Historically, our communities survived on their traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) base. The products they manufactured formed part of their livelihood. Even today many local and indigenous communities meet their basic needs from the products they manufacture and sell based on their traditional knowledge. Maintenance of their health even now is based on traditional medicines derived from plants and other natural products. The developments of new technology, medicinal products, educational system etc. are major threat to the survival of many of these communities and their knowledge. TEK is generally associated with biological resources and is invariably an impalpable component of such biological resources.
In layperson’s words, TEK could be realized as knowledge which has been collected or accumulated by a community through years of experience, it is often attempted and tried out over long period of time, and it is also well adapted to local culture and environment. Traditional knowledge is deep rooted in every community across the globe. Such kind of knowledge system is vital for their well-being and for sustainable development. The traditional knowledge system has been developed by the communities to conserve and utilize the biological diversity of their surroundings.Sources of TEK
If we look around in our environment, we will find out legion sources of TEK hidden in our villages, countryside, community etc. The main sources could are: farmers, community leaders, elder persons, folklore, painters, healers, shepherds etc. It is also apt to mention that TEK is locally appropriate and specifically adapted as per the requirement of local conditions, it provides a control in resources exploitation required for immediate survival, and it helps in having diversified production system without overexploitation of a single resource.
How to protect TEK
There are numerous reasons which depict the need to protect the TEK. “Until recently, western scientists have typically rejected the traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples as anecdotal, non-quantitative, and unscientific. Today the scientific importance of traditional knowledge is recognized and valued by those carrying out research in areas that are inhabited by indigenous peoples. Educators also recognize the importance of using traditional knowledge in the classroom and there are currently many efforts to develop culturally relevant curricula for classrooms all across the globe.” (L. C. Sommer, C. E. Talus et.al, Fourteenth AR M Science Team Meeting Proceedings, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 2004).
According to Berkes 1999, TEK is “[a] cumulative body of knowledge, practice, and belief, evolving by adaptive processes and handed down through generations by cultural transmission, about the relationships of living beings (including humans) with one another and with their environment.”
- To improve the livelihoods of TEK holders and communities- TEK is a valuable asset to indigenous and local communities who depend on TEK for their livelihood as well as to manage and exploit their local ecosystem in sustainable manner.
- To prevent biopiracy- Biopiracy refers either to the unauthorized extraction of biological resources and / or associated TEK or to the patenting, without compensation of spurious inventions based on such knowledge or resources.
- To prevent knowledge erosion- Documentation and transfer of TEK is urgently needed in view of the rapid erosion of this knowledge base.
- To conserve the environment - The traditional communities are intelligent and have made agriculture sustainable through their different agricultural practices. They create a balance between the environment and requirement.
- To conserve resources- Strategy for protection should take into account the fact that genetic resources and TEK are inextricably linked.
Here is a link to a documentary by Timo Holthoff, Learn2Change - Global Network of Educational Activists. https://youtu.be/0FeXrwf0YPM