Issue #: 
March 12, 2007


This issue of the Drum Beat is the first in a 2-part series focused on knowledge. In this series, we present just a few of the experiences, strategies, resources, and trends featured on our site that explore how communities around the world have used communication tools and approaches to preserve, protect, share, manage, and promote their distinctive forms of knowledge. This first issue in the series focuses on content that is context-specific: indigenous, tacit, traditional, or "local" knowledge.

In the second issue, we will take a closer look at issues of ownership of knowledge, broadening the scope of the type of knowledge explored beyond the "local". That issue will highlight some of the strategies have been developed and trends that have been observed in the move to open access to various kinds of knowledge.



1. Indigenous Management of Wetlands: Experiences in Ethiopia

by Alan Dixon

"Local or indigenous knowledge develops over time from a detailed understanding of local environmental conditions, and is modified in response to changing conditions. It is a resource that can help development processes become more sustainable." According to the author and this summary by ID21, wetlands in Ethiopia are at a critical point in their history; farmers have demonstrated that their indigenous hydrological management can be sustainable, particularly when combined with external/scientific sources of knowledge. Research reviewed here highlights the importance of maintaining an effective network for sharing local knowledge and experimenting with new techniques as key principles of sustainable wetland management - supplemented by reviews (carried out by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and donors) of how to support local networks.

2. A Marriage of Medicines

by Owain Johnson

This article explores how medical professionals in Venezuela are sharing information and collaborating with local traditional healers. The author contends that much traditional knowledge is still at risk, particularly as communities begin to adopt Western habits; yet collective knowledge about cures, self-care strategies, and other traditional practices is said to be key to improving access to and quality of health care for indigenous populations. To encourage the survival of the body of indigenous knowledge, an exchange programme has been created that brings shamans together to discuss their work. In concert with this approach, in the Wayuu communities of western Venezuela, "intercultural homes" (casas interculturales) have been established where mothers can leave their children in the care of community elders, who pass on their culture to the younger generation.

3. Centre for Coastal Environmental Conservation (CCEC) - Bangladesh

CCEC is a non-profit, grassroots NGO based in Khulna, Bangladesh whose work is based on the idea that strategies for sustainable environmental management and conservation can only be achieved through local-level participation based on indigenous knowledge. To this end, key CCEC actions include raising awareness about issues such as mangrove protection (e.g., through a newsletter and poster highlighting the problem and encouraging participation in "Mangroves Action Day"), organising group and individual meetings with CCEC advisory board members to develop proposals and find development partners for cooperation, and mobilising local resources by disseminating environmental messages. A key CCEC area of focus is on laws and management practices for sustainable use of national resources that support and protect indigenous knowledge.

Contact Mowdudur Rahman OR

4. Online Database of Traditional Tibetan Drugs Launched

by Jia Hepeng

This article announces the February 2005 launch of an online database of traditional Tibetan medicines in China. The freely accessible database offers 3,000 entries covering Tibetan pharmaceutical resources, traditional prescriptions, ancient and modern literature about Tibetan medicine, and information regarding Tibetan medical experts and institutions. The article concludes with the programme director Ma Jianxia's comment that the database developers "have yet to consider the intellectual property implications of making indigenous Tibetan knowledge freely available on the Internet."

5. Digital Songlines - Australia

Digital Songlines is a project to develop protocols, methodologies, and toolkits to facilitate the collection and sharing of Indigenous cultural heritage knowledge, practices and languages in Australia. It involves the development of a 3-D digital environment that integrates story, art, and cultural icons in an effort to present knowledge as nonlinear and multilayered stories as they were told (and sung). The project explores the effective recording, content management, and virtual reality delivery of Indigenous cultural knowledge in ways that are culturally sensitive and that engage Indigenous custodians, leaders and communities. The toolkit (a platform-independent software developed in a number of formats) can be customised according to community wishes, educational needs, and other requirements...


6. WeSay - Global

This project is designed to help small and endangered language communities perform a variety of language development activities - on their own - using open source software and low-power devices that are designed to work in remote areas with limited electricity and/or internet connectivity, and other challenges. Organisers suggest that WeSay may be especially relevant in those situations where native speakers want to play a direct, ongoing role in the construction of a dictionary and collection/transcription of stories in their own language, using something other than paper. Specifically, the project will provide computer tools that enable communities to carry out initiatives such as building a dictionary in their own language; also on the horizon is a tool which can help communities record, transcribe, and share their traditional stories.

Contact OR

7. Wind River Reservation Video Project - Wyoming, USA

In October 2005, Video Volunteers worked with The Northern Arapaho Tribal Council on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming (USA) to begin the process of setting up a Community Video Unit (CVU). As part of the process, community members were trained to produce a water awareness video; the research and perspectives of members of the Wyoming Indian High School video class were integrated into the documentary, which features the use of analogies to communicate to their people how much water they own, and just how valuable it is. The CVU aims to give people a forum to speak out about water rights - especially by amplifying the voices of those who live too far away to ever attend meetings, the voices of elders, and the indigenous knowledge that cannot be captured in a report.

