Knowledge for Development

Relevant publications

Geographical indications, in situ conservation and traditional knowledge

by Jorge Larson Guerra, Mexico National University for the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable DevelopmentICTSD policy Brief Number 3, November 2010Jorge Larson Guerra, biologist, Mexico National University, writes a policy brief for the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) Project on genetic resources. After detailing the rationale and the history of the development of the ‘geographical indication’ (GI) concept, the author describes the GI legal context, with a focus on developing countries and their efforts to implement and promote the GI concept in their jurisdiction. GI’s value chains, and the role played in biological conservation and traditional knowledge is also explained, in depth. This brief is rich on references and provides up-to-date knowledge on GI placing it on the agricultural science and trade policy-makers’ agenda. The author concludes “the current neglect for GIs within discussions on in situ conservation and the protection of traditional knowledge should end and there should be in-depth discussions on their possible drawbacks for developing countries, as well as on their positive contributions to the pressing issues of conservation and development in rural diverse areas worldwide.”


Rights to plant genetic resources and traditional knowledge: basic issues

Rothschild, M., CABI, 2002 This book contains 16 chapters. Topics covered are: patents, trade secrets and other forms of intellectual property rights; advent of animal patents: innovation and controversy in the engineering and ownership of life; economics of patents; access to data and intellectual property; global intellectual property: international developments in animal patents; public university, intellectual property and agricultural R and D; lessons from the patenting of plants; patenting and sequencing the genome; open source and other software intellectual property models; animals, ethics and patents; development of a genetic marker for litter size in the pig: a case study; development and commercialization of a genetic marker for marbling of beef in cattle: a case study; research and patent perspective of nuclear transfer cloning: case studies; dairy cattle test day models: a case study; development and commercialization of software for genetic improvement programmes: a case study; final thoughts.


The Agroecological Knowledge Toolkit (AKT5)

The Agroecological Knowledge toolkit (AKT5) software was developed by the Bangor University (Wales, UK) in conjunction with the Department of Artificial Intelligence at Edinburgh University ( The Bangor University of Wales is a leading institution in the development of a knowledge-based systems methodology to acquire and use local knowledge in research and development. The AKT5 system is primarily concerned with gathering local ecological knowledge (LEK). Local ecological knowledge refers to what people know about their natural environment, based primarily on their own experience and observation.It was designed to provide an environment for knowledge acquisition in order to create knowledge bases from a range of sources. It The AKT5 allows representation of knowledge elicited from farmers and scientists or knowledge abstracted from written material. The use of formal knowledge representation procedures offers researchers the ability to evaluate and utilise the often complex, qualitative information relevant stakeholders have on agroecological practices.Visit:


Ethnobiology - New textbook

E. N. Anderson (Editor), Deborah Pearsall (Editor), Eugene Hunn (Editor), Nancy Turner (Editor) ; ISBN: 978-0-470-54785-4 ; Paperback 420 pages ; August 2011 ; Wiley-Blackwell.__________From " The field of ethnobiology — the study of relationships between particular ethnic groups and their native plants and animals — has grown very rapidly in recent years, spawning numerous subfields. Ethnobiological research has produced a wide range of medicines, natural products, and new crops, as well as striking insights into human cognition, language, and environmental management behavior from prehistory to the present.This is the single authoritative source on ethnobiology, covering all aspects of the field as it is currently defined. Featuring contributions from experienced scholars and sanctioned by the Society of Ethnobiology, this concise, readable volume provides extensive coverage of ethical issues and practices as well as archaeological, ethnological, and linguistic approaches.Emphasizing basic principles and methodology, this unique textbook offers a balanced treatment of all the major subfields within ethnobiology, allowing students to begin guided research in any related area—from archaeoethnozoology to ethnomycology to agroecology. Each chapter includes a basic introduction to each topic, is written by a leading specialist in the specific area addressed, and comes with a full bibliography citing major works in the area. All chapters cover recent research, and many are new in approach; most chapters present unpublished or very recently published new research. Featured are clear, distinctive treatments of areas such as ethnozoology, linguistic ethnobiology, traditional education, ethnoecology, and indigenous perspectives. Methodology and ethical action are also covered up to current practice. "(Society of Ethnobiology via


Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems – A Legacy for the Future

P. Koohafkan and M. A. Altieri. FAO. 2011. The FAO defines Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) as ‘Remarkable land use systems and landscapes which are rich in globally significant biological diversity evolving from the co-adaptation of a community with its environment and its needs and aspirations for sustainable development’. GIAHS are selected based on their importance for the provision of local food security, high levels of agro-biodiversity and associated biological diversity, store of indigenous knowledge and ingenuity of management systems. The aim of the project is to identify and mobilise recognition and support for the conservation and sustainable use of globally important agricultural heritage systems and landscapes and their associated agricultural biodiversity and knowledge systems. For further information about this publication, see the project website: from:


Ethnopharmacology, food production, nutrition and biodiversity conservation: Towards a sustainable future for indigenous peoples

V. H. Heywood; Centre for Plant Diversity & Systematics, School of Biological Sciences, University of Reading, UK; 2011This paper aims to provide a perspective of ethnopharmacology that explicitly extends the range of disciplines it covers so as to embrace food and nutrition and biodiversity, both wild and domesticated, and places it in the context of the dramatic changes to our planet during a period of rapid global change and the impacts that these changes are having on human health and nutrition and on its resource base.Ethnopharmacology, biodiversity, agriculture, food and nutrition are inextricably linked but suffer from compartmentalization and a lack of communication which have to be overcome if progress is to be made. Fortunately, a convergence of interest between the agricultural biodiversity and the biodiversity conservation sectors has emerged in recent years and there is an increased appreciation of the need to adopt a wider approach to human nutrition than the conventional agricultural model allows; there is also a greater awareness of the important role played by diversity of crops, especially local species, and consumption of wild species in achieving balanced nutrition. Ethnopharmacologists need to take much more cognizance of the fate of the resource base – the plants, animals and microorganisms – and of the actions being undertaken under the auspices of treaties, such as the Conservation on Biological Diversity and its Global Strategy for Plant Conservation, and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, to counter its degradation and loss.Although it has been suggested that the 'golden days' of ethnopharmacology may be over, it is proposed that by embracing the challenges of broadening the remit so as to include the health aspects of wild biodiversity employed in nutrition, a new 'golden age' beckons. The paper concludes with some suggestions for action.


Africa: Indigenous knowledge and rural livelihood improvement

This paper published in PLEC News and Views argues that despite continued national and international efforts to eradicate rural poverty, this cannot be achieved unless farmers’ knowledge, preferences and practices are recognized by all scientists and taken into consideration when developing improved technologies. Farmers should be the agents responsible for change. Examples of soil and crop improvement from two Sukuma villages, Ngudama and Buganda, near Mwanza, Tanzania are presented. The author concludes by stating that there are many examples where technologies developed by research and learning institutions are not being adopted by farmers in villages very close to these institutions. Most farmers maintain traditional practices without adopting improved technologies available from only a short distance away. The paper shows the role farmers play in enhancing and managing agricultural biodiversity and use their knowledge of soils and crops for their own livelihood improvement. Production risks due to uncertainties in production levels, access and availability of basic resources like labour and cash, and production limitations like land pressure make farmers develop intricate ways of managing resources. Addressing agricultural diversity or agro-biodiversity with farmers and on farmers own farms is actually perpetuating and improving indigenous knowledge and rural livelihood improvement. Real rural livelihood improvement can only be realized if outsiders respect farmers’ knowledge and practices and build on it together with them (abstract taken from the original paper’s introduction and conclusion). Fidelis B.S. Kaihura is Head of Natural Resources Management Research, Lake Zone Agricultural Research and Training Institute Ukiriguru, Mwanza, Tanzania. Africa: Indigenous knowledge and rural livelihood improvement


