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Mr Napite's botanical knowledge: bridging farmers' and scientists' insights during participatory research

S. Dondeyne
L. B. Emmanuel
J. A. Deckers


When farmers and scientists engage in participatory research, differences in their knowledge systems ought to be taken into account. Mr Napite is a farmer and plant expert with whom we studied relationships between soil fertility and fallow vegetation on the Makonde plateau in South Eastern Tanzania. Though his broad and detailed botanical knowledge is recognised by other local experts, this does not provide him any particular social status. Although he received extensive formal training, his botanical knowledge draws largely on personal and traditional concepts. Clear morphological characteristics, other than the reproductive related organs, are the key features he uses for identifying and classifying plants. His knowledge of plant species and their ecology is of comparable complexity with that of scientific knowledge. Though this is intricately linked to cultural aspects, this study illustrates that it is possible to bridge farmers' and scientists' insights during participatory research.

(Indilinga: African Journal of Indigenous Knowledge Systems: 2002 2(2): 45-58)