Mandala Of Indic Traditions
Traditional Knowledge Systems for Biodiversity Conservation
by Deep Narayan Pandey1
Traditional knowledge is vital for sustainability of natural resources including
forests, water, and agroecosystems across landscape continuum spanning from
households through farms, village, commons and wilderness. Here, I examine
the traditional knowledge on biodiversity, particularly in the light of contemporary
research on traditional and formal knowledge systems and demonstrate the value
of traditional knowledge for biodiversity conservation. I also revisit the
efficacy of traditional knowledge systems for conservation. I identify recent
developments in local knowledge research and interface this with the challenges
that contemporary society faces in India and how local knowledge can be useful
to address the biodiversity conservation.
Humanity faces exceptional challenge of eroding natural resources and declining
ecosystems services due to a multitude of threats created by unprecedented
growth and consumerism. Also imperilled is the biodiversity and sustainability
of the essential ecological processes and life support systems (Chapin et
al., 2000) in human dominated ecosystems across scales (Vitousek et
al., 1997). Indeed, human-domination of earth is evident in global change
(Ayensu et al., 1999; Lawton et al., 2001; Phillips et al.,
1998; Schimel et al., 2001; Forest et al., 2002), biodiversity
extinctions (Bawa and Dayanandan 1997; Sala et al., 2000; Singh, 2002)
and disruption of ecosystem functions (Loreau et al., 2001). Ecological
problems coupled with unequal access to resources results in human ill-being
and threats to the livelihood security of the world's poorest (Pandey, 1996;
Balvanera et al., 2001).
Traditional Knowledge for Sustainability
To avert the threats, natural and social sciences have helped by acquiring
and applying knowledge about ecosystem conservation and restoration and by
strengthening the policy and practice of sustainable development. Scientific
research on human-environmental interactions is now a budding sustainability
science (Kates et al., 2001). The concept recognises that the well-being
of human society is closely related to the well-being of natural ecosystems.
The intellectual resources on which the sustainability science is building
on need to take into account the knowledge of local people as well. We need,
therefore, to foster a sustainability science that draws on the collective
intellectual resources of both formal sciences, and local knowledge systems
of knowledge (often referred as ethnoscience)2 (Pandey, 2001).
Indeed, people have argued that we need to install a Nobel Prize for sustainability
(Snoo and Bertels, 2001).
Driven by the situation scientific research on human-environmental interactions
(Stern, 1993) has developed into the new branch of knowledge known as the
Sustainability Science (Kates et al., 2001). The concept has developed
on the basis of the recognition that the well-being of human society is closely
related to the well-being of natural ecosystems. Sustainability science seeks
to comprehend the fundamental character of interactions between nature and
society, specifically the interaction of global processes with the ecological
and social characteristics of particular places and sectors.
It will be useful to suggest that science is not a monolithic entity; rather,
as Henry Bauer notes: it is "a mosaic of the beliefs of many little scientific
groups" with a variety of perspectives that individual scientists themselves
posses and the studied objects bestow on them (Pielke 2002). It has been stated
that science is objective and value-free, and local knowledge is subjective
and value-laden. Nothing could be farther from the truth, indeed. All science
is not necessarily value free, and local knowledge is not always value-laden.
In numerous instance science has just rediscovered what was already known
in local knowledge systems. The only difference that may stand any ground
is the way knowledge is created and to some extent the way it is transmitted in
both ways of knowing. A detailed discussion on local and formal methods is
beyond the scope of this paper3, nonetheless, suffice it to note
here that once data and information are generated and get converted into knowledge
by innumerable combinations the created knowledge remains knowledge regardless
of methodology followed to create it. Thus, to posit local knowledge as a
non-science is nonsense. But that does not guarantee an exclusive truth claim
to either to local knowledge or to science. Any attempt to inhibit knowledge
from re-examination and scrutiny, either by local people themselves or by
a curious researchers attempting to learn a new way knowing is not to be understood
as an attempt to discredit a particular system of knowledge.
