|Recording and Using Indigenous Knowledge: A Manual (IIRR, 1996, 211 p.)|
|Part 4 Mini-case studies - How development can build on IK|
Trujillo is an agricultural state in a pre-Andean region of Venezuela. Most farms in the region are small and poor in resources. The main crops include corn, plantain, cassava, sugar cane, and pineapple. Some farmers keep dual purpose cattle for milk and meat. Among other problems, land degradation has led to a considerable decline in yields.
Researchers and extensionists at the local research station are used to working on their own when it comes to setting research agendas and carrying out experiments. Farmer participation is seldom sought. Local knowledge is ignored.
In 1992 an attempt was made to convince these researchers and extensionists to incorporate the study and application of IK as part of their daily routine. A 10-day workshop, spread over 10 weeks, covered the theoretical bases for IK and gave a chance for hands-on experience. This workshop, carried out by staff from the Center for Tropical Alternative Agriculture and Sustainable Development at the University of the Andes was not successful. However, some lessons were learned concerning IK promotion:
- Institutions should, as part of their philosophy, forge partnerships with farmers and farm families.
- Do not assume that extensionists are sensitive to IK issues.
- Do not spend too much time talking about IK related issues. The best way to learn is through hands-on experienceby listening to, learning from, and sharing with farmers and farm families.
- Break an old habit. Organize sessions where extensionists are required to listen to and learn from farmers. Perhaps this will prompt a change in attitude and in time lead to true partnership between extensionists and farmers.
- Be patient. Changes in behaviors and attitudes do not occur overnight. Bear in mind that some traditional extensionists feel threatened by the IK approach.
More specifically, the IK workshop failed because:
- Too much time was spent trying to explain IK in holistic terms. The institution is commodity oriented, not people oriented. Specialists were expected to devote all their efforts to their assigned crop.
- The culture of collaboration among institutions is weak. Some participants showed positive attitudes, but there were many who felt that working with IK was the University's job.
Compiled by Consuelo Quiroz, Versik (For address see Addresses.)