Salvaging indigenous knowledge in Africa

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Salvaging indigenous knowledge in Africa

March 14 th.


It is common to see people having less and less time with family owing to “busy lives”. The books we read are mostly foreign, the programs we watch and or listen to are distant as day and night from what society expects us, the trips we make are outbound rather than inbound, our friends are online (thanks to facebook, twitter and instagram) or across the border.

In short we are a generation caught in the web of a fast growing globalization and its associated effects.

We are paying a high price

Our price for our current lifestyle is very high; we are at the brink of losing our indigenous knowledge. And what really constitutes this knowledge? Among the useful lessons are: interpretation of the weather, culture and responsible living, co-existence with our neighbors, how to handle conflicts, agriculture, health and medicine, marriage roles, family unity, nurturing leadership, service to the community e.t.c  e.t.c .

Let us have a comparative look at what even the world-bank has attempted to define and demonstrate its importance:

Indigenous knowledge (IK) is the local knowledge – knowledge that is unique to a given culture or society. IK contrasts with the international knowledge system generated by universities, research institutions and private firms. It is the basis for local-level decision making in agriculture, health care, food preparation, education, natural-resource management, and a host of other activities in rural communities. (Warren 1991)

Indigenous Knowledge is (…) the information base for a society, which facilitates communication and decision-making. Indigenous information systems are dynamic, and are continually influenced by internal creativity and experimentation as well as by contact with external systems. (Flavier et al. 1995: 479)

A shadow of our former selves

So what we have are shadows of former selves and adapting so quickly to the global phenomenon. Conscientious action is needed to salvage indigenous knowledge in Africa. My history and literature books (I was not lucky to meet my grandfather) inform me on how this knowledge was handed down in folklore, dance and riddles. Most old men knew what the society constituted and are by day becoming “extinct”.

UNESCO has choreographed a description to my liking:

Sophisticated knowledge of the natural world is not confined to science. Societies from all parts of the world possess rich sets of experience, understanding and explanation. Local and indigenous knowledge refers to the understandings, skills and philosophies developed by societies with long histories of interaction with their natural surroundings. For rural and indigenous peoples, local knowledge informs decision-making about fundamental aspects of day-to-day life.

This knowledge is integral to a cultural complex that also encompasses language, systems of classification, resource use practices, social interactions, ritual and spirituality. These unique ways of knowing are important facets of the world’s cultural diversity, and provide a foundation for locally-appropriate sustainable development.

My appeal

Our people, governments and scholars have a moral and historical duty to document, share and package this knowledge for posterity. Let the pens write!


Written by Jacob Otachi (Communication and Governance Czar)

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You are here: Home Get Updates Blog Salvaging indigenous knowledge in Africa