A discussion on local knowledge is useful at this juncture for other reasons
as well (see, for example, a detailed discussion on this issue, Pandey, 2002a).
First, inadequacy of economic incentives to conserve biodiversity as demonstrated
recently by Kleijn et al., (2001) compels rethinking classical utilitarian
approach to resource management. Second, an emerging sustainability science
(Kates et al., 2001) will need all stocks of knowledge and institutional
innovations to navigate transition towards a sustainable planet. Third, rediscovery
of traditional ecological knowledge as adaptive management (Berkes et al.,
2000) and need to apply human ecological (Bews, 1935; East, 1936; Muller,
1974) and adaptive strategies for natural resource management (Bates, 2000)
offers prospects for scientists to address the problems that beset conservation
biologists and restoration ecologists. Fourth, there is an increasing realization
that we need innovative ethics and policy to conserve biodiversity and maintain
ecosystem functions (Tilman, 2000) and that such ethics need not come from
the god; rather, society can cultivate them. Fifth, local knowledge systems
are disappearing at a rate that may not allow us even to know what value,
if any, such systems had (Cox, 2000; Brodt, 2001; Pandey, 2002a). Finally,
in a thought provoking discussion, Cavalcanti (2002) notes that a limitation
of economic development is that it is pursued without any considerations in
practice as to its implications on ecosystems. The prevailing economic theories
treat the economic process from a purely mechanistic standpoint. Different
ways exist, however, to deal with the choices that humans have to make with
respect to the allocation of resources, the distribution of its returns and
the fulfilment of purposes of material progress. To understand how local people
solve their economic problems in a sustainable fashion is a serious challenge
in this context. A better grasp of this issue could possibly be accomplished
with the use of ethnoeconomics or ethnoecological economics (Cavalcanti, 2002).
Management of natural resources cannot afford to be the subject of just any
single body knowledge such as the Western science, but it has to take into
consideration the plurality of knowledge systems. There is a more fundamental
reason for the integration of knowledge systems. Application of scientific
research and local knowledge contributes both to the equity, opportunity,
security and empowerment of local communities, as well as to the sustainability
of the natural resources. Local knowledge helps in scenario analysis, data
collection, management planning, designing of the adaptive strategies to learn
and get feedback, and institutional support to put policies in to practice
(Getz et al., 1999). Science, on the other hand, provides new technologies,
or helps in improvement to the existing ones. It also provides tools for networking,
storing, visualizing, and analyzing information, as well as projecting long-term
trends so that efficient solutions to complex problems can be obtained (Pandey,
Local knowledge systems have been found to contribute to sustainability in
diverse fields such as biodiversity conservation and maintenance of ecosystems
services, tropical ecological and biocultural restoration, sustainable water
management, genetic resource conservation and management of other natural
resources. Local knowledge has also been found useful for ecosystem restoration
and often has ingredients of adaptive management.
Traditional Knowledge on Biodiversity Conservation
In order to be effective, efforts on biodiversity conservation can learn
from the context-specific local knowledge and institutional mechanisms such
as cooperation and collective action; intergenerational transmission of knowledge,
skills and strategies; concern for well-being of future generations; reliance
on local resources; restraint in resource exploitation; an attitude of gratitude
and respect for nature; management, conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity
outside formal protected areas; and, transfer of useful species among the
households, villages and larger landscape. These are some of the useful attribute
of local knowledge systems (Pandey, 2002a). Traditional knowledge on biodiversity
conservation in India is as diverse as 2753 communities (Joshi et al.
1993) and their geographical distribution, farming strategies, food habits,
subsistence strategies, and cultural traditions.
