The value of using rapid rural appraisal techniques to generate and record indigenous knowledge : the case of indigenous vegetables in Uganda

Hart, Tim George Balne (2004-04)

Thesis (MA)--University of Stellenbosch, 2004.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: In recent decades increasing attention has been paid to the idea of sustainable development and in particular to sustainable agricultural practices. Studies in the seventies, eighties and nineties indicated that many resource-poor farmers were practising low external input sustainable practices by virtue of their resource-poor status. Despite this status these farmers were developing sustainable practises that enabled them to survive even the harshest conditions. It was believed that an understanding of their local practices and associated knowledge, called indigenous technical knowledge by conventional scientists, could provide agricultural development workers with a greater understanding of how to achieve sustainable agricultural development. This awareness would ensure the optimal and sustainable use of local livelihood sources. Following this interest a number of complementary research methods were developed to generate and record indigenous knowledge. Many of these methods fall within the participatory research paradigm of the Social Sciences. Using one of the earlier complementary methods, Rapid Rural Appraisal (RRA), this study considers its value as a method to collect indigenous knowledge about the local cultivation and use of indigenous vegetables in a parish in Uganda. The basic RRA tools are described and the position of RRA within the participatory research paradigm is discussed, indicating that the method probably has a lower-middle of the road position when placed on a continuum of participation. In this study the use of the method enabled the generation of information relating to the context in which agriculture was practised in the parish; specifically the production and use of plants known as indigenous vegetables. At the same time the tools enabled a broad understanding of indigenous knowledge regarding the production, associated practises and beliefs, as well as the use of indigenous vegetables in the parish. This information included technical and socio-cultural information indicating that indigenous knowledge is not only about technical knowledge. In recent years debate has emerged with regard to the value, use and misuse of indigenous knowledge. The debate has questioned the ability of various participatory complementary methods to accurately generate and record this knowledge. One of the main concerns is that most of these methods, like those associated with the quantitative and qualitative paradigms, tend to have inherent biases which detract from their value. Reflection on the use of RRA in the Ugandan study indicated that it was subject to a number of contextual constraints, namely: the assumption and treatment of indigenous knowledge as a stock of knowledge which can neatly conform to scientific categorisation; the unawareness of the powerladen interactions in which knowledge is generated; the consequences of local power struggles on the generation of knowledge; the significance that the presence of researchers during the knowledge generating process has on the resultant knowledge; the relevance of the time, timing and location where knowledge is generated; and the effect that local social differences, such as gender, age, wealth, class, etc. have on who has access to what sort of knowledge. More recently developed and refined methods such as Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) and Participatory Technology Development (PTD) include some tools and strategies that overcome some of these constraints. However, these methods are often subject to similar constraints, given the context in which they are used. In the final analysis, the use of the RRA method in Uganda is considered to be a useful tool for collecting contextual data and indigenous knowledge given the circumstances in which it was used. These circumstances included financial constraints, a lack of skills in the complementary methods within the research team, insufficient time and other resources. These hindrances are common in many agricultural development contexts. Based on the results of the study it is recommended that where circumstances permit it, participatory methods such as PRA and PTD should be used. However, users must remain aware that these methods can suffer from some contextual constraints if they are not used with care and if this use is not regularly reflected upon. Despite a number of shortcomings, the use of the RRA method indicated that it is a suitable method in certain contexts. It also indicated that indigenous knowledge is extremely important for agricultural development, but that care must be taken as to how it is generated, understood, recorded and subsequently used. The data generated by means of the RRA method enabled some preliminary reflections on the current understanding of indigenous knowledge. These were reflections on the following: it is a system of knowledge; it originates in and is exclusive to a particular location; it has the ability to include knowledge developed in other locations; and it is deeply entwined within the context in which it is developed. In conclusion a number of possible areas for future research on indigenous knowledge and participatory methods are identified which will allow us to develop a deeper understanding of the value of participatory methods and the significance of indigenous knowledge.