Contact Jessica Mayberry OR

8. Preserving Kanien'kehà:ka Culture and Language Through Community-Based Education and Video

by Elizabeth J. Saccà & Katsi'tsákwas Ellen Gabriel

In response to the need for aboriginal writing and imagery spurred by what was understood to be mass media's stereotyped portrayal of aboriginal people, several artists in a rural indigenous community northwest of Montreal, Canada decided to explore video as a tool for making personal and traditional stories of members of Kanien'kehà:ka: People of the Flint (Mohawks) accessible to the community and to others. Kanehsatà:ke and non-aboriginal women formed a community-based video project, joining their efforts with fellow community members. The authors describe the Kanien'keha language videos that emerged, and explore their role in preserving Kanien'kehà:ka culture and language.

See Also:

9. Indigenous Communication and Indigenous Knowledge

10. Grandmother-inclusive Methodology

11. Sahel Oral History Project - Africa

12. Indigenous Knowledge Program - Sub-saharan Africa


Pulse Poll

Do you agree or disagree?

The pace of technological change is outpacing older established organisations' ability to absorb and use the new tools for social change.

[For context, please see The Drum Beat #385.]



on the above topic - click here!



13. Indigenous Knowledge Dossier

This dossier, formerly housed by SciDev.Net but no longer online, seeks to impart information and news about IK and how it can contribute to sustainable development and poverty alleviation. The website addresses questions such as: Who owns IK and who may use it? Who decides how to use IK and for what purpose? How should its owners be compensated?

14. Traditional Knowledge and Intellectual Property: A Handbook on Issues and Options for Traditional Knowledge Holders in Protecting their Intellectual Property and Maintaining Biological Diversity

by Stephen A. Hansen & Justin W. VanFleet

This handbook aims to assist communities in understanding issues regarding intellectual property rights (IPR) and provides exercises to help them identify and classify types of knowledge, cultural aspects, and community goals related to specific knowledge claims. Its goal is to help local communities understand and identify potential protection mechanisms for traditional knowledge already present in current IPR regimes and the public domain.

15. Aotearoa Maori Internet Organisation (AMIO) - New Zealand

AMIO holds that current online modes of communication and dissemination of information are inadequate to encompass and promote future growth of Maori culture, values, and discourse. To that end, organisers are working to define a strong Maori presence on the internet; develop relationships with national and international information technology (IT) bodies; and promote the interests of Maori internet service creators. The organisation is also taking an active role in issues relating to indigenous IPR and cybersquatting. AMIO envisions itself as an authoritative body representing the needs and concerns of the Maori people with regard to the potential for commodification of their knowledge on the internet.

Contact Karaitiana Taiuru

16. Bollywood Stole Our Folk Song

by Anna Turley

According to the author, the sparse media coverage that IPR has generated in India has tended to be sensationalist, focusing on issues such as the patenting of everyday commodities like turmeric by multinational corporations. In an effort to bring other IPR issues out into the open, cultural rights activists, bio-diversity campaigners, academics, lawyers, communicators, and students gathered in Bangalore in April 2004 to explore topics such as piracy, the patenting of Basmati rice, traditional folk songs, and open source software. A key purpose of the discussion was to map out links between IPR and the media; participants also explored links between IPR and both cultural rights and bio-diversity. To continue the "dynamic process of collaboration for social change" around IPR that was initiated at the workshop, participants planned to form a network for future collaboration on IPR issues in India.

See Also:

17. Intellectual Property Watch

18. How Intellectual Property Rights Can Obstruct Progress


19. Linking Knowledge Providers and Knowledge Users

by Zbigniew Mikolajuk

This paper explores strategies for connecting people or institutions who possess knowledge with those who need knowledge - toward an effective knowledge sharing system. Such a system rests on knowledge descriptions or representations such as written documents, maps, pictures, stories, audio and video clips - as well as direct communications between experts and knowledge seekers. Among the various strategies explored here for creating and sustaining such a system are: securing commitment on the part of political powers, civic organisations, and technical and research establishments; designing customised and context-specific knowledge content and delivery methods - for example, interactive theatre and visual presentations that reflect on specific local issues and that are delivered in local languages; attending to intellectual property rights, and ensuring that a reasonable part of any wealth generated from the shared knowledge contributed by economically poor communities is returned to those knowledge providers; and engaging in continuous analysis of the system's effectiveness.

20. Sharing Knowledge Through Mentoring

by Truls E.J. Engström

This article explores the strategy of using informal mentoring to foster the sharing of tacit knowledge. It is based on the premise that "an organization's ability to create new knowledge and extract value from existing knowledge, and its ability to build environments conducive to sharing knowledge, are considered major challenges" - but that the ability to share distinctive types of knowledge is a key organisational asset in the context of the current knowledge society. Engström explains that tacit knowledge is especially difficult to verbialise because it is tied to the senses, skills in bodily movement, individual perception, physical experiences, and intuition. This type of knowledge is context-dependent, held in a non-verbal form, and often highly personal; sharing it involves, in turn, sharing emotions and mental models - frequently among those from different backgrounds, perspectives, and motivations. To address these challenges, Engström proposes (and then tests) a mentoring system involving a dyad engaging in face-to-face interaction in the context of a care-filled, trustworthy relationship; he concludes that this strategy is important for fostering a healthy organisation characterised by an open, knowledge-sharing climate.

