Re-discovering indigenous knowledge – Ulwazi Lwemveli for strengthening sustainable livelihood opportunities within rural contexts In the Eastern Cape province
Indigenous Knowledge (IK) has for millennia been an integral part for maintaining and strengthening sustainable livelihood opportunities within local communities, the world over. Application of this knowledge in specific different areas continues to be part of practices in these communities, albeit with challenges imposed by systems of colonial education and religion, apartheid and the emerging global knowledge economy. Therefore, the imperative to re-discover and re-store IK cannot be underestimated since building on this knowledge is particularly effective in helping to reach those living in rural communities. This knowledge is often the main asset they control, and certainly one with which they are more familiar. The case studies discussed in this article point to significant improvements in development projects when IK is utilized. These case studies also indicate that imposing the emerging global knowledge economy and Eurocentric knowledge systems on rural development will not only serve to destroy IK, but will also undermine conditions that allow this knowledge to contribute to sustainable livelihoods. In this article I examine the concept of indigenous knowledge and how it differs from western knowledge; ways to strengthen sustainable livelihood opportunities within rural communities; models and case studies that demonstrate the significance of IK; challenges in the protection and preservation of IK within rural communities in Africa, and ethical considerations. Finally, I present a discussion of limitations and possibilities of IK within rural communities of the Eastern Cape Province, and concluding remarks.
Keywords: Indigenous and western knowledge, social construction, colonial/apartheid, global knowledge economy, sustainable livelihoods, ethical issues.