Indigenous Knowledge Perceptions and Development Practice in Northern Malawi: Lessons from Small-Scale Farmers' Agricultural Practices

Indigenous Knowledge Perceptions and Development Practice in Northern Malawi: Lessons from Small-Scale Farmers' Agricultural Practices

Boyson Henry Zondiwe Moyo (Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Malawi) and Dumisani Z. Moyo (Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Malawi)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0838-0.ch015
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This chapter discusses contested issues in development related to Indigenous knowledge, and conventional development practice and theory. Drawing on findings from triangulated field research including interviews with farmers and experts, participant and field observations, focus group discussions, and soil sampling; this chapter argues that although development aims at improving the quality of life of people concerned, the understanding of such improved life quality is different between local people and development experts. Experts emphasize economic growth as measured by per capita income, which is sometimes inadequate in explaining local people's understanding of development. The findings of the study lay bare the underlying values of local farmers in northern Malawi that contribute to improving quality of life and living standards. Indigenous knowledge developed by farmers shows that progress is understood in terms of adequate food, fresh tasty value-laden food available for consumption and utilizing more than one part of the crops grown, and not just adequate income.
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Indigenous Knowledge Vs. Western Ways Of Knowing

Rural communities in both developing and developed countries have an extensive base of widely available knowledge which is indigenous knowledge (Lwoga, 2011; Riseth, 2007) that can be at variance with a body of knowledge generated by scientists referred to as western knowledge in its widest sense (see Agrawal, 1995). The importance, relevance and use of Indigenous knowledge in development theory and practice have been demonstrated by many development experts such as Briggs, Sharp, Yacoub, Hamed and Roe (2007), Chambers (1983; 1993), Orr, Mwale, Ritchie and Lawaon-McDowall (2000), Peters (2002), and Sillitoe (1998). The World Bank (1998; 2007) also acknowledges the importance of local knowledge in achieving progress in rural development. However, some of the importance and relevance of Indigenous knowledge in development is based on western ways of knowing as depicted in the term Indigenous technical knowledge (Lado, 2004). Briggs et al. (2007) and Briggs and Moyo (2012) have suggested that Indigenous technical knowledge including Indigenous environmental knowledge be reconceptualised, improved and re-worked so that it can be more valuable at individual level, over time and space leading to development in practice.

Krätli (2008) notes that in a Sahelian ecosystem, with temperatures up and above fifty degrees centigrade at the peak of a nine-month-long dry season, where it is difficult to feed even sheep and goats, the WoDaaBe herders breed the largest cattle in West Africa. This is despite the unforgiving nature posing a challenge of breeding animals whose feeding requirements (given their size) are out of proportion with the capacity of the pastures. The WoDaaBe herders demonstrate development of a special livestock breed suitable for their specific environment that seems to be at odds with the scientific understanding related to adaptation of livestock to adverse (hot low feed available) climatic conditions that would otherwise favour a smaller type of livestock breeds. Development is seen here under indigenous knowledge in creating a livestock breed. In western knowledge creation of a breed is associated with scientific knowledge in breeding either in livestock or plants trained in western ways of knowing and such practices and training are directly related to and represent development.

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