Time for in­dige­nous re­search, medicine

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY - Devon Dick Rev Devon Dick is pas­tor of the Boule­vard Bap­tist Church in St An­drew. He is au­thor of ‘The Cross and the Ma­chete’, and ‘Re­bel­lion to Riot’. Send feed­back to col­umns@ glean­erjm.com.

“THAT WAS a Bap­tist prayer,” said Fae Elling­ton, master of cer­e­monies for the Na­tional Medal for Science and Tech­nol­ogy and In­no­va­tions, af­ter I had com­pleted my prayer at the func­tion. By Bap­tist prayer it was a hint at the stereo­typ­i­cal Bap­tist prayer as be­ing long. In­deed, the pro­gramme said ‘Grace’, which means bless­ing the meal, and I did that and more by ask­ing God’s guid­ance on the oc­ca­sion. There­fore, I did add to the length of the al­most five-hour pro­gramme. I should have said, ‘God is good and God is great, let us thank Him for his food. Amen’.

How­ever, us­ing the typ­i­cal un­der­stand­ing of Bap­tist prayer as long, then iron­i­cally, Elling­ton is a Bap­tist MC, and fur­ther­more, the awards func­tion was a Bap­tist awards func­tion. And Ibo Cooper, who did a very good mu­si­cal pre­sen­ta­tion, his 50 years of Jamaican mu­sic in 50 min­utes, is a Bap­tist mu­si­cian. The pro­to­col which was drilled in me was do not take an as­sign­ment at a func­tion and af­ter I have com­pleted it, leave. How­ever, when I was leav­ing af­ter 11 p.m., I no­ticed that al­most half of the peo­ple had left and the re­sponses from the In­no­va­tor for 2016, Dr Henry Lowe, and the medal­list, Pro­fes­sor Er­rol Mor­ri­son, were not yet done. Sorry that so many per­sons missed the gems that these two sci­en­tific giants would give to the au­di­ence.

Since Dr An­drew Wheat­ley, min­is­ter of science and tech­nol­ogy, and his guest, Her Ex­cel­lency Grace Naledi Man­dissa Pan­dor, were on time then the func­tion should have started ear­lier. Fur­ther­more, it is not good to pun­ish peo­ple for be­ing punc­tual. What was ex­cel­lent was that her speech was very early on the pro­gramme, and very good.


Her Ex­cel­lency out­lined what South Africa was do­ing in science and tech­nol­ogy and how South Africa and Ja­maica could co­op­er­ate. And she in­vited our min­is­ter to visit South Africa. She spoke about har­ness­ing in­dige­nous knowl­edge re­sources, and it should not sur­prise Ja­maicans that Lowe, one of our lead­ing sci­en­tists in the use of in­dige­nous moss ball, is al­ready co­op­er­at­ing with the South Africans. Her Ex­cel­lency also pointed out the po­ten­tial use of in­dige­nous knowl­edge re­sources in so­cial co­he­sion. It is a pro­found point, that work in the field of nat­u­ral sci­ences can lead to so­cial en­gi­neer­ing. She said that in 2004, South Africa adopted the In­dige­nous Knowl­edge Sys­tems Pol­icy, which recog­nised that skills de­vel­op­ment at grass-roots level needs to equip com­mu­ni­ties for sus­tain­able liveli­hoods and en­tre­pre­neur­ial op­por­tu­ni­ties. There is a de­lib­er­ate fo­cus on in­clud­ing com­mu­nity mem­bers, in­dige­nous knowl­edge hold­ers and prac­ti­tion­ers when de­sign­ing and im­ple­ment­ing projects. This is a model for Ja­maica in fa­cil­i­tat­ing or­di­nary peo­ple who know the folk medicine to ben­e­fit from its us­age, pack­ag­ing and mar­ket­ing. We need to al­low ru­ral peo­ple to ben­e­fit from their tra­di­tional knowl­edge and have this knowl­edge recorded be­fore these hold­ers of knowl­edge of tra­di­tional medicines die. This ac­tiv­ity could lower our mur­der rate and make peo­ple less likely to en­gage in lotto scam­ming.

It was a stroke of ge­nius by the or­gan­is­ers to in­vite the Ja­maica Folk Singers to give a cameo per­for­mance. This group not only has per­formed in South Africa but its founder, Olive Lewin, doc­u­mented and recorded these folk songs of our el­ders, thereby pre­serv­ing an im­por­tant part of our her­itage. What Dr Lewin did for folk songs and mu­sic needs to be done for folk medicine. We need to in­vest in our hu­man cap­i­tal and un­leash the po­ten­tial of our el­ders and young peo­ple.

Her Ex­cel­lency’s speech was not a Bap­tist ser­mon, but it was much food for thought, which was a bless­ing and a chal­lenge.

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