Role of Indigenous Knowledge System in the Exploitation and Management of Non-Timber Forest Product

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Published on International Journal of Agriculture & Agribusiness
Publication Date: April 4, 2019

Kugedera Andrew Tapiwa
Department of Livestock, Wildlife and Fisheries, Great Zimbabwe University

Journal Full Text PDF: Role of Indigenous Knowledge System in the Exploitation and Management of Non-Timber Forest Product.

Indigenous knowledge has a role to play in the exploitation and management of non-timber forest products (NTFPs). These products are valuable and nutritious as they are nutritive. The use of indigenous knowledge helps researcher to know resource providers of NTFPs which people use foe various uses such as vegetables, fruits and other important uses like juice making. Indigenous knowledge helps researchers to identify NTFPs which people can use and those which cannot be used. Some are from sacred trees and they are not consumed or used for any purpose. Management of these resources is critical and only indigenous knowledge can give the correct information about their management. Most local people have knowledge on the management and exploitation of NTFPs. Local knowledge gives researchers direction and depth of how NTFPs are managed and exploited. Some resource providers of these products need local people to do their traditional rituals so that everyone can extract them well without any fear.

Keywords: Indigenous knowledge, management, exploitation, non-timber, forest & products.

1. Introduction
NTFPs have been defined as “…all biological materials, other than timber, which extracted from forests for human use” (NTFP Exchange Programme Website 2007). They include fruits, resins, gums, herbal plants, roots, honey and wood that is not timber (for example, firewood). The type, number and nature of NTFPs vary from one geographical area to another based on the local geo-physical conditions. Due to the increasing economic value of NTFPs, people from different sectors (such as environmentalists, economists and sociologists) are becoming more interested in these products (Singh and Ardey, 2003). Indigenous knowledge is a cumulative body of knowledge and beliefs handed down through generations by cultural transmission about the relationship of living beings (including humans) with one another and with their environment.”, defined by Gadgil et al. (1993). According to Gadgil (1993), there is previous evidence throughout the literature of indigenous knowledge increasing biodiversity at a local level.

