The use and role of indigenous knowledge in small-scale agricultural systems in Africa: the case of farmers in northern Malawi

Moyo, Boyson Henry Zondiwe (2010) The use and role of indigenous knowledge in small-scale agricultural systems in Africa: the case of farmers in northern Malawi. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis examines the role and use of indigenous knowledge within small-scale agricultural systems in Africa and its relevance in development practice and theory. Using development programmes that have been implemented in the study area from the colonial to the recent times, many of which were largely underpinned by modernisation theory and practice, indigenous knowledge theory and practice is analysed for its role in development processes.

The roles of the private sector, NGOs and the government are analysed, based on a chronology of development programmes that were underpinned in many instances by the influences of the major development theories and the subsequent introduction of the structural adjustment programmes by the IMF and the World Bank. Particular emphasis is placed on farmers’ responses to externally induced development programmes, designed by experts for farmers to adopt. In their assessment of these externally driven development programmes, there is a manifestation of the extent of the resilience of local knowledge to its displacement by Western knowledge. Scientifically proven technologies are assessed by farmers for their effectiveness under their farming practices that take into account a range of environmental, socio-cultural and economic factors. Indigenous knowledge is frequently found to be effective in resisting those changes that are undesirable and of little relevance at both farm and community levels. For farmers, knowledge that is useful and of practical use is adopted, or adapted, only when it is assessed, and, in many cases, this is only after trials have been successfully completed. Knowledge that is of little benefit to farmers is discarded irrespective of its type (indigenous or Western), or its source.

This study forms the basis for understanding the importance of indigenous knowledge in development practice arising from its existence at farm level and the fact that it is continuously being fined-tuned to suit specific conditions and situations, which are in turn affected by socio-cultural, economic and environmental factors. The findings of this study also show that there are many benefits from using indigenous knowledge in development practice that include the empowerment of local people through their participation in development programmes. Indigenous knowledge is also found to be resilient and beneficial to farmers regardless of income level by reducing their costs of production, to be adaptable to different environmental and economic circumstances, and to provide for a more sustainable use of resources in farming. There is, however, a need for further studies in indigenous knowledge utilisation to enable researchers to keep pace with changes that occur at the local level if development theory and practice are to utilise indigenous knowledge fully and successfully.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Agriculture, indigenous knowledge, Malawi, small-scale farming
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
S Agriculture > S Agriculture (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Science and Engineering > School of Geographical and Earth Sciences
Supervisor's Name: Briggs, Professor John
Date of Award: 2010
Depositing User: Professor John Briggs
Unique ID: glathesis:2010-2022
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 12 Aug 2010
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:50

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