealing effectively with situations involving traditional knowledge, genetic resources and community-based innovations. Examples of misappropriation of indigenous and local people’s knowledge and community-based innovations indicate a need for sharing of information about existing national sui generis and regulatory frameworks.

    Source & ©: IAASTD  Executive Summary of the Synthesis Report (April 2008), p. 20-21


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