2. Importance of indigenous knowledge in management and exploitation of NTFPs
Indigenous knowledge is the local knowledge – knowledge that is unique to a given culture or society (World Bank, 1997). Indigenous knowledge contrasts with the international knowledge system generated by research institutions, universities, and private firms. It is the basis for local-level decision making in agriculture, food preparation, health care, education, a host of other activities in rural communities, and natural resource management (Warren, 1991). According to Flavier et al. (1995) indigenous Knowledge is the information base for a society, decision-making and which facilitates communication. According to Warren (1991), Indigenous information systems are dynamic, and are continually influenced by internal creativity and experimentation as well as by contact with external systems. Sustainable of forest management is understood to be a forest system which aims for sustainable yields of various products from the forest and is secondary to complete protection (Pearce et al., 2001). Previous scholars have made the argument that outright protection is difficult in practice, it is very hard to ensure permanence and is often achieved at extremely high fees or costs (Vanclay, 2001). Sustainable forest management may be the only viable option of sustaining forests for biodiversity (Whitmore, 1999).
Traditional knowledge and practices have sustained the livelihoods, cultures and the forest and agricultural resources of local and indigenous communities throughout Africa for millennia. This knowledge is tightly interwoven with traditional religious beliefs, customs, folklore, land-use practices and community-level decision-making processes, and have historically been dynamic, responding to changing environmental, social, economic and political conditions to ensure that forest resources continue to provide tangible (foods, medicines, wood and other non-timber forest products, water and fertile soils) and intangible (spiritual, social and psychological health) benefits for present and future generations (Conference Report, 2008). Despite their importance and contributions to sustainable rural livelihoods, traditional forest related knowledge and practices are under pressure in most African countries (as elsewhere in the world) for a number of reasons. These include imbalanced power relations between State forest management authorities and local and indigenous communities whose traditional governance systems and customary laws are often at odds with those of the State; the erosion of traditional knowledge and practices, government policies and regulations within and outside of the forest sector restricting access and traditional use of forest resources, and a general erosion of traditional culture and of traditional land and forest management knowledge and practices, and declining interest in traditional wisdom knowledge, and lifestyles among younger generations (Conference Report, 2008).
Traditional knowledge on the use and management of forests still has a vital role to play in forest management today. This is because traditional practices are believed to be often favourable towards conservation and sustainable use of non-timber forest products (NTFPs). It is therefore valuable to establish a framework to evaluate the contribution of traditional knowledge in management of NTFPs (USDA-FS, 1996). Incorporation of traditional (indigenous) knowledge systems creates new ways of managing forests and their products and this results in new working relations and technical information because traditional people own the most knowledge on NTFPs (USDA-FS, 1997). Indians and Americans tribes combined their knowledge in the management of NTFPs such as fishing and hunting where they want to ban illegal hunting and fishing. Indigenous knowledge systems helps in identifying those who practice illegal practices such as fishing and hunting using illegal harvesting methods. People in the community are the ones who actually know who is harvesting NTFPs illegally (USDA-FS, 1997).
Traditional knowledge systems helps in law making and implementation as forests are usually located closer to rural people. Rural people are the ones who know well different types of NTFPs in forest and how to conserve them for future use and they also know the location of most NTFPs (Jenkins et al., 1994). The laws along with their implementing regulations and policies, have created more opportunities for open dialog and consultation between American Indian tribes and the USDA Forest Service, as they work together to protect cultural values and natural resources on National Forest System lands (Jenkins et al., 1994; USDA-FS,1994). As a result of improved government-to-government relationships, USDA Forest Service managers are beginning to realize that many American Indian tribes have valuable traditional knowledge that can be applied to modern day natural resource management (Craig et al., 1995; USDA-FS, 1995). Traditional knowledge is adaptive and dynamic, and offers a means to evaluate new technologies and socio-economic situations. It also offers a unique opportunity for sharing knowledge and expertise needed for land and resource restoration and management. The USDA Forest Service (USDA-FS) is beginning to recognize that traditional knowledge is valuable in forming land management goals and objectives, that traditional knowledge is a part of the whole, and that it can be blended with western science to benefit all (Dongoske et al., 1997).
Tribal members can tell us something about the ecosystems of the past and how to manage these ecosystems for present and future generations, for example, how in the past people used trees parts as medicine, food and for rituals. With a long history of living and learning from the land, American Indians can contribute to a better understanding of our human relationship among all things within an ecosystem (Craig et al., 1995). Traditional knowledge can also guide the maintenance of natural resource uses and needs of American Indian, Alaska Native and African peoples. Forest ecosystem managers from the across the United States and Africa working on National Forests, Research Stations, and in State and Private Forestry, are starting to consult with neighbouring tribes to identify what forested ecosystems were like in the past, and how they can be restored and maintained (USDA-FS, 1997). In Malilangwe Conservatives in Lowveld , managers usually consult local people to acquire knowledge on how animals moves and how are they captured if they cause dangers and how to use some NTFPs obtained from wildlife such as bush meat.
Indigenous knowledge provides information on how to use trees and other plants obtained in forests to obtain products for use, for example in basket weaving. In Zimbabwe basket weavers use Julbernadia globiflora roots to produce baskets. USDA-FS do several workshops with basket weavers in Zimbabwe and other African countries to have acquainted other various types of baskets they weave and the materials they need in weaving. USDA-FS has begun to compile lists of basketry plants and materials and to develop maps of collection areas so that management of these plants can be implemented (management concerns to maintain the key plant species needed) (USDA-FS, 1993). Incorporating indigenous knowledge into research projects can contribute to local empowerment development, increasing self-sufficiency and strengthening self-determination (Thrupp, 1998). Utilizing indigenous knowledge in research projects and management plans gives it legitimacy and credibility in the eyes of both local people and outside scientists, increasing cultural pride and thus motivation to solve local problems with local ingenuity and resources (ibid). Local capacity building is a crucial aspect of sustainable development, and researchers and development specialists should design approaches, which support and strengthen appropriate indigenous knowledge and institutions (Chikwanha and Tanyanyiwa, 2011).
Indigenous people can provide valuable input about the local environment and how to effectively manage its natural resources. Outside interest in indigenous knowledge systems has been fuelled by the recent worldwide ecological crisis and the realization that its causes lie partly in the overexploitation of natural resources based on inappropriate attitudes and technologies. Scientists now recognize that indigenous people have managed the environments in which they have lived for generations, often without significantly damaging local ecologies (Emery, 1996). Many feel that indigenous knowledge can thus provide a powerful basis from which alternative ways of managing resources can be developed. Indigenous knowledge technologies and know-how have an advantage over Science in that they rely on locally available skills and materials and are thus often more cost-effective than introducing exotic technologies from outside sources (International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR), 1996a). Local people are familiar with indigenous knowledge system and so do not need any specialized training (ibid).