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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

Characteristics of local systems

The following characteristics of local systems can influence the outcome of development projects:

- Most local people arc generalists

They tend to know a little about many things. This contrasts with academia, where people tend to be specialists, knowing a great deal about a few things. That said, some local people are specialists (see Who knows what? on previous page).

- IK systems are holistic

Local people face a set of interrelated problems and they often attempt to solve them by applying their knowledge in a holistic way. For instance, a farmer might view her farm as a whole rather than as a set of relatively separate enterprises. Her decisions about one enterprise might be affected by her knowledge and perceptions of other parts of the farm or environment. The relationships between the parts and the reasoning behind decisions might not be easily discernible to an outsider.

- IK systems integrate culture and religion

Religion is an integral part of IK and cannot necessarily be-separated from technical knowledge. Religious beliefs and superstitions might be an important influence on what people do and how ready they are to accept new practices. Trying to change an undesirable practice might be difficult because it is rooted in deeply held beliefs that underlay many other aspects of the culture.

- IK systems minimize risk rather than maximize profit

Avoiding risk is important for local people. For instance, a farmer might keep a few goats as a form of savings, a source of ready cash in case a child falls ill Since the goats are not a source of regular income, the farmer will try to keep feed costs and labor low, rather than try to optimize meat and milk production. Another farmer might have several small fields in different locations as a hedge against pest damage. This rules out higher yields from mechanization, but pests are less likely to wipe out the entire crop.