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close this bookRecording and Using Indigenous Knowledge: A Manual (IIRR, 1996, 211 p.)
close this folderPart 1 Indigenous knowledge and development
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentHow the manual was compiled
View the documentHow to use the manual
View the documentWhat is indigenous knowledge?
View the documentWho knows what?
View the documentCharacteristics of local systems
View the documentWhy is indigenous knowledge useful?
View the documentHelping communities conserve their IK
View the documentUsing indigenous knowledge in development
View the documentRecording IK in communities
View the documentIntellectual property rights


Rural people have an intimate knowledge of many aspects of their surroundings and their daily lives. Over centuries, people have learned how to grow food and to survive in a sometimes difficult environment. They know what varieties of crops to plant, when to sow and weed, which plants are poisonous and which can be used for medicine, how to cure diseases and how to maintain their environment in a state of equilibrium.

This "indigenous knowledge," or IK for short, covers a wide range of subjects:

- agriculture
- livestock
- rearing
- food preparation
- education
- institutional
- management
- natural resource management
- health care, and many other topics.

IK is a valuable resource for development. Under certain circumstances it can be equal to or even be superior to the know-how introduced by outsiders. Development efforts should therefore consider IK and use it to best advantage. Although more and more development professionals have come to realize the potential of IK, it remains a neglected resource. A key reason for this is the lack of guidelines for recording and applying IK. Without such guidelines, there is a danger that IK will become just another empty buzzword of the sort that litters the history of development efforts.

This manual aims to overcome this constraint. It provides government and non-government rural development workers with the information and tools they need to integrate IK into their development work. The design of the manual allows for easy copying and use of the materials in training. We hope that this manual will facilitate the use and conservation of indigenous knowledge for the benefit of people and their communities.

Part 1 of the manual is an overview of IK-related issues.

Part 2 is a description of more than 30 methods for recording and assessing IK.

Part 3 discusses issues and methods for assessing the usefulness of
IK in development.

In Part 4, 11 mini-case studies illustrate how projects can build on IK.

Part 5 contains more than 20 question guides that outline content areas to be considered when recording IK.

Part 6 lists some further resources that you can draw on when exploring the use of IK.