Ancestral knowledge cultural diversity and esd present situation and challenges
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Ancestral Knowledge, Cultural Diversity and ESD – Present Situation and Challenges. Unnikrishnan Payyappallimana United Nations University – Institute of Advanced Studies March 2013. Sequence. Introduction RCE experience Experience sharing from various America RCEs

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Ancestral knowledge cultural diversity and esd present situation and challenges

Ancestral Knowledge, Cultural Diversity and ESD – Present Situation and Challenges

Unnikrishnan PayyappallimanaUnited Nations University – Institute of Advanced Studies

March 2013

Sequence Situation and Challenges

  • Introduction

  • RCE experience

  • Experience sharing from various America RCEs

    (Context, intervention, outcomes, challenges)

  • Open discussion

Overview Situation and Challenges

  • Different cultures around the world with unique practices and ways of looking at life

  • Traditional knowledge refers to the knowledge, innovations and practices of local communities around the world

  • It plays a vital role in defining the identity of a community or a particular group.

Traditional knowledge Situation and Challenges

  • Traditional Knowledge - “tradition-based literary, artistic or scientific works; performances; inventions; scientific discoveries; designs; marks, names and symbols; undisclosed information; and all other tradition-based innovations and creations resulting from intellectual activity in the industrial, scientific, literary or artistic fields.” (WIPO, 2001)

  • Also known as Indigenous knowledge, Cultural knowledge, Local knowledge, Ancestral knowledge, Traditional ecological knowledge – but any of these terms may not capture the exact nature

Codified and non codified forms
Codified and Non-codified Forms Situation and Challenges

  • Codified – Systematic epistemology, theoretical framework, codification of traditional wisdom from an emic perspective

  • Non-codified – ecosystem and ethnic community specific and highly diverse

    Though knowledge generation and transmission may vary in different cultures there are several similarities in the worldviews and value systems

Prominent characteristics of tk
Prominent Characteristics of TK Situation and Challenges

  • Diversity, collective ownership guided by customary laws, combined with beliefs and values

  • Largely undocumented and orally transmitted forms- many similarities between different communities

  • Dynamic, adaptability to changing contexts

  • Differing epistemology of traditional and contemporary knowledge

  • Not just history, but high contemporary relevance

Contemporary relevance of tk
Contemporary Relevance of TK Situation and Challenges

  • Economic and social organization

  • Promotes a sense of national cohesion and identity.

  • Impacts human wellbeing through contributions to health, agriculture, food security, environmental and natural resource management, land use, livelihoods, disaster management, arts and culture among many others.

Role of tk contd
Role of TK – Contd… Situation and Challenges

  • E.g. World Health Organization estimates that traditional medical practices cater to 80% of the world population health requirements.

  • Components of local ecosystems (plants, animal and mineral/metal derivatives)

  • Locally available, easily accessible and cost effective and highly relevant in primary health care in health access poor regions

Thematic areas
Thematic Areas Situation and Challenges

Views on integration
Views on Integration Situation and Challenges

  • These range from

    • romantic (e.g., all practices are logical and sound)

    • Utilitarian (e.g., aspects have to be selectively studied to strengthen modern needs)

    • Pluralistic (should be allowed to co-exist and play a complementary role) views

Three approaches to tk and evidence
Three Approaches to TK and Evidence Situation and Challenges

Common challenges
Common challenges Situation and Challenges

  • Declining social legitimacy (incl. government support)

  • Lack of recognition of practices and practitioners, lack of self esteem

  • Erosion of knowledge, lack of successors

  • Self determination, rights to resources, traditional lands, ownership of knowledge and benefits from use of resources and knowledge, intellectual appropriation

  • Incompatibility with mainstream knowledge systems, multiple worldviews of learners, pedagogical exclusion

  • Peaceful existence and preservation of diversity

Reasons Situation and Challenges

  • A hegemonic relationship between knowledge systems - TK in a position of having to prove itself through a positivist epistemology – dramatically devalues traditions by universalizing norms of action

  • Over emphasis on economic growth - relevance of culture has been examined through the lens of relevance to commercial activity

  • Prevailing view of TK as antiquated and non dynamic, relegating it to a status of a commodity that should be documented and preserved.

  • Dominant discourse of protection of intellectual property rights while neglecting efforts to strengthen social and cultural processes of continuity.

  • TK is considered exotic and confined to indigenous communities.

  • A contested idea of relevance in certain sections of society where benefits from modern science and technology are not available or accessible – creating double standards in inequity especially in less developed countries.

Contd. Situation and Challenges

  • Lack of sufficient theoretical approaches for understanding and assessing TK

  • Institutionalization of TK - experience-based elements may not be secured

  • A dichotomy exists between the formally trained ‘experts’ and the informal ‘knowledge holders’

  • Shuttling between modernity and tradition - conflicts of social identity

  • Integration into mainstream learning systems and production processes is a challenging task.

Tk and esd key aspects
TK and ESD – Key Aspects Situation and Challenges

  • Intergenerational, lifelong learning

  • Collective, social learning

  • Learning in totality

  • Appropriate integration in formal learning, building institutional values and methods to provide choices in education

  • Constant engagement on contemporary relevance and promotion as active social traditions in vital areas like agriculture, health etc.

