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close this bookRecording and Using Indigenous Knowledge: A Manual (IIRR, 1996, 211 p.)
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

Mini-case studies

This section features 10 mini-case studies. They are based on field experiences of IIRR and several other organizations.

Each case highlights one or several of the many ways development projects: can build on IK, what can be done, and what hasn't worked. In particular case studies illustrate:

- the use of IK in planning, and the integration of IK recording in planing.

- the application of different types of IK (such as i technologies, animals and plants, human resources, local organizations, and schemes) during project implementation.

- the use of selected methods in recording and assessing IK.

- the modification of selected IK challenges faced when introducing to extensionists IK as a useful resource.

The cases are short and focus on project aspects which relate to IK.

Problem identification and prioritization in Kiko Rosa, Philippines


Kiko Rosa is one of the seven sub-villages of San Francisco in General Trias, Cavite, Philippines. It is a lowland agricultural village approximately 10 kilometers from the town center. It was chosen to be the site for IlRR's Participatory Nutrition Project because Kiko Rosa had the high-test number of malnourished children under six years of age in San Francisco.

Participatory research was conducted to assess factors affecting the nutritional situation of the village. A trained core group, composed of representatives from both parts of Kiko Rosa, designed and conducted the research (data collection, collation, and analysis) ;.

The care group used their research findings to identify the problems underlying the children's malnutrition. The group prioritized the problems using the following criteria which they developed:

- Problem was mentioned in both parts of Kiko Rosa
- Frequency of complaint and intensity of effect on people
- Scope of population affected
- Solvability
- Impact of problem's solution on the other problems

Problems were further classified according to their solvability, long term or short term. Short-term processes are those which can be implemented immediately by community residents. Long-term solution are those requiring external negotiations or longer time to implement
The problems where ranked as follows:

1 Inadequate income
2 Air pollution caused by the local commercial piggery
3 Lack of pump wells for drinking water
4 Unsanitary/unhealty environment (further qualified)
5 Road impassable to public vehicles
6 River water cannot be used for drinking
7 Vices: gambling, alcoholism, use of prohibited drugs by the youth
8 Lack of classrooms and teachers in the elementary school
9 Distance from market
10 Insecurity of home lot ownership

Because of the interrelationship of the problems affecting the nutritional status of children under six years of age, representatives from various government agencies at all levels needed to become involved. The indigenous classification and prioritization clearly showed the need for a broader range of health-related activities (e.g., construction and repair of the road, construction of a health center. a forum to address insecurity of home lot ownership) than the usual health service package (e.g., immunization, weighing of children, food distribution). ,,

Compiled by Phoebe V. Maata

Community manged health in Pinagsanjaan, Philippines


Learning from local residents was a critical first step in the estabilishment of the Appropriate Community Managed Health Program (ACMHP) in Pinagsanjaan, Cavite, Philippines, begun by IIRR in spring 1994.

Villagers selected 14 community members to become core group leaders to conduct participatory action research. They included male and female villagers and represented different levels of education and economic status. After receiving training in participatory action research, they discussed their health concerns and then multiplied the discussions in groups of 12 to 20 villagers. The second phase consisted of data analysis and planning. Both were done by the villagers in close collaboration with IIRR staff.

The villagers expressed a clear concept of health and quality of life - health is not just the absence of sickness, but physical, mental, and social well being. But, perhaps most significant to the success of the planned health intervention, villagers were able to tabulate their health care needs in detail according to sex, marital status, and age, and to identify specific problems to be solved.

These included:

- lack of trained medical professionals in the villages.
- lack of both local and western-style trained birth attendants.
- non-functioning of the government clinic in the village.
- lack of medicine.
- drinking, gambling and drug addiction.

Based on the findings the health program has been able to direct proper attention to where it is needed in the community. The program has also adopted a broader view of health, to match the villagers' observation that stable and happy families and communitie produce healthy and happy people .

In particular. the program:

- trained 11 villagers a. voluntary health workers.

Trainees were selected based on criteria provided by the community and included farm wievs, spiritual healers, and young people. In order to reopen the clinic, the villagers set about raising funds to buy the necessary basic medical equipment

They are coordinating their activities with the township government doctor to arrange for supervision, back-up, and supplies.

