Indigenous knowledge systems explained

18 Feb, 2015 - 00:02 0 Views

The Herald

What are Indigenous knowledge Systems (IKS)?
Indigenous knowledge refers to the understandings, skills and philosophies developed by societies with long histories of interaction with their natural surroundings. For rural and indigenous peoples, local knowledge informs decision-making about fundamental aspects of day-to- day life. Sophisticated knowledge of the natural world is not confined to science. Societies from all parts of the world possess rich sets of experiences, understanding and explanations. This knowledge is integral to a cultural complex that also encompasses language, systems of classification, resource use practices, social interactions, ritual and spirituality.

These unique ways of knowing are important facets of the world’s cultural diversity, and provide a foundation for locally- appropriate sustainable development.

What are the characteristics of Indigenous Knowledge System?
Indigenous Knowledge is:
1. Local: It is rooted to a particular set of experiences, and generated by people living in those places. It has been said that transferring that knowledge to other places runs the risk of dislocating it.

2. Orally transmitted, or transmitted through imitation and demonstration. Writing it down changes some of its fundamental properties.

3. The consequence of practical engagement in everyday life, and is constantly reinforced by experience and trial and error. This experience is characteristically the product of many generations of intelligent reasoning, and since its failure has immediate consequence for the lives of its practitioners its success is very often a good measure of Darwinian fitness. It is, as Hunn (1993:13) neatly puts it, “tested in the rigorous laboratory of survival”.

4. Characteristically shared to a much greater degree than other forms of knowledge, including global science. This is why it is sometimes called “people’s science”, an appellation which also arises from its generation in contexts of everyday production. However, its distribution is still, segmentary, that is socially clustered (Hobart 1993). It is usually asymmetrically distributed within a population, by gender and age, for example, and preserved through distribution in the memories of different individual. Specialists may exist by virtue of experience, but also by virtue of ritual or political authority.

5. Focused on particular individuals and may achieve a degree of coherence in rituals and other symbolic constructs, its distribution is always fragmentary: it does not exist in its totality or individual, Indeed, to considerable extent it is devolved not in individuals at all, but in the practices and interactions in which people engage themselves engage.

Indigenous people view the world we live in as an integral whole. Our beliefs, knowledge, arts and other forms of cultural expressions have been handed down through the generations. Integrated in these elements is the knowledge

Examples of indigenous knowledge practices in Zimbabwe

Local controls remain the building blocks for common property resource institutions in many parts of Zimbabwe (Campbell et al, 1997). In a study of traditional institutions and local controls relating to trees and spaces of the local environment in Nyamaropa Lands, Nyanga District, Mandondo (1997) observes that “controls” could be broadly considered as inclusive framework incorporating codified rules, taboos and regulatory norms. The aforementioned rules, taboos and norms have implications on the organisation of the local environment and regimes of resource utilisation occurring in them.

1. Burial places, were accorded special reverences because of their status as spaces where the dead who became spirits of the clan resided. They were held to be sacred and extraction of resources from such areas constituted gross desecration of their sacral significance and could attract secular, political and religious censure. Although there was scope for evading political censure by human beings, Africans generally believed that ancestral spirits could be evaded maintaining a universal omnipotent surveillance over the affairs of the living

2. Ancestral spirits were believed to unleash divine (visitations) upon those who in their extraction and utilisation of resources violated the rules of the land. Spirits were also believed to inhabit certain flora and fauna as their hosts. Afzelis quanzesis (Mugoriwondo), for instance, was believed to play host to rain spirits while Ficus Capensis (Muonde) and Cusonia Spicatus(Mushenje) were favoured by hunter spirits.

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