Local Vegetation Management: Over thousands of years local people
have developed a variety of vegetation management practices that continue
to exist in tropical Asia (Pandey, 1998), South America (Atran et al.,
1999; Gomez-Pompa and Kaus, 1999), Africa (Getz et al., 1999; Infield,
2001), and other parts of the world (Brosius, 1997; Berkes, 1999). People
also follow ethics that often help them regulate interactions with their natural
environment (Callicott, 2001). Such systems are often integrated with traditional
rainwater harvesting that promotes landscape heterogeneity through augmented
growth of trees and other vegetation, which in turn support a variety of fauna
In India these systems can be classified in several ways:
Religious traditions: temple forests, monastery forests,
sanctified and deified trees
Traditional tribal traditions: sacred forests, sacred
groves and sacred trees
Royal traditions: royal hunting preserves, elephant forests,
royal gardens etc.
Livelihood traditions: forests and groves serving as cultural
and social space and source of livelihood products and services
The traditions are also reflected in a variety of practices regarding the
use and management of trees, forests and water. These include:
Collection and management of wood and non-wood forest
Traditional ethics, norms and practices for restraint
use of forests, water and other natural resources
Traditional practices on protection, production and regeneration
Cultivation of useful trees in cultural landscapes and
Creation and maintenance of traditional water harvesting
systems such as tanks along with plantation of the tree groves in the proximity
These systems support biodiversity, which is although less than natural ecosystems
but it helps reduce the harvest pressure. For instance, there are 15 types
of resource management practices that result in biodiversity conservation
and contribute to landscape heterogeneity in arid ecosystems of Rajasthan.
Environmental ethics of Bisnoi community suggest compassion to wildlife, and
forbid felling of Prosopis cineraria trees found in the region. Bisnoi
teachings proclaim: "If one has to lose head (life) for saving a tree,
know that the bargain is inexpensive" (Pandey, 2002a).
In India, local practices of vegetation management perhaps emanate from the
basic ecological concepts of local communities reflected in "ecosystem-like
concepts in traditional societies" (Berkes et al. 1998). Two key
characteristics of these systems are that the unit of nature is often defined
in terms of a geographical boundary; and abiotic components, plants, animals,
and humans within this unit are considered to be interlinked. Many local knowledge
systems are similar in temperament to the emerging scientific view of ecosystems
as unpredictable and uncontrollable, and of ecosystem processes as nonlinear,
multiequilibrium, and full of surprises (Berkes et al. 1998).
Biodiversity in Sacred Cliffs: Cliffs are completely forgotten cultural
landscape elements that support a variety of species of plants and animals
in India. As humans have special fascinations to such areas often cliffs across
the country are considered sacred. Cliffs elsewhere have been found to support
undisturbed ancient woodland, dominated by tiny, slow-growing and widely spaced
trees. Vertical cliffs often support populations of widely spaced trees that
are exceptionally old, deformed and slow growing. Some of the most ancient
and least-disturbed wooded habitats on Earth are found on cliffs, even if
such sites are close to intensive agricultural and industrial development.
The age of the trees on cliffs may indicate the age and growth rates of the
entire plant communities on the cliffs. Cliffs across the world may support
ancient, slow-growing, open woodland communities that have escaped major human
disturbance, even when they are situated close to agricultural and industrial
activity, which has destroyed or altered most other natural habitats (Larson
et al., 1999, 2000a & b; Peterken, 1996). Examples of such habitat
in India abound. Cliffs in Udaipur and Kota districts of Rajasthan were surveyed
(7 cliff with ancient vegetation). Cliffs were found to have more than 25
species of trees, several species of shrubs and herbs. Areas close to Bhopal
have more than 50 cliffs in central India in a radius of about 100 kms. All
the 7 cliffs surveyed in Rajasthan are sacred. They are often part of the
sacred corridors along the riverbank escarpment with several meters of precipitous
fall. Attempts have been made to regenerate the Gaipernath Cliff with the
traditional species occurring in the area (Lannea coromandelica, Boswellia
serrata, Sterculia urens etc. about 25 species). The result was
very poor initially. But local ethnoforestry techniques of tucking the branch
cuttings of coppicing species in whatever little crevices area may have were
successful. Also, depositing the seeds (same species that occur) in crevices
with the ball of moist earth has been found promising.