- Identified herbal medicines which can be used to treat common illnesses

Some of these medicines have been tested and are recommended by the Philippine Department of Health; others were suggested by the villagers themselves. The clinic will be using and promoting both traditional and commercial drugs.

- will strengthen safe home delivery and local care after birth.

Village health workers will be trained by an indigenous birth attendant from another village.

- strives to improve social life in the village.

Young people organized themselves to promote sport in the village and solicited funds for sports equipment. They also performed dramas during village fiestas and revied poetry and balagtasan, a local form of debate in witch arguments are written and presented in poetry. The youth used these traditional means of communication to make their stand know on drinking, gambling, and drug addiction, and to raise awareness concerning these issues.

Compiled by Andrea G. Sales

Incorporation of local free species in an agroforestry project in Layong Mabilog Philippines


Layong Mabilog is an upland village in Cavite province, Philippines. According to the community, major problems are low crop yield and low productivity due to slash-andburn cultivation, soil erosion and deforestation. In response to these problems, IIRR started an agroforestry project in Layong Mabilog in 1991.

A main component of this project is its community-managed tree nursery. The purpose of the nursery is to produce good quality seedlings of timber, fodder, fuelwood, fruit, and green leaf manure trees for distribution to community members.

The farmer cooperators and villagers who run the nursery have produced 25,000 seedlings, mostly exotic varieties.

Farmers planted these seedlings on their farms, in their home yards and along roadsides. After two years, some exotic species had failed to live up to expectations. The trees grew very fast, but their trunks and branches were weak, unsuitable for making farm implements, and unable to withstand typhoons.

Some species, when cut for fuelwood, regrew too slowly or had very poor coppicing ability. Another problem wee the unavailability of seeds for propagation.

The failures of introduced tree species have resulted in renewed interest in local tree species. To identify local bushy plants and tree species which could be integrated in the agroforestry system, the project did an inventory of the local vegetation. A team of scientists and farmers walked through the village and listed scientific and local names of the trees and bushy plants (indigenous and introduced).

Now, promising local tree species are grown in the community nursery along with exotic species. A group of key informants was asked to Identify those species which they regarded as especially important. The group came up with a list of four exogenous and six indigenous species based on various criteria. They said that trees must be suitable for planting as pioneer species on infertile open grassland. Therefore they need to be hardy, fire resistant, have good coppicing ability, have many uses, must generate income, and seeds or planting material must be readily available.

The farmers then ranked the species according to these criteria. The matrix on the next page shows their evaluation of the ten Species' suitability for the various uses they had identified (for details of the methodology, see the Section on Matrix).

This exercise helped the project members identify useful indigenous agroforestry species and learn about their characteristics from the farmers' point of view. It also raised awareness among farmers about the economic value of their trees.

The results of the matrix ranking were presented to the whole community during a general assembly and served as the basis for an action plan for be-e protection and conservation. One of the outcomes was a poster-making contest for school children to promote the protection, conservation, and multiplication of vanishing tree species. Villagers also plan to establish woodlost, plant boundary trees, and reforest using local species.

The project demonstrated that farmers' knowledge of local tree species must be considered and respected in the selection of potential agroforestry species. Responsibility for decision-making must rest with the farmers, not development workers.

Compiled by Raquelito M. Pastores and Romeo E. San Buenaventura

Matrix ranking of tree species Layong Mabilog, Cavite, Philippines

Local name of species

Scientific name


Fuelwood materials






Gliricidia sepium








Leucaena diversifolia
















Wrightii laniti







Akleng parang

Albizia procera








Piliostigma malabarica







Akleng gubat

a wild forest tree








Acacia mangium








Cordia dichotoma








Acacia auriculiformie







The original was drawn on the ground and stones were used instead of x's..

x = poor
xxxxx = excellent

Local vegetable varieties for home gardening programs

Local vegetable varieties can produce stable yields, have high nutritional value, and tolerate extremes such as drought. They can be used not only for food but also for medicine, fodder, fertilizer, fiber, and fuel. Plant breeders look to them for valuable traits. And, since local varieties resist disease and pests, farmers can reduce or even eliminate their need for environmentally harmful pesticides and fertilizers.

IIRR encourages the use of traditional varieties. They benefit small rural and urban gardeners while preserving valuable genetic material.