  • Strengthen linkages to wellbeing and livelihoods

Some questions relevant to esd
Some questions relevant to ESD Situation and Challenges

  • What is an epistemologically sensitive method to identify and integrate appropriate practices in learning?

  • What mechanisms can drive effective social as well as institutional learning processes for ESD that integrates traditional knowledge and practices?

  • What challenges are encountered in the institutionalization process of such knowledge systems?

  • To what extent can local experiences and models be universalized and thus replicated?

  • What is an appropriate intercultural approach in the current education system?

  • Can and to what extent traditional knowledge holders participate in the formal educational systems?

Reflections Situation and Challenges

  • Continuous dialogue process and collective social learning with mutual respect

  • Formal and informal educational programs have to be developed for systematic study of local worldviews, perceptions and practices in the wider framework of ESD.

  • The formal learning could have a sectoral approach to TK in areas such as in medicine, agriculture, veterinary sciences and so on.

  • Informal learning should also focus on means of intergenerational transmission.

  • Issues of integration of TK to be addressed at different social levels such as communities, civil society groups, nongovernmental organizations, formal and informal education institutions, local administrative structures, and national and international multilateral and policy forums.

Rces and traditional knowledge
RCEs and Traditional knowledge Situation and Challenges

Ongoing Activities Situation and Challenges

  • Since 2008 several efforts to strengthen TK in the context of health and nutrition

  • Nearly 55 RCEs are working the area of biocultural diversity

  • Regional and International TK holders exchange programs, capacity building workshops

  • Publications- on Traditional Knowledge and Biodiversity, Policy report on TK and community health

  • Research – Collaborative projects ongoing – e.g. Food traditions of Asia, Traditional knowledge and community health

  • Capacity development module for various stakeholders

  • Policy advocacy – CBD-COP-10, COP-11, CEPA and other side events

Africa region
Africa region Situation and Challenges

  • RCE Makana - Situated social learning – several examples such as water, biomass energy, health and nutrition, agriculture, biodiversity, sewage, waste, sustainability partnership project and a curriculum framework for social learning research. These are aligned with Africa learning resource approach of the region.

  • RCE Roma Lesotho - Lesotho highlands knowledge and incorporation in school curriculum

  • RCE Kano – Revitalizing local knowledge, health, malaria

  • RCE Mao Complex – Traditional knowledge, health, and nutrition

  • RCE Mbarara – Traditional knowledge and health

Europe Situation and Challenges

  • RCE Espoo - Encounters -for sustainable lifestyle project


  • RCE Guatemala - Incorporation of Mayan culture in university curriculum, programs related to Nagoya protocol

Asia region
Asia region Situation and Challenges

  • RCE Cairo – Traditional health practices

  • RCE Kyrgyzstan – Jethiata project, medicinal plants

  • RCE Chubu – Online platforms, COP 10 /11 processes

  • RCE Northern Mindanao - School curriculum - Experience of integrating mother tongue education

  • RCE Cebu – Traditional health systems

  • RCE Greater Phnom Penh – Organic farming

  • RCE Penang – Traditional healers and community health, nutrition

  • RCE Kalimantan – Home gardens program

  • RCE Jogjakarta – Traditional foods project, community enterprises and livelihoods (Pandanus cultivation)

  • RCE Kodagu – Sacred groves conservation

  • RCE Srinagar – Agro biodiversity, Medicinal plant conservation

  • RCE Bangalore – Health, endogenous development, integration in university curriculum

  • RCE Goa – Community knowledge and biodiversity

  • RCE Greater Dhaka (Bangladesh) - Organic farming, Biomass recycling, and on tribal culture of Bangladesh, community conservation

Rce approaches methodologies of tk
RCE Approaches/Methodologies of TK Situation and Challenges

  • Situated social learning processes

  • Learner led mediation processes

  • Revitalizing traditional knowledge in life situations through a see-judge-act approach

  • Integration of mother tongue education and reinforcing identity

  • Bridging research

  • Developing learning case modules for capacity development based on good practices

Social Situation and Challenges

  • Natural




  • Produced

Endogenous Development

Case study 1 - Documentation and Assessment of Local Health Traditions – A Social Learning Approach


Training by FRLHT to NGO staff, key stakeholders and CBO members on different steps of DALHT

Documentation by CBO members of repeatedly used remedies from local knowledge holders

Data on health practices of the selected areas

Prioritization of Health Conditions through PRA

Prioritized list of health conditions

Documentation through literature referencing on symptoms, causes and remedies for specific conditions from codified and indigenous systems of medicine by NGO or Ayurvedic college

References of plants used in local health traditions for specific conditions

Participatory Rapid Assessment of local health practices by villagers, healers, Ayurvedic and allopathic physicians to identify effective remedies

Remedies which are:

1 positive -> promote

2 distorted -> discard

3 incomplete -> add info

4. still not understood -> study further

Field trials, clinical research & publications

Training programs by NGOs to households

Establish Community and Home Herbal Gardens

Product development through local enterprises

Rce experiences from americas context intervention outcomes challenges
RCE Experiences from Americas Traditions – A Social Learning Approach (Context, intervention, outcomes, challenges)

  • Saskatchewan

  • Bogota

  • Western Jalisco

  • Curitiba- Parana

  • Lima Callao

  • Grand Rapids

Suggestions for future initiatives
Suggestions for Future Initiatives ? Traditions – A Social Learning Approach

“I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.”

- M.K.Gandhi