Farm Biodiversity: Throughout the Indian farms and field one finds
strips of vegetation containing several species of plants and small animals.
These strips are beneficial in several ways. Such strips on tropical lands
have been found to accelerate natural successional processes by attracting
seed-dispersing animals and increasing the seed rain of forest plants. Effects
of these strips resemble the windbreaks on seed deposition patterns (Harvey,
2000). Isolated trees provide seed in the area for natural regeneration. The
strips enhance seed rain, and connectivity. Because such strips trap large
number of seeds of several species they help in further tree growth. Compared
to open fields, farm boundaries with vegetation receive seed in greater densities
and species-richness than open farms and pastures. All forms of seed dispersal
help in the process but animal-dispersed (birds, bats, mammals etc.) seeds
often occur in greater densities and species numbers. Presence of isolated
trees and shrubs or remnant trees helps. Farm boundaries maintained throughout
the country are often self regenerating and require only management as these
barriers considerably increase the deposition of tree and shrub seeds within
the cultural landscape. Indeed considerable biodiversity is found within these
strips. This is a practice that needs to be maintained as it has several socio-economic
benefits as well.
Value of traditional agroecosystems in supporting the plant and animal diversity
(see for example, Kunte et al. 1998) is immense. Tree diversity in
farms and agroecosystems is often the product of interaction of local and
formal knowledge. A recent study by Shastri et al. (2002) provides interesting
insights on the tree-growing practices and associated biodiversity in Karnataka.
Shastri et al. (2002) found trees belonging to 93 species in a sampled
area of 1.7 ha of Sirsimakki agro-ecosystem. Additional 44 species were noted
on non-agricultural lands in the village ecosystem, which included soppina
betta, minor forest and reserve forest. The overall agroecosystem had
556 trees/ha, while the non-agroecosystem had only 354 trees/ha. The overall,
tree density of 418.8 per ha was present in the village. There were 144 species
in the village ecosystem with 2238 individuals in the sampled area of 5.34
ha. The total number of species in non-agro ecosystem was 104 with 1286 individuals.
Home-gardens are notable with 93 tree species in just about 1.7 ha. The number
of tree species varies between 20 and 40 in home-gardens, indicating that
home-gardens in Karnataka villages are highly biodiverse in comparison to
those in Mexico and Brazil (Shastri et al. 2002).
Farms themselves have domesticated biodiversity essential for survival and
subsistence. One such example is by Kimata et al. (2000) form South
India on the cultivation and process of domestication of Brachiaria ramosa
cultivated in pure stands. Its grains are used in nine traditional food preparations
in South India. Another crop Setaria glauca is cultivated in mixed
stands along with little millet (Panicum sumatrense). In Orissa state
and in Southern India the grains are used to make at least six traditional
supplementary foods. The weedy forms of these species were found by the researchers
growing with upland rice and some millets in diverse agro-ecological niches.
The domestication process is supposed to have gone through three phases: first
growing in association with weed and with upland rice and other millets; a
secondary crop mixed with kodo millet; and finally as an independent
Cultivation of Medicinal plants: There are numerous examples of medicinal
plant cultivation by local people in India. Socio-culturally valued species
find place in home gardens and courtyards. For example, Around the Nanda Devi
Biosphere Reserve in the western Himalaya, the Bhotiya community, whose livelihood
is depends on local natural resources, practices seasonal and altitudinal
migration and stay inside the buffer zone for only 6 months (May-October).
A survey in 5 villages in Pithoragarh District, found that Bhotiya people
cultivate medicinal plants on their agriculture fields. Of a total of 71 families,
90% cultivated medicinal plants on 78% of the total reported cultivated area
(15.29 ha). Around 12 species of medicinal plants were under cultivation.