Pacific: Promotion of local knowledge and innovations in Asia and the Pacific Region

The overall objectives of the study were to: (1) analyse the current practices and experiences of the Asia and the Pacific Division with regard to scouting, utilising and promoting local knowledge and innovations. The study also documented selected good practices and assessed how the rural people have used local knowledge and innovations to improve their livelihoods and whether this has led to their empowerment; and (2) provide building blocks to ensure greater mainstreaming of local knowledge and innovations into the regional strategy so that all activities in the region will incorporate them. In particular, a series of insights and recommendations was developed that would contribute to improving the design and implementation of IFAD-supported projects and programmes through enhanced use of local innovations, knowledge systems and partnerships. Important attention was devoted to the empowerment of local communities to become more active partners in project design and implementation, and the blending of ‘modern’ technology and local knowledge to capitalise on the best in local and external expertise. Pacific: Promotion of local knowledge and innovations in Asia and the Pacific Region - Thematic Evaluation: Agreement at Completion Point


Making Science more inclusive: The history of knowledge production

Keynote address by Gérard Toulouse Science, Indigenous Knowledge and Innovation CTA Advisory Committee Meeting, Johannesburg, 22-26 Nov. 2010 The brilliant and convincing fresco presented by Professor Jacobus Nicolaas Eloff, leader of the phytomedicine programme at the University of Pretoria, over the ancestry of herbal medicine, and its vast promises for the future, raised an implicit yet major question : why and how has modern science - as it developed in the West during the last four centuries - been so blind about the high value of these domains of investigation ? In brief, why such a long phase of neglect/contempt for traditional and indigenous knowledge?"


Dietary Diversity: Linking traditional food and plant genetic resources to rural and urban health in Sub-Saharan Africa

Bioversity International (formerly the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute),Maccarese, Italy.The project is aimed at advancing dietary diversification within the four project countries as a long-term and sustainable strategy for addressing nutritional deficiencies and health problems associated with the emerging transition to energy rich food in developing countries. Reduced dietary diversity in Sub-Saharan Africa has mainly been attributed to the loss of traditional food systems, particularly as a result of rapid urbanization, estimated to reach over 50% of the total population by 2020. The project identified additional factors, such as lack of nutritional and agronomic information, a negative attitude towards traditional foods (termed foods for the poor), policies that do not recognize the important role of these foods in food security and health, poor seed systems and lack of a coordinated group of champions to promote traditional foods. The overall outcomes are: (i) a more informed population on matters of nutrition and health, (ii) more income and hence improved livelihood for farmers supplying the cities with traditional foods and particularly vegetables; (iii) improved access to traditional foods in the markets; improved capacity to do food research in local institutions; (iv) improved capacity for extension staff of NGOs and government ministries to communicate their messages to farmers and other clients; and (v) improved food and nutrition policies. The expected impact is a population habitually consuming diverse diets, mainly consisting of traditional foods and hence higher intake of micronutrients; reduced incidence of nutrition-related chronic diseases and conditions such as diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular diseases, improved farmers’ livelihoods and improved agrobiodiversity at the farm level.


The Case for Indigenous West African Food Culture

I.F. Smith Breda Series n° 91995A summary of the case for incorporating the indigenous plants used in West Africa into wider use is presented. The paper details the origins of the major West African food crops, and those used today by country and plant type. It also lists the nutritive value of commonly consumed legumes, starchy tubers, fruits and cereals. Urbanisation and changing lifestyles are affecting consumer utilization. Many traditional foods require specific and time-consuming processing, and lack of availability all year round couple with limited movement of fresh food produce constrains their use. In addition to popularisation campaigns, research is needed to produce more acceptable and versatile products based on indigenous food.


