Sub-theme 3. Indigenous peoples and globalisation
Towards Decolonizing Africa's Development Futures: The Place of Local Knowledge and Institutions
Global inequalities today derive in part from the unequal power relations in the way knowledge about development has historically been produced and applied. African knowledge systems have been undervalued because of the dominance of Eurocentric mindsets and practices. As a result, critics blame state failure and the development crisis in Africa on “the structural disconnection between formal institutions transplanted from outside and indigenous institutions born of traditional African cultures”. How can Africa engage with globalization and modernization, and address the continent’s many development challenges by drawing on local human and material resources for greater self-reliance and sustainable development? We argue that the science and practice of development in Africa should integrate the traditional knowledge of local communities in the continent, and that Africa should search within its own knowledge systems for appropriate ideas and approaches to many of its development problems. We recognize that with growing global interdependence, Africa stands to gain from global science and international best practices, and that indigenous knowledge and global science should be made to complement and enrich each other. But the panel stresses that researchers, policy makers and practitioners should appreciate the value of different knowledge systems, and tap into the time-tested resource of indigenous/local knowledge for locally appropriate ways to achieve more inclusive, participatory and sustainable development. We welcome papers that deal with various aspects of the ‘decolonial’ and indigenous knowledge movements, and on indigenous knowledge as local response to globalization and Western knowledge dominance.
Panel 3.1. A
1. How do knowledge holders identify, visualise, and spatialise local knowledge and practices that contribute to natural resource management in Kalomo District?
University of Amsterdam/CIFOR, The Netherlands
The contribution of local knowledge to improving social-ecological systems has gained increasing attention in academia, policy-making, and civil society over the last decade. However, there are still important knowledge gaps, particularly related to the contribution of local knowledge to sustainable landscape management and how to best engage local communities in decision-making processes.
This is particularly the case for the Tonga people of Zambia, in Kalomo District. Hence, we aim to synthesise existing Tonga local knowledge practices that contribute to sustainable landscape management and engage in the implementation of integrated landscape approaches.
Combining walking interviews with photovoice and focus group discussion in three villages, we observed that communities still use local knowledge to manage natural resource management. Women and youth are also important local knowledge holders, acknowledging the importance of inter-generational knowledge transfer for managing natural resources. Our results also show that local knowledge is already integrated with what is called ‘external knowledge’ (e.g., government) and people use integrated knowledge when local knowledge is deemed insufficient to fulfil their needs, mainly regarding crop cultivation, water, and cattle management. In some cases, we found that ‘external knowledges’ shared for helping communities are local practices that have been already existed for decades, e.g., manure practice.
We conclude that there is the need for further research to better understand the role of local practices that contribute to sustainable natural resource management. Doing so can inform the development of evidence-based policy that incorporates local knowledge and ensures local voices are properly integrated within decision
2. Decolonization research frameworks: Implementation Science to Privilege Indigenous Voices, Being and Doing in Africa
Moi University, Kenya
Africa is estimated to have 50 million indigenous peoples and they are mainly nomadic and semi-nomadic pastoralists, or hunter-gatherers. They represent diverse contexts with many living in extreme poverty and experiencing high health disparities compared to non-indigenous peoples. They experience marginalization, dispossession of their lands and resources, forced assimilation into dominant non-indigenous groups, and illiteracy. They suffer from numerous infectious and non-communicable diseases. The essential elements when designing sustainable and effective health interventions within indigenous communities include incorporating indigenous knowledges, methodologies and culturally centered approaches to promote self-determination, stakeholder and community engagement. The use of decolonization methodological frameworks that privilege indigenous voices allow for co-design principles when undertaking health research. Implementation science is ideal in these contexts because it uses systematic research methods to appreciate local contexts and improve knowledge translation to inform policy. It also seeks to understand factors affecting successful implementation of health research and interventions by assessing a number of outcomes including coverage, acceptability, adoption, fidelity, equity, cost, and sustainability. When indigenous knowledge is applied in conceptualizations of research goals and methodologies, we build true partnerships and expand research capacity of indigenous people as they are actively involved in study design, leadership, and governance. Researchers using participatory action approaches embrace local indigenous contexts and localized understanding which consequently ensures viability, usefulness, and sustainability of their research endeavors.
