Indigenous Knowledge, Biodiversity Conservation, and Development
Dennis Michael Warren
Indigenous knowledge and biodiversity are complementary phenomena essential to human development. Global awareness of the crisis concerning the conservation of biodiversity is assured following the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in June 1992 in Rio de Janeiro. Of equal concern to many world citizens is the uncertain status of the indigenous knowledge that reflects many generations of experience and problem solving by thousands of ethnic groups across the globe. Very little of this knowledge has been recorded, yet, it represents an immensely valuable data base that provides humankind with insights on how numerous communities have interacted with their changing environment, including its floral and faunal resources.
This chapter provides an overview of studies that clearly portray the active role that rural communities in Africa and other parts of the world have played in generating knowledge based on a sophisticated understanding of their environment, devising mechanisms to conserve and sustain their natural resources, and establishing community-based organizations that serve as forums for identifying problems and dealing with them through local-level experimentation, innovation, and exchange of information with other societies.
Indigenous knowledge, particularly in the African context, long has been ignored and maligned by outsiders. Today, however, a growing number of African governments and international development agencies are recognizing that local-level knowledge and organizations provide the foundation for participatory approaches to development that are both cost effective and sustainable.
The deliberate maintenance of diversity in domesticated and nondomesticated plants and animals characterizes farming systems across