Cover Image
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
close this folderPart 2 Recording and assessment methodologies
close this folderRecording methods
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentSources and documentation of IK
close this folderSample selection
View the documentHow to draw a sample
View the documentIdentifying indigenous specialists
close this folderObservation and interviewing
View the documentCase studies
View the documentField observation
View the documentIn-depth interviews
View the documentInterviewing
View the documentParticipant observation
View the documentParticipative technology analysis
View the documentSurveys
close this folderWorking with groups
View the documentBrainstorming
View the documentFive questions
View the documentGames
View the documentGroup discussions
View the documentRole play
View the documentStrengths and weaknesses
View the documentSWOT analysis
View the documentVillage reflections
View the documentVillage workshop
close this folderUsing diagram
View the documentFlow chart
View the documentHistorical comparison
View the documentIllustrations and diagrams
View the documentMapping
View the documentMatrix
View the documentModeling bioresource flows
View the documentSeasonal Pattern chart
View the documentSorting and ranking
View the documentTaxonomies
View the documentTransect
View the documentVenn (or chapti) diagramming
View the documentWebbing
close this folderAudio-visual media
View the documentCassette documentation
View the documentParticipatory video
View the documentPhoto/slide documentation
close this folderPart 3 Assessment of indigenous knowledge
View the documentAssessing IK
View the documentCriteria for assessing IK
View the documentTapping assessment
View the documentUsing western science methods to assess IK
View the documentMonitoring and evaluation
close this folderPart 4 Mini-case studies - How development can build on IK
View the documentMini-case studies
View the documentProblem identification and prioritization in Kiko Rosa, Philippines
View the documentCommunity manged health in Pinagsanjaan, Philippines
View the documentIncorporation of local free species in an agroforestry project in Layong Mabilog Philippines
View the documentLocal vegetable varieties for home gardening programs
View the documentTraditional animal dispersal schemes in Cavite, Philippines
View the documentIncreasing food Production in Negros, Philippines
View the documentOvercoming labor shortages through indigenous mutual-help groups
View the documentPromoting the use of IK in Venezuela
View the documentFarmers' experiments in teak germination in Sri Lanka
View the documentPromoting an indigenous savings scheme in Ethiopia
close this folderPart 5 - Question guides
View the documentQuestion guides
View the documentGender and indigenous knowledge
View the documentFarmer-to-farmer extension and farmer experimentation
View the documentSoil fertility
View the documentCropping systems
View the documentGardening
View the documentAgroforestry
View the documentWatershed management
View the documentEnvironment, natural resources. and biodiversity
View the documentCoastal resource s management
View the documentAquaculture
View the documentAnimal husbandry and healthcare
View the documentFood and nutrition
View the documentReproductive health and family planning
View the documentWater and sanitation
View the documentHealth financing schemes
View the documentHealthcare systems
View the documentOccupational health
View the documentOrganizations and leadership
View the documentCredit and savings
View the documentEnterprise development
View the documentCommunication
close this folderPart 6 - Resources
View the documentAbbreviations and definitions
View the documentReferences
View the documentAddresses
View the documentProject staff and contributors

Identifying indigenous specialists


A method employing informal questioning and diagramming to identify individuals with specific know-how.


To identify indigenous specialists. Indigenous specialists are community members who have special skills or expertise in one or more subject areas or who practice a profession (e.g., healers). The method can be adapted to identify other types of individuals—such as decision makers, innovators, political opinion leaders, etc.

Materials Notebook

- Pen
- Manila paper
- Marking pen

Possible Approach

1 Define the topic you want to investigate (such as farming or health). Be as clear as possible about its focus and scope.

2 Identify the type of people who can help. It might be useful to start with people who are involved in activities relating to the topic. For instance, if the topic is farming, you should ask people who do farm work (both men and women). If the topic is cooking, ask family members who do the cooking.

3 Select a sample of up to 20 such people. The number of people will depend on the topic. For highly specialized topics (such as irrigation tunnel building), you will probably need only a small number of people in the initial sample, since only a few people are likely to be knowledgeable about these subjects.

4 Ask each person to name the people in the village who know the moat about the topic. Ask each respondent to name up to four people.

5 Write down the names of these people and where you can find them.

6 Visit each person named. Ask them to name the people who they think know the most about the topic. Add the new names to the chart and visit these new people.

7 If necessary, repeat steps 4 through 6 until no new people are named.

8 Draw a diagram showing all the people named. Draw each person as a circle with the name underneath.

9 Draw arrows from each circle pointing to the circles of the individuals each has named. Count and record the number of arrows pointing toward each circle.

10 The individuals attracting the highest number of arrows are the indigenous specialists for that topic.


- This method quickly generates a list of individuals with specific skills or characteristics.

- These individuals can supply valuable information about their particular area of expertise. (See other methods in this manual which rely on indigenous specialists or key informants.)

Dos and don'ts

- Do repeat the process for other topics as required. A specialist one topic (such as farming) is not necessarily the most knowledgeable person on another subject (such as cooking).

- Don't rely on indigenous specialists for information outside their area of expertise.

- Do make sure that you include a fairly wide range of people in the initial sample. Include men, women, rich, poor, high- and low-caste.


By changing the wording of the question, you can use a similar approach to identify other types of people or relationships. For instance:

- "If you need some advice, who do you go to?"—This helps to identify opinion leaders.
- "Who do you most often talk to in the village?" This helps to identify social networks.
- "Is there anyone in the village who you disagree with on (topic X) ?"

This helps to identify a range of opinions.


AIthough certain people may have a reputation for their skills they are not necessarily the best informants. The success on which their reputation is built might reflect their reduced need to make compromises rather than their skills—often wealthier people who have more land and access to higher inputs and therefore are less dependent on indigenous knowledge (adapted from Fairhead in HED 1991).