Development and Local Knowledge: New Approaches to Issues in Natural Resources Management, Conservation, and Agriculture

By Alan Bicker; Paul Sillitoe et al. | Go to book overview
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not using a scientific approach, though it was empirical, because he was not concerned with understanding the development of the potato or why different contexts altered the potato, but simply towards achieving particular goals. He applied knowledge in a systematic manner, but he was not, at that time at least, interested in the intrinsic validity of that knowledge, but in the application of that knowledge in a way that worked towards his goals. Because his goals were derived from his local, culture-based knowledge, he produced a result that was acceptable and accepted by others in his society as useful (after a time). It also met their criteria, and he had provided an example that made sense to them.

In 1992 KDIP was still mainly focused on production of seed potatoes, and the overall programme was identified as a success when it was wound up in 1998. They saw the Haq potatoes as a means towards an end of getting people to accept the cultivation of potatoes, potentially one of many. In 1992 they were still oriented to bigger and more potatoes for local use, and had a number of programmes to accomplish this goal, rather than examining the prospects for improving the Haq potato. In this they were not being scientific, nor were they very successful from a technical point of view with respect to local staple crops. They were, therefore, employing powerful knowledge, support for local small potatoes, that enables their main goal, the production of seed potatoes. But they persisted in attempting to change the variety of potato grown locally. They did not see the Haq potato or equivalent as enabling knowledge, but simply as one more part of the development scheme.

I was in Kalam for two weeks before meeting Haq, two more weeks before hearing his story of the potato, and two further weeks following this up with representatives of the development project, who at that time were not even aware of the origins of the current local potato crop (though Haq is acknowledged in older promotional literature for his accomplishment). They were certainly not aware of local criteria for a successful crop, because it had never occurred to them that it could be any different from their own, bigger and more. They had simply accepted the knowledge transmitted to them by their former colleagues as pro forma. It had never occurred to Haq to tell them either. He had not set out to consciously produce potatoes with particular properties, he had set out to produce potatoes that worked, and it was self evident to him when that had come about. More important, the successful cultivation of local potatoes was critical to making potatoes a cash crop for export. Discussing this issue with KIDP staff I found on the one hand they were happy to show sensitivity towards local views (doubtless necessary powerful knowledge these days), while still persisting with their views of what constituted an improvement. But a part of this failure on my part was because I was trying to get them to do too much too soon. This example is not uncharacteristic for its time. I have seen the residue of other projects in other parts of the world, such as the failed Scanwater project in Cameroon which included components unmaintainable in the local environment, and unmaintained were certain to fail (and they have). Not all organizations take this point of view: the DTZ (The German


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Development and Local Knowledge: New Approaches to Issues in Natural Resources Management, Conservation, and Agriculture


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