Outsiders can learn about the advantages and disadvantages of
indigenous practices from local people themselves. This not only provides
valuable information about IK, but also helps identify opportunities
forand constraints tothe promotion of specific practices.
While some require adaptation, many of the methods for recording
IK described in Mart 2 can also be used to assess IK:
- Strengths and weaknesses and SWOT analysis can
help insiders and outsiders alike assess the advantages and disadvantages of a
particular item of IK in solving problems.
- Participative technology analysis can show the uses of a
practice and how it might be modified or promoted.
- The five question technique can reveal whether a practice is
helpful, harmful, or neutral, and therefore whether it should be promoted.
- Village reflections enable villagers themselves to analyze and
make decisions as a group on complex issues facing them.
- Individual interviews or group discussions can reveal the
reasoning behind an indigenous practice or technology. They can also reveal how
villagers assess the effectiveness of specific IK practices or technologies.
- A series of resource maps drawn by local people can help gauge
the effect that indigenous practices have on the environment.
- Historical comparison can suggest why a specific item of IK
has changed and suggest possibilities for improvement.
- A matrix showing characteristics of various practices or
species can highlight their relative strengths and weaknesses.
- A flowchart listing the steps of an indigenous practice can
focus discussion on the problems encountered at each step, and in the process
help solve these problems.
- A web can help reveal causal relationships between a specific
IK and other factors. This can help determine whether to improve a specific IK,
and if 50 where to start.
- Sorting and ranking allow comparison of different IK practices
and technologies and can help identify which of them are most
What is true for recording IK is also true for assessment: the
more participation a method provokes, the more the output will reflect the
people's views and experiences.
Another possibility is to study how local people themselves
assess their knowledge. Some communities or regions have specific bodies that
meet, discuss, and decide on practices. In Bali, Indonesia, for example,
regional networks of "water temples" manage and regulate water distribution for
rice cultivation. The network would be a valuable source of information for
anyone wishing to study and evaluate the local irrigation system.
And, local people do experiment. They might plant a new tree
species in their home gardens to check its performance, they might test herbs
for new medicines, or try some new cooking ingredients. Their experiments range
from just trying something new, to deliberate, systematic experimentation (for
further information on indigenous experimentation, See Boef et al. 1993).
Outsiders can learn a lot from these community experiments and build on them
when testing technologies. Assessment of IK is more than observing indigenous
practices it means looking at the various processes and structures through which
IK is generated, shared, tested, and applied.
Compiled by Evelyn