Traditional and Local Knowledge and Community-based Innovations

Writing team: Satinder Bajaj (India), Fabrice Dreyfus (France), Tirso Gonzales (Peru), Janice Jiggins (UK)

Traditional and local knowledge constitutes a vast realm of accumulated practical knowledge that decision makers cannot afford to overlook if development and sustainability goals are to be achieved [ESAP SDM; Global SDM; Global Chapter 3, 7; 8; NAE SDM; LAC Chapter 1]. Effective, sustainable tech­nologies with wide scale application that have originated in lo­cal and traditional AKST are numerous and found worldwide. They include the use of Golden Weaver ants as a biocontrol in citrus and mango orchards (Bhutan, Viet Nam and recently with WARDA’s assistance, introduced to West Africa); stone lines and planting pits for water harvesting and conservation of soil moisture (West African savannah belt); qanats and similar underground water storage and irrigation techniques (Iran, Afghanistan and other arid areas) [CWANA SDM]; tank irrigation (India, Sri Lanka); many aspects of agroforestry (3 million ha of rubber, cinnamon, damar agroforests in In­donesia) and current initiatives to domesticate indigenous tree species producing fruits, nuts, medicines and other household products [Global Chapter 3]. Many kinds of traditional and local AKST support wildlife and biodiversity and contribute to carbon and methane sequestration [Global Chapters 2, 3].
     In numerous cases traditional and local AKST in collab­oration with formal AKST and support services is empower­ing communities, maintaining traditional cultures and diets while improving local food sovereignty, incomes, nutrition and food security [Global Chapter 3]. Partly because the innumerable but diverse innovations resulting from local and traditional AKST are hard to present as statistical data they typically are overlooked, undervalued and excluded from the modeling that often guides AKST decision making [ESAP SDM; Global Chapters 2, 3].
     Local and traditional agricultures work with genetic material that is evolving under random mutation, natural and farmer selection and community management [Global Chapter 2]. Even in unpromising soil and topographic condi­tions, as in the high Andes, local and traditional knowledge nurtured and managed germplasm that today is recognized as a center of origin of genetic diversity. Local and tradi­tional strategies for in situ conservation can be highly effec­tive in managing the viability and diversity of seed, roots, tubers and animal species over generations. [Global Chapter 3] The diversity gives local options and capacity for adap­tive response that are essential for meeting the challenges of climate change [CWANA SDM; Global Chapters 2, 3].
     Mobilizing these capacities in collaboration with formal


science can generate AKST of more than local significance [Global Chapter 3]. Robust evidence indicates that it is the form of collaboration that determines the effectiveness of the resulting AKST in terms of development and sustain­ability goals [Global Chapters 2, 3, 4].

The nature of traditional and local knowledge
Traditional knowledge [Global Chapter 7]. The UN Con­vention on Biological Diversity refers to traditional knowl­edge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities embodying traditional lifestyles relevant for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity [Global Chapter 2]. More broadly, traditional knowledge is constituted in the interaction of the material and non-material worlds embedded in place-based cultures and iden­tities [Figure SR TKI-1] [LAC SDM].
     The local Pacha (mother earth) is a micro-cosmos, a representation of the cosmos at large. It is animated, sacred, consubstantial, immanent, diverse, variable, and harmoni­ous. Within the local Pacha there is the Ayllu (Community in Quechuan and Aymaran languages). The Ayllu is comprised of three communities: people, nature, spirits. Throughout the agricultural calendar interaction within the Ayllu takes place through rituals and ceremonies. The place par excel­lence for the three communities to interact is the chacra (plot size: 1 to 2 ha). Harmony is not given, it has to be regularly procured through dialogue, reciprocity, redistribution and rejoicing flowing among the three communities. Nurturance and respect are fundamental principles in these exchanges. Knowledge created and transferred from another place by persons from outside the locality has to be instituted in the chacra through and in harmony with the dialogue among the members of the Ayllu and in conformity with the rituals and ceremonies that support such dialogue.
     Local knowledge is a functional description of capabili­ties and activities that exist among rural actors in all parts of the world, including OECD countries [Global Chapter 2; LAC SDM]. Local stakeholders may engage in AKST activities typically (1) to compel acknowledgment of their knowledge and capacity for self-generated development by organizations and actors located elsewhere or (2) to reap benefits by fostering relations with non-local organizations and actors who need contextual, place-based knowledge in order to perform their own missions efficiently and prof­itably [Global Chapter 2]. Labels of geographical origin exemplify the first; the second is instanced by formal breed­ers and commercial organizations in the Netherlands who