IIRR home gardening programs start with an inventory of vegetables indigenous to the program area. Sometimes, seeds are collected from promising indigenous varieties in remote areas. They are then assessed and promising accessions are propagated and distributed.

Community members, particularly elders, are asked about the characteristics of their area's indigenous vegetables—growth patterns, tolerance to extreme conditions, pest and disease resistance, palatability, and food preparation. An IIRR worker tours the project area with community members to help ensure that ail indigenous vegetables, including those not commonly eaten, are identified.

Seed retrieval in remote areas focuses on varieties which are becoming rare. With the help of some knowledgeable community members, seeds and important information about the plants are collected.

In the Philippine provinces of Cavite and Negros Occidental, traditional varieties introduced from other provinces have adapted very well. Information gathered from people at the sites of seed retrieval helped maximize the potential of the introduced plants. For example, the people in Negros used to eat only the root of cassava (Manihot ecculenta), until it was learned on visits to other provinces that cassava leaves can also be eaten. This information was transferred during training and farmer meetings. cassava leaves, which are more nutritious than the root, are gaining popularity in Negros.


In Ethiopia and Kenya, vegetables which are abundant but no longer commonly eaten, have been repopularized as a result of an IIRR intervention which has focused on indigenous knowledge. Elders were interviewed regarding local plant varieties. They identified, among others, amaranth (Amaranthus gracilis), spider plant (Gynandrapsis gynandra), and nightshade (Solanum nigrum) as plants which had, over time, dropped from the local diet. IIRR staff encouraged their use through hands-on training, appreciation session and farmer meetings. Now these plants are again grown in home gardens.


Compiled by Normita G. Ignacio

Traditional animal dispersal schemes in Cavite, Philippines


The Green Revolution of the 1960s and '70s contributed to the 1056 of livestock in many farming systems in the Philippines. Intensive monocropping has since proven unsatisfactory, but the high cost of livestock is preventing many farmers from returning to mixed farming systems.

Farmers in the Philippine province of Cavite want to reintroduce animals to their farms, for draft work and income. 50, as part of its effort to promote crop-trees-livestock farming systems, IIRR borrowed and adapted a livestock dispersal scheme traditionally practiced by farmers in the province.

In the traditional practice, an animal's offspring are shared between the animal's owner (nagpapaiwi) and the animal's caretaker (nangingiwihan). The animal's first offspring goes to its caretaker as payment for tending the animal. The animal's owner receives the second offspring, the caretaker the third and so on. Offspring are shared only between the owner and the caretaker. If a cow produces 10 calves during the production period, the owner gets five calves and the caretaker five. At the end of the production period, the cow is returned to the owner.

The caretaker and the owner share responsibility for treating the animal in case of sickness. Normally, farmers depend on para-veterinarians who use indigenous plants. Fodder from crop residues and naturally growing grasses make up moat of the animal's ration. If an animal does not produce offspring, the owner and the caretaker share equally in the net proceeds from sale of the animal, after deducting the original capital cost. The owner shoulders the cost of replacing the animal.

Under the IIRR scheme, the traditional dispersal practice has been modified. IIRR has.granted livestock to a local farmers' cooperative. The cooperative acts as owner of the animals, which are turned over to cooperative members who serve as caretakers. But unlike the traditional system, caretakers receive the second and subsequent offspring, but not the fires. The fires offspring goes to the owner, in this case the cooperative. This animal is then assigned to another cooperative member still waiting for an animal. This modification was Recording and Using Indigenous Knowledge adopted to speed up dispersal of animals and to spread benefits to more farmers. Also, caretakers of cattle and buffalo become the owner of the assigned animals after five years, caretakers of small ruminants own the animals after three years.

If for some reason an animal does not produce offspring, total proceeds from sale of the animal go towards buying a replacement. If there is money left over after purchase of a replacement animal, this money is shared between the cooperative and the caretaker.

The system has worked. it has ensured that farmers care for their assigned animals and that first offspring are reassigned to other members of the cooperative. In 1989, for example, the project distributed 17 cattle heifers to 17 farmers. By 1994,17 fires offspring of these heifers had been assigned to a second "set" of farmers, and from these, another 7 offspring had already reached new owners.