21. Sharing Knowledge for Community Development and Transformation: A Handbook

by Dr. Kingo J. Mchombu

This handbook has been prepared "for men and women working in villages, towns, rural and disadvantaged urban areas to increase the speed and impact of community development. It is written for those who wish to transform their communities through knowledge sharing....The handbook is not designed for librarians and those with information management skills. Rather, it is a tool for those at the grassroots..."

See Also:

22. Using Comics for Development Communication

23. Tools for Knowledge and Learning: A Guide for Development and Humanitarian Organisations


Seeking Partnership: SCALE Approach

Agency is seeking partners to develop training content related to refining, adding to and applying the SCALE approach (click here for more information) to natural resource management; to deliver training to practitioners; and to develop long distance learning and a university course based on the approach. Measuring impact of the approach is a key element in this partnership.

Please contact Roberta Hilbruner for more details and to submit a proposal.



24. Knowledge Management for Mountain Development

This newsletter shares some resources and experiences of the Information and Knowledge Management (IKM) initiative of the Kathmandu, Nepal-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD). It begins with a synposes of, and links to, 15 online knowledge management (KM) resources, followed by an introduction from ICIMOD's Director General. A key point made here is that "The most essential element of knowledge management is the human factor: how do people share tacit knowledge - their personal knowledge and experience. Knowledge networks are one approach. They are not solutions in themselves, but rather systems that facilitate knowledge-sharing and collaborative problem-solving." He suggests that new computer-based technologies can be powerful KM methods, but that traditional tools such as books, tape recorders, writing tools, filing systems, libraries, and direct human communications "are still most vivid and vibrant."

25. Managing Knowledge to Improve Reproductive Health Programs

This paper provides case studies from a number of developing country family planning/reproductive health organisations that are drawing on KM tools and strategies. Putting KM into action involves steps such as: building personal relationships and social networks that cross organisational boundaries; helping people locate key sources of knowledge; preserving institutional memory; building personal relationships and social networks that cross organisational boundaries; collecting lessons learned and best practices within the organisation; searching for proven tools and practices outside the organisation; and exchanging tacit knowledge regarding best practices and lessons learned.

26. Knowledge Management - Training Modules

This KM module has 5 units, each of which includes: practical and learning objectives, a topic note, an annotated bibliography, tools and resources, exercises, and some case studies. Unit 4 is called "Going Local": Using Evidence at the Local Level; it focuses on 2 aspects of local knowledge: "formal" (scientific) information about a local situation, and "indigenous" knowledge (knowledge that is imbedded in local traditions, stories, and other repositories of local wisdom). The unit explores how to combine and integrate these 2 types of local knowledge along with "global" knowledge to facilitate the actions of health workers at the community level.

See Also:

27. A Computer-based Knowledge Delivery System for Rural Communities: A Case Study Using Beekeeping


28. Collecting and Propagating Local Development Content: Report of a Project Carried out by IICD in Association with the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology and Funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID)

by Peter Ballantyne

"...One of the strengths of new information and communication technologies (ICTs) such as the Internet is the way they can help unlock distant expertise, knowledge and markets. However, this access - usually to 'foreign' content with foreign perspectives - has its limitations....As this report shows, content does not flow of its own accord; it needs owners or originators with the motivation to create, adapt or exchange it....Counter efforts to push local content on to global stages, such as African film, African research publications, 'southern voices' in the media, or the e-trading of crafts face an uphill struggle....In a search for ways to promote local content, we have few guidelines to follow. Should we create more effective 'push' mechanisms, increasing and improving the supply of content? Should we focus on the demand side, so that local content is more highly valued? Should we look at the containers in which content is packaged, making them more attractive and accessible? Should different content types get different treatment? Drawing from a consultation process to examine how local content in developing countries is created, adapted, and exchanged, this report provides some answers to these questions..."

29. New Possibilities for Local Content Distribution

by Rosa M. Gonzalez

UNESCO has pursued various approaches for empowering local content producers by promoting and fostering local content development and distribution. One such strategy is ICT-facilitated partnership, as illustrated by the Audiovisual e-Platform - a multicultural online catalogue of recently directed television productions that are innovative in form or content, and that provide a genuine expression of different cultures. Independent directors, producers, and distributors use this tool to promote their own work by giving their contents access to their personal catalogues. UNESCO also uses the tool to stimulate the distribution of materials to broadcasters, networks, festivals, cultural institutions, and other partners (e.g., local associations, media libraries, and cultural centres). The author suggests that opening this kind of initiative to the general public, following the "pay-per-view" principle, could go some way toward ensuring sustainability and keeping local creativity alive in the audiovisual sector.

See Also:

30. Linking Local Knowledge with Global Action: Examining The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria through a Knowledge System Lens


This issue was written by Kier Olsen DeVries.


The Drum Beat seeks to cover the full range of communication for development activities. Inclusion of an item does not imply endorsement or support by The Partners.

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