October 2011


Can indigenous peoples be relied on to gather reliable environmental data?
Stanford University release, 13 October 2011

CALIFORNIA, USA: No one is in a better position to monitor environmental conditions in remote areas of the natural world than the people living there. But many scientists believe the cultural and educational gulf between trained scientists and indigenous cultures is simply too great to bridge – that native peoples cannot be relied on to collect reliable data. But now, researchers led by Stanford ecologist Jose Fragoso have completed a five-year environmental study of a 48,000-square-kilometer piece of the AmazonBasinthat demonstrates otherwise. The study Large-Scale Environmental Monitoring by Indigenous Peoples set out to determine the state of the vertebrate animal populations in the region and how they are affected by human activities. But Fragoso and his colleagues knew they couldn’t gather the data over such a huge area by themselves. Fragoso and his colleagues worked in the Rupununi region inGuyana, a forest-savanna ecosystem occupied by the Makushi and Wapishana peoples. The researchers recruited 28 villages and trained more than 340 villagers in methods of collecting field data in a consistent, systematic way. The villagers were shown how to walk a transect through an area, recording sightings and signs of animals, noting the presence of plants that animals feed on and marking their observations on a map.

The training was not without its challenges. Many of the older villagers were expert bushmen, but could not read, write or do arithmetic. Many of the younger villagers, who had received some formal education, were literate but lacked knowledge of the animals and plants in the wilds around their communities. So researchers paired younger and older villagers to go into the field together. All the villagers were paid for the work they did. The most consistently accurate data was recorded by technicians in communities that had strong leadership and that were part of a larger indigenous organization, such as an association of villages. After all the data verification was done, the researchers found that on average, the indigenous technicians were every bit as able to systematically record accurate data as trained scientists. They were also probably better than scientists at detecting animals and their signs. Read the press release … Read the abstract of the study Large-Scale Environmental Monitoring by Indigenous Peoples, by J. B. Luzar, K. M. Silvius, H. Overman, S. T. Giery, J. M. Read and J. M. V. Fragoso, published in BioScience 61(10), 2011 …

Arctic science: The Local Perspective
Henry Huntington, Pew Environment Group, 12 October 2011

WASHINGTON DC, USA: In this piece, Henry Huntington writes that the concept of scientists using indigenous, or traditional, knowledge in their research has received increasing attention over the past few decades. This is particularly true in the Arctic, where the potential global effects of changes such as permafrost thaw and ice melt have created an urgent need to understand how climate change is affecting the region. Historical physical data about the region are lacking, but indigenous cultures there have retained practices and knowledge acquired over countless generations. Read the piece … Read a SciDev.Net article on the issue, including link to full article by Huntington on Nature …

South Africa: TK Legislation in The New Tradition
Owen Dean, IP Watch Inside Views, 6 October 2011

In this article, Prof. Owen Dean comments on South Africa’s attempt to grant protection to traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions through the Intellectual Property Laws Amendment Bill, stressing that the bill as it currently stands is unworkable and will not provide any meaningful protection to TK. Read the article …

Campesinas Protect Traditional Diversity of Food Crops
IPS, 13 October 2011

PUNO, PERU: The fruits of the land in the Andes, like the hundreds of varieties of potatoes, corn, and quinoa – a highly nutritious seed native to this region – depend largely on women, who select the seeds, weed the fields and gardens, help harvest the crop, and preserve and store food. The work of these native highlands women acts as a natural seed bank for the Andean region, built up over generations for the benefit of humankind. Women are also actively participating in the GIAHS project in the country in the Cuzco-Puno corridor. Read the article …

“They Tell A Story And There’s Meaning Behind That Story”: Indigenous Knowledge And Young Indigenous Children’s Literacy Learning
Jan Hare, Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, October 2011, doi: 10.1177/1468798411417378

This research draws on the reflections from group discussions with indigenous families and interviews with early childhood educators and community stakeholders from five First Nations reserve communities in Canadawhose young children participate in the national Aboriginal Head Start On Reserve (AHSOR) programme. The purpose of the study was to examine the contributions of indigenous knowledge to young indigenous children’s literacy learning. In the course of the examination it became clear that there is a literacy orientation within indigenous knowledge systems that draws on oral tradition, land-based experiences and ceremonial practices that, when linked to the discourses of schooling and literacy, provide the basis for improving educational outcomes for indigenous children and families, whose relationship with schooling has been historically troubled. Read the abstract …

HerbFEST 2011
11-13 October 2011 (Lagos, Nigeria)

Organized by Bioresources Development and Conservation Programme, a Nigerian NGO, the International Centre for Ethnomedicine and Drug Development and the Nigeria Natural Medicine Development Agency, this expo was complemented by a workshop on regulation and standardization of natural products, and production, processing and marketing practices. Visit the meeting website … Read the organizers’ press release …

WIPO Assemblies Provide Direction for Future Work, Director General Welcomes Positive Engagement of Member States on Substantive Issues
WIPO press release, 5 October 2011

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND: The WIPO General Assembly, at its 40th (20th ordinary) session that took place from 26 September to 5 October 2011 decided to renew the mandate of the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) for the 2012-2013 biennium. In renewing the mandate, delegations welcomed the progress made by the IGC in the last biennium, especially on traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions and endorsed the decision reached at the IGC’s last session to renew the body’s mandate.  Many delegations looked forward to a continuation of the progress in the next biennium, and recognized that much work remained to be done. Some delegations – notably the African Group and other developing countries – expressed disappointment at the comparatively slow progress on the genetic resources item and called for text-based negotiations on this issue. A number of delegations expressed the hope that a text of an international legal instrument would be ready by September 2012, so that the General Assembly can take a decision on convening a diplomatic conference. Many delegations emphasized the importance of the participation of indigenous and local communities in the work of the IGC, and commended Australiafor its generous contribution (100,000 Australian dollars) to the WIPO Voluntary Fund. Read the press release … Download the decision of renewal of the IGC’s mandate [pdf] … Download the schedule for upcoming IGC sessions for the 2012-2013 biennium [pdf] …

Invitation for comments: Initial Draft Report of the 19th session of the IGC
WIPO release, 11 October 2011

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND: WIPO has circulated the initial draft report of the IGC-19, held from 18-22 July 2011. Written corrections may be submitted to the WIPO Secretariat by e-mail to Grtkf@wipo.int before 4 November 2011Download the draft report [doc] …

Invitation for comments: Note on Existing Mechanisms for Participation of Observers in the Work of the IGC
WIPO release, 11 October 2011

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND: The WIPO General Assembly agreed on the mandate of the IGC for the 2012-2013 biennium and invited the IGC to review its procedures with a view to “enhancing the positive contribution of observers” to the IGC process. In order to facilitate this review, the WIPO Secretariat was requested to prepare a study on the participation of observers in the work of the IGC, which should outline current practices and potential options. As a first step, the WIPO Secretariat has circulated a note, intended to assist IGC participants to provide inputs in the preparation of the study. The note outlines and provides background information on past or existing modalities that either facilitate the direct participation of observers in the work of the IGC or strengthen their capacity to contribute effectively, and suggests certain questions that IGC participants may wish to reflect on. Download the note [pdf] …

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