There were shortcomings, however. The dispersal system was slow and provided no incentive to the cooperative to handle distribution. To remedy this, the cooperative slightly changed the policies of the dispersal system. Now it charges a small fee for each animal distributed. And, not only the first, but also the third offspring is returned to the cooperative.

Compiled by Nestorio B. Roderno

Increasing food Production in Negros, Philippines

Negros Occidental

In 1984, when global sugar prices plummeted, more than a quarter of a million people in Negros Occidental, Philippines, lost their jobs. Hunger and malnutrition spread. At the depth of the crisis the provincial government and the United Nations Children's Fund asked IIRR to help. IIRR and local organizations responded in 1986 with an intensive program to teach thousands of rural families to grow their own food through big-intensive gardening. In 1990 the project was expanded to include livestock production, sea farming, and pond fish production.

The project built on IK in three ways:

1 Its technology development end dissemination approach encouraged participation and indigenous experimentation. Farmers adapted IIRR's big-intensive gardening models to fit available labor, resources, and the environment. For example:

- They modified the double-digging bed preparation method 50 that it became lees labor intensive.

- They used old bottles, bamboo, and other locally available materials as enclosures for plant beds, instead of banana or coconut trunks as suggested by the project.

- One farmer developed a method which eased the task of crushing shells for fertilizer.

2 The project promoted indigenous vegetables and fruits through collection and distribution of seeds of indigenous species.

3 Project staff valued the indigenous practices. At first, staff advised cooperators to grow mussels using the bamboo "wigwam" method common in southern Luzon. After a typhoon washed away many of the wigwams. cooperators noticed that a neighbor's mussel poles were not heavily damaged. They found that the traditional method he used was better suited to the area's sandy sea bottom. Following the 'read of their experienced neighbor, cooperators split their bamboo poles in half, making them less buoyant and less apt to wash away in storms. And by splitting the poles, cooperators were able to increase the size of their plots using the same amount of materials.

Compiled by Laurito B. Arizala, Rustico A. Bi and Evelyn Mathias

Overcoming labor shortages through indigenous mutual-help groups

Cavite, Albay, Cebul

Farmers in the Philippines often form informal mutual-help groups. These groups are called hunglunan in Albay province, alayon in Cebu, and tropa in Cavite. They usually consist of four to six, sometimes up to 10 or more members, who help one another with labor-intensive agricultural activities such as land preparation, planting, weeding, and harvesting. Members also help one another at social events such as fiestas and wedding=. Naturally, information is often shared by the group members IIRR used this traditional labor arrangement to implement its aroforestry projects in Albay and Cavite provinces.

The Upland Farm Management Project in St. Domingo, Albay, was initiated in 1986 by IIRR in collaboration with World Neighbors and the Mag-uugmad Foundation. It was to address problems experienced by marginal upland farmer soil erosion, poor soil fertility, lack of on-farm diversity, limited supply of fuel wood and fodder, low yields, and low cash income.

During the initial phase, the project arranged farmer-to-farmer visits with a similar project in Cebu which successfully used alayon to carry out labor-intensive activities. Once back in Albay, IlRR's farmer cooperators decided to form their own hungfunan. They started with one group in one village. After eight years, the project counted more than 40 hunglunan totaling 210 farmers in 10 villages adapting and adopting the agroforestry technologies offered by the project. IIRR staff considered ,., the hunglunan key to the fast spread of Agroforestry technologies in Bicol.

In Layong Mabilog, a village in Cavite, the introduction of soil and water conservation measures initially progressed very slowly because of the high labor intensity of these activities. During a village visit, IIRR staff observed a group of five to six farmers plowing a field. Realizing that farmers in Layong Mabilog were used to waking together, staff members explored with their cooperators the possibility of using tropa arrangements for the project. The farmers agreed and subsequently formed four groups whose members helped one another to plant farm hedgerows and build terraces. In Layong Mabilog, however, the project's technologies did not spread as widely as in Albay. One probable explanation is Layong Mabilog's proximity to Manila with its opportunities for employment.

Compiled by Raguelito M. Pastore, Samuel Operio and Evelyn Mathias Source: Librando 1994

Promoting the use of IK in Venezuela


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 experience—by 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.)