Survey also found that a family earned about Rs.2423 +/- 376.95 per season
from the sale of medicinal plants in 1996 (Rs.38 = US$1 in 1996). Thus, supporting
medicinal plant cultivation at high altitudes in the Himalayas may help to
generate additional support to people as well as conserve the species in the
wild (Silori and Badola, 2000, see also, Maikhuri et al. 1998). Another
study (Satyal et al. 2002) on traditional knowledge of Kumaun Higher
Himalaya found that Bhotia tribes use 34 species of medicinal plants native
to the region. Among these, Angelica glauca and Allium stracheyi
are narrow range endemic and Allium stracheyi, Picrorhiza kurrooa
and Nardostachys grandiflora have been recorded in the Red Data Book
of Indian Plants. Interestingly, the annual production of medicinal plants
has been found to be comparable with the annual production of traditional
crops. Thus, cultivation, and harvesting can help in livelihood security and
in situ conservation of these species.
Similarly, juang and Munda tribes of the Keonjhar district of eastern India
use 215 plants, belonging to 150 genera and 82 families (Mahapatra and Panda
2002). This suggests a wealth of traditional knowledge on biodiversity and
herbal health care in tribes of eastern India. Tribes in the region are dependent
on forests for other species as species of mushrooms, wild berries, tubers,
and flowers that are included in their diet including cooking oil. Understanding
of traditional knowledge on biodiversity of the region will be most helpful
in planning for sustainable forest management.
Traditional Ethos: Similarly, in spite of the modernization, traditional
ecological ethos continue to survive in many other local societies, although
often in reduced forms. Investigations into the traditional resource use norms
and associated cultural institutions prevailing in rural Bengal societies
(Deb and Malhotra, 2001) demonstrate that a large number of elements of local
biodiversity, regardless of their use value, are protected by the local cultural
practices. Some of these may not have known conservation effect, yet may symbolically
reflect, a collective appreciation of the intrinsic or existence value of
life forms, and the love and respect for nature. Traditional conservation
ethics are still capable of protecting much of the country's decimating biodiversity,
as long as the local communities have even a stake in the management of natural
Traditional ethos is reflected in a variety of practices including sacred
groves and sacred landscapes. They are fairly well described (see for example,
Deb et al. 1997, Pandey 1996 & 1998).
One example from northeast India is particularly notable (see, Tiwari et
al. 1998). The tribal communities of Meghalaya Khasis, Garos, and Jaintias have
a tradition of environmental conservation based on various religious beliefs.
As elsewhere in India, particular patches of forests are designated as sacred
groves under customary law and are protected from any product extraction by
the community. Such forests are very rich in biological diversity and harbor
many endangered plant species including rare herbs and medicinal plants. Tiwari
et al. (1998) identified 79 sacred groves and their floristic survey
revealed that these sacred groves are home to at least 514 species representing
340 genera and 131 families. The status of sacred groves was ascertained through
canopy cover estimate. About 1.3% of total sacred grove area was undisturbed,
42.1% had relatively dense forest, 26.3% had sparse canopy cover, and 30.3%
had open forest. Notably, the species diversity indices were higher for the
sacred grove than for the disturbed forest.
Another notable example is from peninsular India. Study (Ramanujam and Kadamban
2001) on two sacred groves, Oorani and Olagapuram, situated on the north-west
of Pondicherry found a total of 169 angiosperms from both sites. The Oorani
grove (3.2 ha) had 74 flowering plant species distributed in 71 genera and
41 families; 30 of them are woody species, 8 are lianas and 4 are parasites.
The Olagapuram grove (2.8 ha) was more species-rich with 136 species in 121
genera of 58 families; woody species were fewer (21) while 9 lianas and 3
parasites occurred. Associated local knowledge, cultural and religious rituals
of local people sustain such diversity.