Weathering Uncertainty: Traditional knowledge for climate change assessment and adaptation

In the framework of the UNESCO-ICSU Science Forum for Rio+20, UNESCO and UNU launched the book 'Weathering Uncertainty: Traditional knowledge for climate change assessment and adaptation'. This resource draws attention to a rapidly growing scientific literature on the contribution of indigenous and traditional knowledge to understanding climate change vulnerability, resilience and adaptation. It broadens the awareness and understanding of these knowledge systems by climate change scientists and decision-makers.'This new book underlines the critical role that indigenous peoples and local communities can play in ongoing international efforts to monitor the progress of global climate change impacts and to develop capacities to respond', notes Dr Gretchen Kalonji, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for the Natural Sciences.(UNESCO, 14/6/2012)


The role of small scale livestock farming in climate change and food security

The main objective of this report by Vétérinaire Sans Frontière Europe (VSF-E) is to contextualise the role played by small scale livestock farming into the climate change debate and its potential contribution to food security. The hypotheses of this study is that small scale livestock farming can contribute to mitigation of climate change and needs to be taken into consideration into the policy discussions, and that autonomous adaptation of local communities, mostly based on local traditional knowledge, can be a reliable group of adaptation measures to climate change while at the same time contribute to global food security.(VSF Europa via SDC Food Security Programme, 5/2012)


Consent and conservation: getting the most from community protocols

A wealth of traditional crop varieties, medicinal plants and other genetic resources are under the care of indigenous people and local communities – who need legal rights to manage them. New legal backing comes from the 2010 Nagoya Protocol to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, which requires prior informed consent for access to traditional knowledge and genetic resources, and calls for support of ‘community protocols’ that set out rules for access and benefit sharing. Community protocols are not just about indigenous rights: they clarify expectations for business and government, preserve irreplaceable biological resources, and support climate change adaptation and sustainable development. But to get these benefits, governments must back up the Nagoya Protocol with national laws and institutions, and support community-led participatory processes. Community Protocols are a vital way forward for negotiating agreements that are equitable, and conserve their local biodiversity and traditional knowledge.(IIED, 10/2012)


Land Use and Biodiversity in Unprotected Landscapes: The Case of Noncultivated Plant Use and Management by Rural Communities in Benin and Togo

To contribute to the development of strategies for sustainable agricultural land use and biodiversity conservation in landscapes without formal protection status, researchers from AfricaRice and Wageningen UR, among others, investigated the local use and management of non-cultivated plants as important ecosystem functions of inland valleys in south Benin and Togo, and local perceptions on changes in plant biodiversity and causes for these changes. Local users of non-cultivated plants perceived agriculture and construction as major factors contributing to the reduction of (non-cultivated) plant biodiversity. However, they also collect many useful species from agricultural fields and the village. A small community forest reserve and a 2-ha community garden were the only organised forms of conservation management. Observed ad hoc conservation initiatives were selective harvesting of plant parts, preserving trees during land clearing, and allowing useful weed species in the field. Future development and conservation efforts in unprotected landscapes with multiple ecosystem functions should acknowledge knowledge, interests, and needs of local communities.(Society and Natural Resources: An International Journal, Vol 25, Is. 12, 2012)


Local knowledge and adaptation to climate change in Ouémé valley, Bénin

This paper highlights the local dimension of adaptation to climate change and the importance of local knowledge in adaptation planning. A case study of farmers’ strategies for adapting to climate vulnerability in the low valley of Ouémé showed that local people have developed a remarkable ability to adapt to climate threats, or in some cases have turned threats into opportunities. Using finger ponds around irrigated farms and building cropping dikes following an indigenous design, farmers in the region could protect their crop from stronger rains or water scarcity depending on the season.From fishing practices to agricultural techniques and through agro-fishing practices, people of low valley of Ouémé managed to take advantage of their natural vulnerability mainly based on local knowledge. In fact, the trend in applying these local strategies confirms the dynamic nature of adaptation to climate change mainly determined by the extent of vulnerability caused by continued depletion of the environment. Given that this dynamic can sometimes lead to mal-adaptation, it is necessary that local people are assisted in their coping strategies.(African Crop Science Journal, Vol. 20, 11/10/2012)