Farmers' experiments in teak germination in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka

Teak is a tree species valued by most farmers in the dry zone of Sri Lanka—its timber is good for home use and for gale. Establishing teak trees, however, usually entails some cost —for purchase of seedlings or for travel to a teak producing area. The alternative, growing teak from seed, presents a problem: teak seeds are difficult to germinate and few farmers know how.

A project in Sri Lanka intended to answer the following question: What is the best method for germinating teak seed, for small scale nursery production?

The project also had three non-research objectives:

1 To increase the farmers) confidence and experience in raising tree seedlings.

2 To stimulate interest in group experimentation—possibly as the start of a wider program of experimentation.

3 To grow teak.

Having learned during informal farm visits that people were interested in trying to raise teak, two project agroforesters organized meetings to discuss the difficulties associated with germinating teak seeds. A few farmers in each group had heard of one or two techniques to enhance seed germination. Very few had actually tried these techniques— they lacked some technical details and they lacked confidence. The agroforesters and farmers pooled their ideas. They identified three methods and identified the advantages and disadvantages of each.

1 The traditional burning method—Teak fruits (with seeds inside) are placed on a shallow bed of paddy husk, covered with paddy husk, and set alight. The aim is to burn the hard outer seed coat without damaging the seeds inside. After burning, the fruits are planted.

2 Soaking and drying method—Fruits are alternately soaked and dried over a period of two weeks before planting. Most farmers felt this method would be reliable.

3 Opening the fruit to expose the seed—A sharp knife is used to open the teak fruit and expose the seed. Most farmers were unfamiliar with this method.

Farmers were asked to decide how much seed they wanted, and to decide which germination method or methods they would use. At this point, the idea of experimentation arose spontaneously in several groups—the groups divided the methods among their members. In return for the free seed, farmers were asked to keep records. The information, farmers were told, would be pooled and used to select the best method of teak seed germination.

All the farmers who received seed tried one, or more, method. The agroforesters made regular farm visits to help keep the farmers motivated, to help overcome technical problems, and to record results. This second set of records was a backup. It was found that if the farmers' streets were not filled daily, the information became unreliable.

Many farmers chose not to follow their initial plan: some who had volunteered to try several methods in fact only tried ore; others who had not appeared interested in experimenting tried several methods. In a few cases farmers asked for, and were given, more seed for further experimentation.

Analysis of the results was carried out in the groups and between the groups. It involved looking at the yield of the different methods: how many seedlings were obtained from a certain number of seeds. The methods were also judged for their convenience.

In order to help the farmers draw conclusions, they were helped to prepare a simple matrix to rank and score the three methods. The results of some groups were inconclusive. It was decided that the experimental procedure would be modified and experimentation would continue.

[adapted from PMHE (forthcoming), Report of the second PTD workshop, PMHE Project, P. O. Box 154, Kandy, Sri Lanka; based on fieldwork by Stephen Connelly and Nicky J. Wilson]. Source: Veldbuizen and Zeeuw 1992 (Vol. 4.2:28-29),

Promoting an indigenous savings scheme in Ethiopia


FARM Africa, a British NGO, has been implementing a dairy goat project in the highlands of Ethiopia since 1988. The project works with nearly 1,400 families in the densely populated highlands of the east and south. Working with women from the poorest families the project aims to improve their incomes and welfare by improving the milk production and growth rates of their goats.

Local goats are provided on credit together with a training package of forage development health care, and general management. Credit may be repaid in cash or in kind by returning a goat to the project for loan to another woman. Selected women are trained as paraveterinarians and earn money treating their neighbors' goats. The goat groups are managed by an elected committee of women trained in group organization and management.

During the course of the project, staff and collaborators learned of a traditional method used by women in Welayta district to save money and help one another.

Known locally as eddir small amounts of money are saved regularly by a small, informal group of women. The money is allocated to women in the group in turn, or given or lent to those in need. Members of goat groups in Areka village, Welayta, acting on their own, organized the Women's Self-Help Goat Society.

Each member contributes a small sum at their weekly meeting. Most members are mature war widows who show a very serious attitude toward development opportunities. Some groups decided to set aside a portion of their savings to purchase goats for other needy women. Project staff were 50 impressed with the efforts of these women that they were eager to suggest it to groups in other areas.

The idea was shared with other extension staff during the regular project training courses and. quickly spread to all project sites where it was enthusiastically adopted.

Compiled by Christie Peacock, FARM Africa