Another tradition worth mention is use of plants in mural painting. Such
paintings are found, for example, in the Ajantan mural art. The practice spanned
a whole millennium from the second century B.C. to the eighth century A.D.
The tradition continued up to the nineteenth century under the support of
different dynasties in India, but declined by the end of that century. Nayar
et al. (1999) note that the art is kept alive by a few artists in Kerala
who practice even today the methods and techniques of mural paintings similar
to those practiced by the Ajantan mural painters. Various plant species provided
materials for mural painting. Such knowledge can be very helpful in providing
livelihood security to practitioners.
Traditional water harvesting structures too are also habitat for a variety
of species. Even if pond size is small, as is the case in about 60% (out of
1.5 million total tanks) in India (Pandey, 2001) it may still be useful habitat
for many species in rural ecosystems. Indeed, the island biogeography theory valid
in numerous cases suggesting that larger areas support more species did not
stand in case of 80 ponds in Switzerland (Oertli et al., 2002).
Theoretical predictions and empirical support suggests that although intentional4
conservation may be rare among small-scale societies as Smith and Wishnie
(2000) have pointed out, but practices that actually result in what we today
call 'sustainable use and management' of resources and habitats by local people
is widespread globally that contribute to in biodiversity conservation and
enhancement through creation of habitat mosaics (Smith and Wishnie, 2000).
Formal conservation efforts in India have relied heavily on the recently
declared official protected areas in various categories for biodiversity conservation.
However, ancient and widespread human practice to set aside areas for the
preservation of natural values in India can be seen in several examples of
sacred groves, royal hunting forests, and sacred gardens (Gadgil 1982, Pandey,
1991; Gadgil et al., 1993; Kanowski et al., 1999; Chandrashekara
and Sankar, 1998). Several of these areas became national parks and wildlife
sanctuaries in India and elsewhere (Pandey, 2001). It must be noted here that
much of the India's biodiversity lies outside the officially declared protected
areas. Indeed, biodiversity occurs in landscape continuum (figure 1; table
1 & 2). Other areas protect ecosystem services such as the delivery of
clean water or the supply of timber, or mitigate the expected adverse effects
of over-clearing (Grove, 1992). Others protect recreational and scenic values
and some have been planned to foster international cooperation (Hanks, 1997).
Many of these areas meet the World Conservation Union's definition of a strictly
protected area (IUCN categories I-IV) (IUCN, 1994).
In view of accelerating biological and cultural landscape degradation, a
better understanding of interactions between landscapes and the cultural forces
driving them is essential for their sustainable management. We need environmental
and cultural revolution, aiming at the reconciliation of human society with
nature (Naveh, 1995).
Traditional Knowledge, Water, and Biodiversity
Simple local technology and an ethic that exhorts "capture rain where
it rains" have given rise to 1.5 million traditional village tanks, ponds
and earthen embankments that harvest substantial rainwater in 660,000 villages
in India (Pandey, 2001a), and encourage growth of vegetation in commons and
agroecosystems. If India were to simply build these tanks today it would take
at least US $ 125 billion (Pandey, 2002a).
Humans have virtually appropriated fresh water. Humanity now uses 26 percent
of total terrestrial evapotranspiration and 54 percent of runoff that is geographically
and temporally accessible. New dam construction could increase accessible
runoff by about 10 percent over the next 30 years, whereas population is projected
to increase by more than 45 percent during that period (Postel et al.,
Over thousands of years societies have developed a diversity of local water
harvesting and management regimes that still continue to survive, for example,
in South Asia, Africa, and other parts of the world (Agarwal and Narain, 1997).
Such systems are often integrated with agroforestry (Wagachchi and Wiersum,
1997) and ethnoforestry practices (Pandey, 1998). Recently it has been suggested
that market mechanisms for sustainable water management such as taxing users
to pay commensurate costs of supply and distribution and of integrated watershed
management and charging polluters for effluent treatment can solve the problem
(Johnson et al., 2001). Such measures are essential although, but they
are insufficient and would need to draw on the local knowledge on rainwater
harvesting across different cultures (Pandey, 2001).
