Trees, people and the dry lands: The role of local knowledge

TitleTrees, people and the dry lands: The role of local knowledge
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication1988
AuthorsBarrow, EGC
Book TitleAgroforestry development in Kenya: Proceedings of the Second Kenya National Seminar on Agroforestry
Date PublishedNov. 7-16 1988
PublisherInstitute of Forestry
CityNairobi, Kenya
Keywordsparticipatory research

The importance of traditional knowledge as a tool in development is discussed in broad terms, its relevance to the change process and as to why it has not been fully utilized in the past. Pokot and Turkana transhumant silvo-pastoral systems are discussed in a broad land management perspective and then as they relate to individual tree species, their utilization and management. This is then briefly compared to the Sukuma (in Tanzania) agro-silvo-pastoral system. In all cases the people of the area display a rich and detailed local knowledge base as it relates to the environment and ecology. This comprises a detailed ethnobotanical knowledge as it relates to species utilization and their management, which is then related to broad land management systems which, especially in Pokot and Turkana are both environmentally sound, ecologically viable and culturally acceptable. Why then are such systems and knowledge bases not utilized? This is then related to traditional conservatism and constraints pertaining to such lands. In realizing that the traditional base is not perfect, ways are discussed as to how the people and the knowledge base can be brought into the focus of development and change, particularly in the silvo-pastoral context. This is based on a participatory sharing extension approach which identifies potential and constraints in the traditional base combined with problem identification and solution finding. The example of the Turkana Rural Development Programme's forestry sector is used to show how this can be achieved (or at least partly so) in a large district such as Turkana whose people are mobile and widely spaced. It is discussed in terms of extension approaches used, feedback from such work and the impact of the work to date. It is likewise shown that such work can fit into current day development thinking as a means of relating the local knowledge base to the present day. The conclusion challenges researchers and developers alike in terms of giving a real and meaningful emphasis to the traditional database, of relating their work to it and keeping the focus of such work on the people who live in such areas. Such pastoral people do not compartmentalize their lives into discrete boxes as Research and Development tends to do. This is not possible especially in the arid and semi-arid lands and especially as relates to silvo-pastoralism. The threads are too interlinked. The basis for change and improvement lies with making the people of the area the focus, making them responsible for their environment through the use of the traditional knowledge base as a foundation stone for sustainable real development, as if people matter. (author)


Paper presented to Second Kenya National Seminar on Agroforestry

Number of pages

27 pp

Short TitleTrees, people and the dry lands