3. Town-Gown Relationship: The Academic Library Engagement in Preserving Indigenous Knowledge
Library and Information Science, Abia State University, Uturu, Nigeria
Academic libraries are libraries established in tertiary institutions to provide information services to cater for the teaching, learning, research activities and community services that characterize higher education. However, the community services aspect of the function of higher institutions in Nigeria may have been neglected, The Town-Gown relationship which should be nurtured by academic libraries, especially in the area of preserving indigenous knowledge of these communities is left undone. The undue focus of the academic libraries to serve only the interest of their staff and students, excluding their neighbours who live on the other side of the boundaries of the academic institution calls to question the interaction and harmonious co-existence of the Town and the Gown. Academic libraries are uniquely positioned to play a vital role in supporting indigenous communities bordering their parent institutions by identifying, protecting and disseminating their indigenous knowledge. It is still widely speculated that academic libraries in Nigeria are rendering their services in helping the growth of Town-Gown relationship in Nigeria. Against this backdrop, this paper conceptualizes Town-Gown relationship and discusses academic libraries. It identifies community engagement as collaboration between institutions of higher education and their larger communities for mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and services in a context of partnership and reciprocity. The study also provides insight into what indigenous knowledge is, the role of academic libraries in Nigeria in preserving indigenous knowledge and the challenges faced by these libraries in their preservation of indigenous knowledge.
4. Local Ecological Knowledge, Catch Characteristics, and Evidence of Elasmobranch Depletions in Western Ghana Artisanal Fisheries
Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana
There is increasing recognition among scholars that resource managers can no longer depend solely on empirical scientific data to manage natural resources. The incorporation of social dimension in developing relevant management protocols is therefore widely advocated. We relied on local knowledge of fishers in five coastal communities in Ghana to investigate ecological factors that affect fishing for elasmobranchs (sharks and rays) and the changes in the abundance of sharks and rays from 1980 to 2020. Data were gathered from fishers using participant observation, interviews, focus group discussions, and participatory rural appraisal techniques. The results revealed fisher’s understanding of six main ecological features, which have been applied over the years to enhance fishing operations as well as maximize fisher catch: season and weather conditions, lunar phase, bait type, presence of seabirds and fish movement, color of seawater, and sea current. Fishers reported a profound decline in shark and ray catch from 1980 to 2020 and attributed the decline in size, number, and composition of their catch to overfishing and Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing operations. We found fishers’ local ecological knowledge to be consistent with scholarly knowledge and call for its inclusion in research, decision-making, and management interventions by biologists and policymakers.
5. Integrating Mother-Languages in Communicating Development Projects in Africa’s Future-Making
1Pwani University, Kenya, 2Kenyatta University, Kenya
This paper will endeavour to argue for the integration of mother-languages in Africa’s development discourse perceivably driven by the locals as well as local institutions. Whenever literary challenges arise, it is often tied to the devalued African local knowledge systems, which in turn results in unequal power relations. Moving away from assumed ethnography to a shift in envisioning power-knowledge guarantees more macro level contestations, which would effectively contribute to how science and policy-making can be shaped. This paper premises on two vital concerns: First, while looking towards Africa’s decolonised future, how are we to harness local knowledge for the sake of development? Secondly, do literary challenges impact on the effectiveness of local institutions with regard to long-term retention
of essential knowledge garnered through mother-language use? This paper will point to this rationale by sharing an experience from a case study on HIV/AIDS risk behaviour change communication among rural dwellers in Kisumu County, Kenya. This case study integrated sequential mixed method (QUAN-QUAL) analysis where the QUAN provided the discursive variable that QUAL sought to reveal, while seeking to understand the impact of language use in harnessing and communicating essential behaviour change knowledge in rural spaces. We shall seek to argue that, approaching mother-language integration as a key integer instrumental to the propagation of the rather fragile power-knowledge arguments envisioned in the interdependence of global scientific practices and indigenous knowledge systems, is vital in advancing the debate on Africa’s future-making.
Panel 3.1. B
1. Changing Land Law, Devolution and Pastoralists Institutions
University of Nairobi, Kenya
Devolution has become an important theme in relation to the aim of ensuring local communities’ land rights in developing countries. The proponents argue that a transfer of power and authority over land from the central government to local institutions will give local communities a better chance to secure their land rights. Kenya’s 2010 Constitution and its 2016 Community Land Act provide for land reforms in combination with devolution. The Constitution mandates county governments to hold communal land in trust, and the Community Land Act ostensibly aims at enhancing communities’ land rights. The current paper examines how devolution in land reforms affects pastoralists and their land rights in Kenya. Drawing on literature that centers on colonial legacy and the exclusion of communities from decision-making processes, this paper draws on primary interviews with national government officers, and with local government and pastoralist communities in Samburu County to highlight this phenomenon. The paper shows that the new laws lead to the sedentarization of pastoralists. First, the consequence of heightened subdivision of communally owned land creates bounded territories that constrain pastoralist mobility. Second, public officials at national and sub-national levels tend to sideline traditional pastoralist practices in the implementation process. Finally, this, together with incoherent institutional structures that de facto undermine pastoralists’ influence on land governance, contributes to undermining their traditional lifestyle, and pushes existing trends of sedentarism and dispossession.