Rainwater harvesting in South Asia is different from other parts of the world
in that it has a continued history of practice for at least over 5000 years.
Similarly, Balinese water temple networks as complex adaptive systems are
also very useful systems (Falvo 2000). Although hydraulic earthworks are known
to have occurred in ancient landscapes in many regions, they are no longer
an operational systems among the masses in the same proportion as in South
Asia. For instance, remains of earthworks and water storage adaptations are
found in Mayan lowlands in South America (Mann, 2000). Such systems had been
used for prehistoric agriculture in Mayan lowlands (Turner, 1974; Coe, 1979),
and for fish culture in Bolivian Amazon (Erickson, 2000).
Rainwater harvesting have been found to be scientific and useful for rainfed
areas (Li et al., 2000). For instance, a validation comes from the
Negev. Ancient stone mounds and water conduits are found on hillslopes over
large areas of the Negev desert. Field and laboratory studies suggest that
ancient farmers were very efficient in harvesting water. A comparison of the
volume of stones in the mounds to the volume of surface stones from the surrounding
areas indicates that the ancient farmers removed only stones that had rested
on the soil surface and left the embedded stones untouched. According to results
of simulated rainfall experiments, this selective removal increased the volume
of runoff generated over one square meter by almost 250% for small rainfall
events compared to natural untreated soil surfaces (Lavee et al., 1997).
One of the principle tree genus growing in association with tanks and ponds
in India is Ficus which is culturally valued throughout the country.
It is a keystone genus and supports a variety of other species. Records of
frugivory from over 75 countries for 260 Ficus species (approximately
30% of described species) suggest that in addition to a small number of reptiles
and fishes, 1274 bird and mammal species in 523 genera and 92 families are
known to eat figs (Shanahan et al. 2001).
Conservation Principles in Ancient Texts
Natural Resource Management has been in the traditions of the Indian society,
expressing itself variously in the management and utilization practices. This
evolved through the continued historical interaction of communities and their
environment, giving rise to practices and cultural landscapes such as sacred
forests and groves, sacred corridors and a variety of ethnoforestry practices.
This has also resulted in conservation practices that combined water, soil
and trees. Nature-society interaction also brought about the socio-cultural
beliefs as an institutional framework to manage the resultant practices arising
out of application of traditional knowledge. The attitude of respect towards
earth as mother is widespread among the Indian society.
Local knowledge has proved useful for forest restoration and protected area
management in Rajasthan one of the driest regions of India with scanty rainfall.
Cultural landscapes in rural and urban areas and agroecosystems, created by
the application of scientific and local knowledge, also support a variety
trees, birds and other species, and provide opportunity of integration of
nature and society (Taylor, 2002).
Ancient texts make explicit references as to how forests and other natural
resources are to be treated. Sustainability in different forms has been an
issue of development of thought since ancient times. For example, robust principles
were designed in order to comprehend whether or not the intricate web of nature
is sustaining itself. These principles roughly correspond with modern understanding
of conservation, utilization, and regeneration.
Conservation Principles: Atharva Veda (12.1.11) hymn, believed to
have been composed sometime at around 800 BC, somewhere amidst deep forests
reads: "O Earth! Pleasant be thy hills, snow-clad mountains and forests;
O numerous coloured, firm and protected Earth! On this earth I stand, undefeated,
unslain, unhurt." Implicit here are the following principles:
It must be ensured that earth remains forested.
It must be understood that humans can sustain only if
the earth is protected.
To ensure that humans remain 'unslain' and 'unhurt', the
ecosystem integrity must be maintained.
Even if vaguely, it also makes reference to ecology, economy
and society concurrently.
Utilization and Regeneration Principles: Another hymn from Atharva
Veda (12.1.35) reads: "Whatever I dig out from you, O Earth! May that
have quick regeneration again; may we not damage thy vital habitat and heart".