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Gedurende die afgelope dekades is verhoogde aandag geskenk aan die idee van volhoubare ontwikkeling en spesifiek aan volhoubare landboupraktyke. Studies gedurende die sewentigs, tagtigs en negentigs wys daarop dat verskeie hulpbronbeperkte boere lae eksterne inset, volhoubare praktyke be-oefen het na aanleiding van hulle hulpbronbeperkte status. Nieteenstaande hierdie boere se stand van sake het hulle nietemin standhoudende praktyke ontwikkel wat hulle in staat gestel het om selfs die moeilikste omstandighede te oorleef. Daar was geglo dat deur van hulle plaaslike praktyke en die daarmee saamgaande kennis, bekend as Inheemse Tegniese Kennis onder konvensionele wetenskaplikes, te begryp, dit landbouontwikkelingswerkers kan voorsien van ‘n beter begrip rakende, hoe om standhoudende landbou-ontwikkeling te bereik. Hierdie bewustheid sal die optimale en volhoubare gebruik van plaaslike lewens- en huishoudingsbronne verseker. As gevolg van hierdie belangstelling is ‘n hele aantal komplimenterende navorsingsmetodes ontwikkel om inheemse kennis in te win en op te teken. Verskeie van hierdie metodes val binne die deelnemende navorsingsparadigma van die Geesteswetenskappe. Deur gebruik te maak van een van die vroeëre aanvullende metodes, Rapid Rural Appraisal (RRA), lê die waarde van RRA daarin dat dit ‘n metode is om inheemse kennis in te samel rakende die plaaslike verbouïng en gebruik van inheemse groentes in ‘n wyk in Uganda. Die basiese RRA tegnieke word omskryf asook die posisie van RRA binne die deelnemende navorsings paradigma en dan word daar aangedui dat die metode heel moontlik ‘n lae-middelposisie het wanneer dit geplaas word in terme van ‘n kontinuüm van deelname. In hierdie studie het die metode dit moontlik gemaak om inligting in te win wat verband hou met die konteks waarbinne landbou be-oefen is in die wyk; spesifiek wat produksie en die gebruik van plante, bekend as inheemse groentes, aanbetref. Terselfdertyd het die tegnieke ‘n breër begrip daargestel van inheemse kennis rakende die produksie, daarmee saamgaande praktyke en plaaslike menings, sowel as die gebruik van inheemse groentes in die wyk. Hierdie inligting het ingesluit die tegniese en sosio-kulturele inligting en aangedui dat inheemse kennis nie net oor tegniese kennis handel nie. In die pas afgelope jare het die debat ontstaan rakende die waarde, gebruik en misbruik van inheemse kennis. Die debat het die vermoë van die verskeie deelnemende komplimentêre metodes om akkuraat hierdie kennis in te win en op te skryf, bevraagteken. Een van die hoof bekommernisse is dat die meeste van hierdie metodes, soos die verbonde aan kwalitatiewe en kwantitatiewe paradigmas, daarna neig om inherent bevooroordeeld te wees wat hulle van hul waarde laat verminder. ‘n Refleksie op die gebruik van RRA in die Uganda-studie wys daarop dat dit onderhewig was aan ‘n aantal kontekstuele beperkings naamlik: die aanname en hantering van inheemse kennis as ‘n inventaris van kennis wat netjies omgeskakel kan word in wetenskaplike katagorisering; onbewustheid van die magsonewewigtigheid interaksies waarbinne kennis ingewin word; die gevolge van plaaslike magstryde op die insameling van kennis; die effek wat die teenwoordigheid van navorsers tydens die proses van kennis insameling het op die resultaatgewende kennis, die relevansie van tyd, tydsberekening en plek waar kennis ingewin word; en die effek wat plaaslike sosiale verskille, soos geslag, ouderdom, rykdom, klas, ens. het op wie toegang het tot watter soort van kennis. Meer onlangs ontwikkelde en verfynde metodes soos Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) en Participtory Technology Development (PTD) sluit van die tegnieke en strategieë in wat sommige van hierdie beperkings oorkom. Maar sommige van hierdie metodes is gereëld onderworpe aan soortgelyke beperkings, gegewe die konteks waarbinne dit gebruik word. In die finale analise is die gebruik van die RRA metode in Uganda beskou as ‘n bruikbare tegniek vir die insameling van kontekstuele data en inheemse kennis, gegewe die omstandighede waarbinne dit gebruik is. Hierdie omstandighede sluit in, finansiele beperkings, ‘n gebrek aan vaardigheid met die komplimentêre metodes binne die navorsingspan, onvoldoende tyd en ander bronne. Hierdie hindernisse is algemeen in verskeie landbouontwikkelingskontekste. Gebasseer op die resultate van die studie word aanbeveel dat waar omstandighede hul daartoe leen, deelnemende metodes soos PRA en PTD, gebruik moet word. Maar gebruikers moet daarvan bewus bly dat hierdie metodes kan ly aan kontekstuele tekortkomings indien hulle nie met sorg gebruik word en daar nie gereeld oor die gebruik daarvan gereflekteer word nie. Ten spyte van ‘n aantal tekortkomminge het die gebruik van die RRA metode aangewys dat dit ‘n toespaslike metode binne ‘n sekere konteks is. Dit het ook aangewys dat inheemse kennis uiters belangrik is vir landbouontwikkeling, maar dat sorg gedra moet word rakende hoe dit ingewin, verstaan, opgeskryf en daarna gebruik word. Die data wat ingewin is deur middel van die RRA metode het voorlopige refleksies moontlik gemaak rakende die huidige begrip van inheemse kennis. Hierdie was refleksies op die volgende: dit is ‘n stelsel van kennis, dit ontstaan in en is eksklusief aan ‘n spesifieke gebied, dit het die vermoë om kennis in te sluit wat in ander gebiede ontwikkel is, en dit is diep ingeweef in die konteks waarbinne dit ontwikkel is. Ten slotte ‘n hele aantal moontlike areas vir toekomstige navorsing rakende inheemse kennis en deelnemende metodes is geidentifiseer wat ons in staat sal stel om ‘n beter begrip te ontwikkel van die waarde van deelnemende metodes en die belangrikheid van inheemse kennis.

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