Target 13: Indigenous knowledge
Indigenous and local knowledge innovations and practices associated with plant resources maintained or increased as appropriate to support customary use, sustainable livelihoods, local food security and healthcare
Contributors: N. Crouch, B-E. van Wyk & D. Raimondo
South Africa has rich ethnic and cultural diversity, and its biodiversity is of global significance. There is a strong link between cultural and biological diversity (bio-cultural diversity) with large numbers of indigenous species, particularly plants (well over 2 000 taxa), used for traditional medicine and in rituals by local ethnic groups. Indigenous Knowledge (IK) practices are being researched to document the cultural and spiritual value of plants to different South African ethnic groups. For over a century, ethnobotanical studies have been undertaken reflecting the knowledge of the Zulu, Khoikhoi, Xhosa and the Sotho, amongst other groups. Much work on documenting indigenous knowledge remains to be done in South Africa. There has been little research and documentation of certain ethnic groups who have rich bio-
cultural practices such as the Venda, the Pedi and the Pondo. Particularly urgent is the need to further document and conserve indigenous plant knowledge of the Khoikhoi and San people, who are endemic to southern Africa and represent the most ancient cultural traditions in the world. In addition, research is required that explores plant usage patterns linking different ethnic groups.
With an ever-increasing number of South Africans entering into the formal economy and moving from rural to urban lifestyles, there is ongoing erosion and profound loss of indigenous knowledge. This forfeiture of knowledge is particularly evident amongst the younger generation. A high priority for South Africa is capturing the insights and traditions of elderly indigenous knowledge holders before it is lost. Based on South Africa’s rich bio-cultural diversity, there is ongoing interest in bioprospecting, a value-adding process informed in part by traditional practices.
In order to protect Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) an IKS Policy was adopted by Cabinet in 2004. This policy identifies the need to establish a recordal system; one in which communities, guilds and individual IK holders can record their knowledge to advance future economic benefits and social good. In response, the National Indigenous Knowledge Systems Office (NIKSO), established by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), set up the National Recordal System (NRS) in 2013. The NRS works with communities throughout South Africa to capture indigenous knowledge, starting with knowledge relating to African traditional medicine and indigenous foods, and will be developed at a later stage to include arts, crafts and farming practices. This system is unique in that it records African IK in its original oral format, links it to a complex metadata scheme, and provides the necessary mechanisms for both positive and defensive protection. The first objective of this strategy is the full roll-out of the NRS in recording IK on traditional medicine and indigenous foods.
Given the rapid loss of IK in South Africa, an urgent need remains to continue with academic research in collaboration with previously understudied ethnic groups to ensure that their indigenous knowledge is fully documented. The dual strategy of conducting academic research and promoting a NRS is financially supported by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), with the academic research component supported through the National Research Foundation (NRF). There is a need to ensure that published information on indigenous knowledge is centralised, as currently this information is scattered across the scientific and popular literature. There has been some progress made over the past decade towards centralising information, for example, the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) has put together the National Medicinal Plants Database for South Africa (MEDBASE), which holds data on the 300 most important traditional medicinal plants of southern Africa. This database needs to be linked to the checklist of South African plants, served online and expanded over the next five years.
Target 13 outcomes for 2020
13.1. The National Recordal System capturing and safeguarding indigenous knowledge.
13.2. Studies conducted to capture indigenous knowledge related to plant use by ethnic groups in regions not yet definitively researched.
13.3. A national database on indigenous plant use knowledge available online.
|Target 13: Indigenous and local knowledge innovations and practices associated with plant resources maintained or increased as appropriate to support customary use, sustainable livelihoods, local food security and healthcare|
|13.1. The National Recordal System capturing and safeguarding indigenous knowledge.||13.1.1. At least one NRS node established in each of South Africa’s nine provinces.||13.1.1. DST National Indigenous Knowledge Systems Office (NIKSO).||13.1.1. 2020|
|13.1.2 Plant IK held by selected communities of diverse ethnicity in each province recorded.||13.1.2. DST NIKSO.||13.1.2. 2015–2020|
|13.1.3. IK captured and vouchered with herbarium specimens that have been lodged at a registered herbaria.||13.1.3. DST NIKSO.||13.1.3. 2015–2020|
|13.2. Studies conducted to capture indigenous knowledge related to plant use by ethnic groups in regions not yet definitively researched.||13.2.1. Surveys conducted with communities not yet definitively researched using quantitative methods that allow for comparisons of knowledge between ethnic groups.||
Universities in South Africa.
A few examples of work currently underway include:
Indigenous knowledge of the Xhosa – Rhodes University.
Indigenous knowledge of the Pedi from Sekhukhuneland – University of Johannesburg and Botanical Society of South Africa.
Indigenous knowledge of the Venda – universities of Johannesburg and Pretoria.
|13.2.2. Surveys conducted according to internationally accepted standards of ethics, ensuring that the principle of educated prior informed consent is adhered to.|
|13.2.3. Knowledge documented in a manner that incorporates as many different knowledge holders from within a specific community as feasible to facilitate comparison between individual knowledge holders, different cohorts within a community, and to identify differences between communities.|
|13.2.4. Knowledge providers properly acknowledged in publications and appropriate feedback provided.|
|13.3. A national database on indigenous plant use knowledge available online.||13.3.1. Existing SANBI plant use databases augmented with additional utilised species data, ensuring that for all species the scientific name, common name in local languages, and main medicinal uses are provided, together with references.||13.3.1. SANBI.||13.3.1. 2020|
|13.3.2. Information from the database linked to the South Africa’s plant checklist and served online.||13.3.2. SANBI.||13.3.2. 2020|