|Grassroots Indicators for Desertification - Eastern and Southern Africa (IDRC, 1 p.)|
"Knowledge is power" has become a common but true cliché in development research. As two sides of the same coin, "sharing knowledge" and "power sharing" lie at the root of problems like desertification and drought. The potential of working with "grassroots indicators" as a method and outcome of knowledge sharing may lead to new possibilities of creating new and more accurate forms of development indicators, planning and monitoring processes. This approach would also facilitate local control over the generation and use of knowledge.
The papers in this volume are just such an attempt to share knowledge and power. The individual and group efforts it represents date back to 1993, when the Environment and Natural Resources Division of IDRC organized a preliminary brainstorming meeting on the topic of alternative development indicators, or what became known as "grassroots indicators." The meeting's proponents, Anne Whyte, Joachim Voss, Yianna Lambrou, David Brooks, Danna Leaman, Helen Hambly and Michelle Lobo were informed and challenged by the work of researchers such as Henry Lickers, Anil Gupta, Elizabeth Ardayfio-Schandorf and the work of organizations such as the World Conservation Union (IUCN) and the Institute for Low External Input Agriculture (ILEIA). These individuals and others formed the initial Grassroots Indicators Network (GRIN).
In 199495, an opportunity arose to bring the topic of grassroots indicators into the specific context of natural resource management in Eastern and Southern Africa. The focus of this regional approach was IDRC's involvement in supporting and ensuring that NGOs and researchers working at the grassroots level had "voice" and input into the International Convention on Desertification process. The subsequent meeting in Mbarara, Uganda and the formation of the Africa Grassroots Indicators Network (AGRIN) led to the development of the papers in this book. This activity would not have been possible without the support of the Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Office of IDRC and in particular, Hartmut Krugmann and conference coordinator, Monica Opole. The unique commitment of the Honourable David Pulkol, Minister of Karamoja, and the capability of the Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR) deserve special mention. David Brooks, Sam Landon, and Bill Carman made sure that these papers and key points of our discussions were available to a much wider audience. To all these individuals and institutions we offer our thanks and appreciation.
Grassroots indicators are defined here as measures or signals of environmental quality or change formulated by individuals, households, and communities, and derived from their local systems of observation, practice, and indigenous knowledge. As the papers in this book maintain, grassroots indicators should play a key role in the implementation of global agreements such as the Desertification Convention because they are critical for local-level evaluation and reporting on environmental change. Grassroots indicators can serve to augment national and regional environmental monitoring systems both temporally and spatially. Through them, local people can collaborate with scientists and researchers to improve desertification and drought indices, and so contribute to the effort of finding a solution to these global problems.
H.H. and T.O.A.