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What is Local Knowledge?

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Languages and Multilingualism
'Local and indigenous knowledge' refers to the cumulative and complex bodies of knowledge, know-how, practices and representations that are maintained and developed by peoples with extended histories of interaction with the natural environment.

Vernacular languages are part and parcel of these knowledge systems. Indigenous and local languages participate in the creation, encoding, sustaining, and transmission of cultural knowledge and patterns of behaviour.

The LINKS programme recognises the key role that local and indigenous knowledge plays in resource management and sustainable development. It promotes the empowerment of local knowledge holders in biodiversity governance. Successfully negotiating the divide between language, concepts and worldviews is the first step towards a meaningful dialogue between indigenous knowledge holders and State resource managers.

LINKS reinforces the dynamism of indigenous knowledge within local communities by enhancing its inter-generational transmission. It recognizes the importance of mother tongue-mediated bilingual education, and seeks to develop publications and pedagogical material in indigenous languages whenever appropriate.

In this respect, LINKS addresses the relevant elements of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states that "a child (…) who is indigenous shall not be denied the right…to enjoy his or her own culture, to profess and practice his or her own religion, or to use his or her own language." Furthermore, "The education of the child shall be directed to: the development of respect for the child’s parents, his or her own cultural identity, languages and values."

Examples of recent and on-going work relevant to languages and multilingualism include:

- Reef and Rainforest: An Environmental Encyclopedia of Marovo Lagoon, Solomon Islands: This compendium based on the indigenous knowledge of the people of Marovo Lagoon includes over 1200 terms in Marovo language, with indexes to the lesser vernaculars of Hoava and Vanunu, as well as to scientific taxonomic equivalents. The Encyclopedia’s explanatory texts in both Marovo and English provide a bridge between Marovo and scientific understandings of the natural environment and its management. It also serves as a pedagogical tool for fostering the transmission of indigenous knowledge and the continued use of vernacular languages. A pilot exercise, mid-2005, involving 7 primary and secondary schools in Marovo demonstrated how the Encyclopedia serves to strengthen ties between students and knowledgeable village men and women, and encourages children to work in their mother tongue, which for some was a first time experience.

- Indigenous knowledge-based publications in vernacular languages are also under development with the Mapuche Pewenche (Chile), as well as the Mayangana of the Bosawas Biosphere Reserve (Nicaragua).

- Interactive multimedia CD-ROMs as vehicles for traditional knowledge: To reinforce the identity and self-esteem of indigenous youth, while reinforcing ties between elders and youth, LINKS has developed two CD-ROMs: (i) Dream Trackers – Yapa Art and Knowledge of the Australian Desert, entirely in the Walpiri (Aboriginal) language with texts in English and French, and (ii) The Canoe Is the People: Indigenous Navigation in the Pacific, for which a Maori language version is currently under development with Waikato University. For the latter. A Learning Resource Pack with teacher manual and student workbooks is currently being developed to facilitate its insertion into Pacific curricula.


Reef and Rainforest
Dream Trackers
Canoe Is the People



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