are in the MOST Phase I website (1994-2003).
The MOST Phase II website is available at: www.unesco.org/shs/most.
| The Netherlands Organization for
International Cooperation in Higher Education / Indigenous
(1) in co-operation with UNESCO's Management of Social
Transformations Programme (MOST) has established
a Database of best practices on indigenous knowledge
in 1999 which initially contained 27 best practices. Through the second
phase (2001-2002), 22 cases were newly added to the database.
This database is part of the MOST database of Best Practices, which concentrates on poverty alleviation. It contains examples of successful projects illustrating the use of local and indigenous knowledge in the development of cost-effective and sustainable survival strategies, covering Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe, North America and Latin America & Caribbean. It also includes a geographical and thematic index and an index of institutions acting as indigenous knowledge resource centres.
NUFFIC (IK-Unit) and MOST have also produced two joint publications entitled "Best Practices on Indigenous Knowledge (1999)" and "Best Practices Using Indigenous Knowledge (2002)". They provide further details on indigenous knowledge including the selected practices, indexes and a list of resource centers. The publications are only available via Internet.
What are Best Practices on Indigenous Knowledge?
Aim of the database
can refer to the knowledge belonging to a specific ethnic group, for
example: ‘Indigenous knowledge is the local knowledge that is unique
to a given culture or society. It is the basis for local-level
decision-making in agriculture, health care, food preparation, education,
natural resource management, and a host of other activities in rural
communities.’ Another useful definition is the following:
‘Indigenous knowledge is the information base for a society, which
facilitates communication and decision-making. Indigenous information
systems are dynamic, and are continually influenced by internal
creativity and experimentation as well as by contact with external
Or: ‘Indigenous knowledge is the knowledge that people in a given
community have developed over time, and continue to develop. It is based
on experience, often tested over centuries of use, adapted to local
culture and environment, dynamic and changing.’
may be related to a common practice seen in communities that are
indigenous to a specific area. Or the focus might be on the long history
of the practice, in which case it is often called ‘traditional
knowledge’. The following definition is a combination of these
different aspects: ‘Indigenous knowledge, also referred to as
traditional or local knowledge, refers to the large body of knowledge
and skills that has been developed outside the formal educational
system. IK is embedded in culture and is unique to a given location or
society. IK is an important part of the lives of the poor. It is the
basis for decision-making of communities in
food security, human and animal health, education and natural
Analysis of this selection of definitions reveals that several interrelated aspects appear to be more or less specific to the nature of IK. IK could be summerized in the following way:
· Locally bound, indigenous to a specific area.
· Culture- and context-specific.
· Non-formal knowledge.
· Orally transmitted, and generally not documented.
· Dynamic and adaptive.
· Holistic in nature.
· Closely related to survival and subsistence for many people worldwide.
The Best Practices presented here are diverse and a reflection of the broad and diversified character of IK.
 See Flavier et al. 1995:479.
 See IIRR, Philippines, 1996. ‘Recording and using indigenous knowledge: a manual’.
IK-Unit) to make sure that the information is complete and that the activity meets the general definitions mentioned above. If the information meets the basic technical requirements, it will be entered in the IK database which NUFFIC (IK-Unit) maintains. The description of the activity will then be sent to one or more independent referees who are known to be experts in a field relevant to the proposed best practice. These referees will decide if and when the practice is suitable for submission to UNESCO.
If referees need more information about a proposed best practice or have suggestions as to how it could be made suitable, they will contact directly the person who described the practice on a questionnaire. This person will also receive the referees' report. Best practices that are judged suitable will be submitted to UNESCO for inclusion in the MOST database.
Paul de Guchteneire
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