Mandela University launches Indigenous Knowledge unit
An Indigenous Knowledge and Technologies Initiative was launched last week at the Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology (NM-AIST) in a bid to mainstream the traditional knowledge in higher learning education.
“This will be a special unit at NMAIST”, said the Vice-Chancellor Prof. Burton Mwamila during the official launch of the facility, noting that the aim is to make the pan African university based in Arusha a centre for intellectual property rights and allied fields in the continent.
The founder of the university which started operations about five years ago, said although the traditional knowledge and technologies have a role to play in conventional science and technological innovation, they have not been fully tapped for the benefit of the society.
The long term plan is to make the centre a repository of indigenous knowledge and technologies where the scientific, cultural and entrepreneurial innovations would be preserved, analysed for different applications and disseminated to various stakeholders.
Launching the facility, former Deputy Minister for Livestock Development and Fisheries and MP for Kiteto, Benedict Ole Nangoro decried the notion that indigenous knowledge was less relevant and innovative and inferior compared to the conventional knowledge systems from the West and, therefore, should be discarded.
“The indigenous people know a lot of indigenous knowledge and knowledge systems”, he said noting that once collected, internalized and popularized, indigenous knowledge and technologies can be shared by all people—including those in the Western world.
A consultant with the International Institute of Environment and Development (IIED) and activist based in Arusha, Alais Morindat, said traditional production systems such as pastoralism, should be sustained and that it should not be discarded in preference of modern animal husbandry because it was useful to the traditional livestock keepers.
He cited the traditional Zebu cattle which have survival strategies to navigate and move within the semiarid terrains as has been the case in much of Northern Tanzania unlike the exotic cattle species which have since been introduced in the country.
One of the advocates of the initiative and Senior Lecturer at NM-AIST, Dr Eliamani Laltaika, and said establishment of the centre was aimed at arousing interest in research and documentation in indigenous knowledge issues among scholars and forge complementarity and synergy between conventional science and indigenous knowledge.
Indigenous knowledge, also referred as traditional or local knowledge generally refer to knowledge systems embedded in the cultural traditions of regional, indigenous, or local communities.
Traditional knowledge includes types of knowledge about traditional technologies of subsistence, for example, tools and techniques for hunting or agriculture, midwifery, ethno botany and ecological knowledge, celestial navigation, ethno- astronomy and climate.
These kinds of knowledge, crucial for subsistence and survival, are generally based on accumulations of empirical observation and on interaction with the environment.
In many cases, traditional knowledge has been orally passed for generations from person to person. Some forms of traditional knowledge find expression in stories, legends, folklore, rituals, songs, and laws. Other forms of traditional knowledge are expressed through different means.
Dr Laltaika, who is also an activist advocating for the rights of the indigenous people, is the founder of the Tanzania Intellectual Property Rights (TIP-Net), a nongovernmental organization based in Arusha.
It was set up in December 2011 during a workshop of livestock keepers’ rights, traditional knowledge and intellectual property rights (IPR).
Membership to the organization is open to individuals, NGOs, universities, research organizations and other institutions interested in intellectual property matters and development nexus.
Dr Laltaika who lectures on intellectual property, competition and ICT law, is the first recipient of World Intellectual Property Organization’s (WIPO) Indigenous IP Law Fellowship tenable at the WIPO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.