Ethnobotanical knowledge of indigenous fruits in Northern Namibia

Indigenous wild edible fruits form a rich source of vitamins, fibres, minerals and a heterogeneous collection of bioactive compounds referred to as phytochemicals. This study records the different indigenous knowledge system (IKS) practices related to the indigenous fruit trees in Ohangwena and Oshikoto regions of Namibia.(Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 9:34, 2013)


Realising Farmers' Rights to Crop Genetic Resources: Success Stories and Best Practices

This book by researchers from the Fridtjof Nansen Institute (FNI), Norway provides decision-makers and practitioners with a conceptual framework for understanding ‘Farmers’ Rights’ in the  context of crop genetic resources (CGR) sharing. The book compiles success stories showing how each of the elements of Farmers' Rights to CGR can be realised in practice. The stories  (from Ethiopia, Mali and Zimbabwe, among others) describe how substantial achievements have been made on several important fronts of the Farmer’s Rights charter, such as in the rights of  farmers to save, use, exchange and sell farm-saved seed; the protection of traditional knowledge; benefit-sharing; and participation in decision-making.(Routledge, 18/06/2013)


Traditional ecological knowledge and global environmental change

Ecology and Society in 2013 included a special feature 'Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Global Environmental Change' addressing two main research themes. The first theme concerns the resilience of traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) and the conditions that might explain its loss or persistence in the face of global change. The second theme relates to new findings regarding the way in which TEK strengthens community resilience to respond to the multiple stressors of global environmental change. Those themes are analyzed using case studies from Africa, Asia, America and Europe. Theoretical insights and empirical findings from these case studies suggest that despite the generalized worldwide trend of TEK erosion, substantial pockets of TEK persist in both developing and developed countries. A common trend on the studies presented here is hybridization, where traditional knowledge, practices, and beliefs are merged with novel forms of knowledge and technologies to create new knowledge systems. The findings also reinforce previous hypotheses pointing at the importance of TEK systems as reservoirs of experiential knowledge that can provide important insights for the design of adaptation and mitigation strategies to cope with global environmental change. Based on the results from papers in this feature, we discuss policy directions that might help to promote maintenance and restoration of living TEK systems as sources of social-ecological resilience. Among the papers in this special feature, one stands out: Indigenous ways of adaptability to uncertainty: Outputs from an experiment in West African drylands   (Ecology and Society, 12/2013) 


Vitamin A: Moving the food-based approach forward

Ted Greiner, professor of nutrition at Hanyang University, South Korea explains why food-based approaches to combating vitamin A deficiency continue to be largely ignored by governments and donors. According to Greiner, this may be partly because the way of viewing food-based approaches has largely been informed by the community which supports micronutrient supplementation. Food-based approaches may be perceived as competitive or distracting and are thus slandered, for example claiming they are unproven or even ineffective. To the contrary, Greiner shows, it is the supplementation approach that fails to improve vitamin A status and is even lacking in proof of impact on young child mortality in real life settings. Rather, a wide variety of common and indigenous foods are proven effective in improving vitamin A status even in short-term trials. Food-based approaches are complex to implement and to evaluate and take time to mature and exert impact. But unlike supplementation, they reach all members of the community, are safe for pregnant women, have no side effects, are sustainable, and confer a wide range of benefits in addition to improving vitamin A status. Food-based approaches are also often portrayed as being expensive, but this is only true from a 'donor-centric' way of viewing costs. From the point of view of host countries, communities and families who grow vitamin A rich foods, the economic benefits are likely to outweigh the costs.   (FAO and WHO, 2013)