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FEATURE: Indigenous knowledge key in promoting climate smart agriculture


At the first Africa Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) Alliance Forum in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Mama Kena Kgoroeadira talks passionately about the need to focus attention on harnessing indigenous knowledge in best farming practices to overcome the challenge of climate change in Africa.

For her, going back to explore techniques and resources within the local environment is a sustainable means for African smallholder farmers, especially rural women who lack funding, to be climate smart in production.

“Technologies and fertilisers are not available. Instead we must look within; look at how we used to do our water management, how we used to harvest water from rain and the types of manures that we used to have around our compounds as Africans and look at harvesting our seeds and using them again,” she observed.

Mama Kena, whose Thojane organic farming project in Phokeng, South Africa has won her a national prize for best subsistence producer, says if there is to be any funding opportunity for local farmers, it should first go into capturing existing knowledge.

The integration of local knowledge into new concepts of climate-smart agriculture (CSA) has been a vocal subject at the first Africa CSA Alliance Forum.

The forum was convened by the African Union’s NEPAD agency to further the implementation of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) in the next 10 years.

NEPAD programmes director, Estherine Fotabong, describes the issue of local indigenous knowledge as critical in advancing climate smart agriculture, hence the need to listen to farmers observations and cultural practices.

“They might not be using academic terminologies and words, but they tell you what they observe on the ground, whether in change of seasonal patterns or whether in change of their planting seasons and they have some solutions,” she noted.

The agriculture/climate change interaction has been identified as key factor to achieve increased agriculture productivity.

Under the proposed NEPAD Geospatial Platform for Sustainable Development (NGP4SD), there is a harmonisation of high quality geographical information, including climate data sets, for accessibility by governments and citizens of Africa.

The platform has applications that support farmers to mitigate and adapt to climate change using modern technologies.

Mrs Fotabong has acknowledged the need to ensure some of the existing traditional practices are enhanced with modern knowledge and technology, taking into consideration the family, social and communal relationships.

This concern is shared by Mama Kena who says “we must be funded on our own terms”.

“How can knowledge that has passed from centuries to centuries still be there if it was not scientific? We need to get the knowledge from our grandfathers and grandmothers, document it, patent it… we need to also leave a legacy for our children.”

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh/ Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Kofi’s work is supported through a CDKN project that promotes the communicating of climate change issues in African media.

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