2. Polycentric Governance among the Yoruba of Nigeria: Unexpected Outcomes
Clark Atlanta University, USA
While the potential of polycentric governance as the wave of the future is largely not in doubt, little is known about how polycentric governance differs in highly similar non-western environments in matching interactions among decision centers with service provision at multiple levels. This obscurity in the literature is puzzling in Africa because of the famous assertion that Africa’s salvation lies primarily in returning to all of its institutional roots and heritage. The strong call for a blanket return to the whole of African institutional heritages is grossly misleading in that not all sociocultural rules and norms in Africa are amenable to growing polities that are adaptive in fitting interactions among decision centers to service provision at multiple levels. This paper addresses this missing polycentricity piece by undertaking an in-depth analysis of how polycentric governance in two highly similar Yoruba communities of Nigeria – Abeokuta and Ile-Ife – differs in fitting interactions among neighborhood associations to service provision at multiple levels. In doing this, the paper uses Elinor Ostrom’s design principles to complement Friedrich Hayek’s theories of spontaneous order and sociocultural evolution.
3. Oracles and Deities in Traditional Conflict Resolution in Igboland: Lessons from Uturu Area for Judicial Reform in Nigeria
Abia State University, Uturu, Nigeria
Customary methods of resolving conflicts and restoring order in many African societies may sound irrational to those accustomed to Western jurisprudence and formal justice systems; but these traditional methods have proved to be effective, more accessible and resilient, and should be of interest to scholars of judicial reform, legal pluralism, Peacemaking and Alternative Dispute Resolution in Africa.There is now renewed research interest in informal justice administration in Africa, and in how best to integrate traditional and modern methods of conflict resolution. The paper considers the role of oracles, deities and oath-taking in the traditional judicial system of Uturu area of Igboland, and what lessons to draw from that experience for the ongoing project of judicial reform in Nigeria. Traditionally, the lgbo relied mainly on such aspects of their customary beliefs and cultural values as oracles and deities in resolving disputes among themselves before the introduction of the Western legal system in the colonial period. Conflicts over land, marital issues and murder cases among others were taken to the oracles and deities for presumed impartial divine judgment of the gods. The lgbo in general and Uturu in particular adopted various conflicts resolution mechanisms that have now become an integral part of village democracy. These practices have remained resilient despite the increasing dominance of formal Western practices over traditional African societies. The paper argues that traditional methods of conflict resolution remain relevant, more accessible and efficacious in ascertaining the ‘truth’ in lgbo conflict management, and therefore deserve more critical attention by researchers and policy makers seeking to establish a genuinely African justice system.
4. Re-Commoning Through Counter Mapping, A Case of Mida Creek Area, Kilifi County, Kenya
Technical University of Kenya, Kenia, KU Leuven, Belgium
As many African countries grapple with their respective colonial legacies, especially regarding discussions surrounding sustainable growth and futures, maps and mapping processes remain one of the most active agents that are re-asserting and reproducing colonial frameworks, embedded in wider frames of capitalism and globalization. The agency of the contemporary ontologically biased cartesian mapping silently and ruthlessly overrides spatial-based local knowledge systems, making them cartographically invisible, and suppresses them to western doctrines of spatialities that gradually become legitimized by the state and other synonymous organizations. Using Mida Creek Area, in Kilifi County, Coastal Kenya as a case study that is predominantly inhabited by the indigenous Mijikenda community, this paper seeks to demonstrate how inclusive, participatory and critical counter-mapping is used as an innovative tool for community empowerment, against hegemonic discourses brought herewith by urbanization mechanisms. This is done by exploring alternative cartographic ways of capturing and making visible critical oral narratives, cultural values, and embedded spatialities that reposition the Mijikenda within a contested context of a rapidly urbanizing Mida creek area, that is home to shared commons of ecologically sensitive areas of Watamu marine park-reserve and abutting Arabuko Sokoke forest. The rapid urbanization in and around the Mida creek area has seen the intensification of competing interests between the booming tourism and mining industries, urban areas, and the local community, in which more often than not, the community falls last in the pecking order of prioritization of gaining access to the shared resources.