Beyond Binaries of Scientific and Indigenous Knowledge Bean Storage Techniques: A Case of Market Women in Ghana

Beyond Binaries of Scientific and Indigenous Knowledge Bean Storage Techniques: A Case of Market Women in Ghana

Anne Namatsi Lutomia (University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, USA), Julia Bello-Bravo (Michigan State University, USA), Teresia Muthoni Njoroge (University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, USA) and Barry R. Pittendrigh (Michigan State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6061-6.ch004


Using a case study, this chapter illustrates how indigenous knowledge—and particularly female knowledge systems—can intersect with technology to disclose the limits of the conventional binary discourse of knowledge as either scientific or indigenous. Data here are drawn from research on legume market women in Ghana, who watched linguistically localized animated educational videos on cellphones while conducting business at their stalls. Using a framework of adult learning theory informed by feminist pedagogy, this chapter provides a multidisciplinary discussion around post-harvest loss prevention practices, specifically, but also how indigenous and scientific knowledge can interact to achieve learning.
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The main objective of this chapter is to illustrate the encounter between traditional, local (indigenous) knowledge practices and a proposed non-traditional, but localized scientific knowledge practice. It does not argue one as better or worse but seeks to identify how both types of knowledges can change from that encounter. The intervention itself proceeded from an aim of mutual benefit; that is, the market women participants had already expressed a desire and interest in reducing their postharvest inventory losses, and the researchers were interested in demonstrating the feasibility not only of their proposed alternative storage method but also the cellphone-delivered animated video approach itself.

As such, a fine-grained analysis of this case discloses not only how indigenous knowledge interacts and changes through contact with the scientific proposal of jerricans as one improved method of bean storage, but also how that scientific knowledge interacts and is changed as well. On both sides, this involves how such interactions and changes are shared—intergenerationally and through both traditional, word-of-mouth means by market women on the one hand, who nonetheless were also impressed with the communication possibilities afforded by cellphones, but also formally by researchers on the other hand, as proposals to change how non-local actors can better deliver desirable interventions in the first place. To arrive at this mutually beneficial exchange, however, requires first engaging in the contentious, often not mutually beneficial encounter, arising from the binary framing of scientific and indigenous knowledge as mutually exclusive.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Explicit Knowledge: Information or knowledge that is set out in tangible forms. It is codified knowledge that can be found in documents.

Post-Harvest Loss: A measurable quantitative and qualitative loss in a given product that occur between harvest and the moment of human consumption. They include on-farm losses, such as when grain is threshed, winnowed, and dried, as well as losses along the chain during transportation, storage, and processing.

Tacit Knowledge: This is knowledge that lives in people’s heads, or skill or know-how. It is difficult to verbalize but can be shared formally and informally in formal and informal spaces. This is non-codified knowledge usually owned by individuals through their experience.

Culture: The knowledge, beliefs, experience, artifacts, way of life that a group of people acquire and pass on from one generation to the other.

Akan: An ethnic group in Ghana and West Africa at large; the most widely spoken language in Ghana.

Indigenous Knowledge: Context-specific knowledge that communities have developed for themselves over long periods of time that have allowed them to live in their environment. Also referred to as “local” knowledge, indigenous knowledge is a set of perceptions, information, and practices that guide local community members in terms of how to best use their local resources, both environmental and cultural.

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