Implicit here are the following principles:
Human beings can use the resources from the earth for
Resource use pattern must also help in resource regeneration,
In the process of harvest no damage should be done to
Humans are forewarned not against the use of nature for
survival, but against the overuse and abuse.
Although not in modern terminology, the three segment of sustainability ecology,
economy and society seem to get addressed simultaneously.
Similarly, water management and associated tree growing has been the subject
of ancient text. Tanks have been the most important source of irrigation in
India. Some tanks may date as far back as the Rig Vedic period, around
1500 BC. The Rig Veda refers to lotus ponds (5.78.7), ponds
that give life to frogs (7.103.2) and ponds of varying depths for bathing
(10.71.7). Reference to the tanks is also found in the Arthashastra
of Kautilya5 written around 300 BC (Rangarajan 1987: 231-233).
The Arthashastra refers to the ownership and management of the village
tanks in the following verses:
Waterworks such as reservoirs, embankments and tanks can be privately owned
and the owner shall be free to sell or mortgage them (3.9.33)6.
The ownership of the tanks shall lapse, if they had not been in use for
a period of five years, excepting in case of distress (3.9.32).
Anyone leasing, hiring, sharing or accepting a waterworks as a pledge,
with a right to use them, shall keep them in good condition (3.9.36).
Owners may give water to others in return for a share of the produce grown
in the fields, parks or gardens (3.9.35).
In the absence of owners, either charitable individuals or the people in
village acting together shall maintain waterworks (3.10.3).
No one will sell or mortgage, directly or indirectly, a bund or embankment
built and long used as a charitable public undertaking except when it is
in ruins or has been abandoned (3.10.1,2).
The earliest scholar to have commented on the relationship of tanks and trees
is Varahamihira who described the detailed technical instructions for the
tank constructions in his famous work Brahatsamhita (550 AD):
Without the shade of the trees on their sides, water reservoirs
do not look charming; therefore, one ought to plant the gardens on the banks
of the water (55.1)7
Commenting on the species to be planted on the embankments of the tank, after
its construction, Varahamihira writes:
The shoreline (banks) of the tanks should be shaded (planted)
with the mixed stands of Arjun (Terminalia arjuna), Vata (Ficus
benghalensis), Aam (Mangifera indica), Pipal (Ficus religiosa),
Nichul (Nauclea orientalis), Jambu (Syzygium cuminii), Vet (Calamus?),
Neep (Mitragyna parvifolia), Kurvak (?), Tal (Borassus flabellifer),
Ashok (Saraca asoka), Madhuk (Madhuca indica), and Bakul (Mimusops
For example, there is a considerable overlap in the formal and scientific
forestry policy and practice, which provides hope that traditional knowledge
systems can contribute to the management of natural resources. It would be
pertinent to quote Gadgil and Guha (1992: 51) in this context:
"Indeed one could argue that scientific prescriptions
in industrial societies show little evidence of progress over the simple rule-of-thumb
prescriptions for sustainable resource use and the conservation of diversity
which characterized gatherer and peasant societies. Equally, the legal and
codified procedures which are supposed to ensure the enforcement of scientific
prescriptions work little better than earlier procedures based on religion
or social convention".
Integration of Traditional and Formal Science
Are there any possibilities of integration of science and ethnoscience? Empirical
evidence suggests in affirmative. Traditional knowledge may indeed complement
scientific knowledge by providing practical experience in living within ecosystems
and responding to ecosystem change. But, as Berkes et al. (1998) note
the "language" of traditional ecology is different from the scientific
and generally includes "metaphorical imagery and spiritual expression,
signifying differences in context, motive, and conceptual underpinnings".
Indic traditions and local knowledge have often paved the way for many discoveries
in science. For example, progress of science in India has built on the foundations
of knowledge and wisdom that was created in ancient times on a variety of
disciplines including metallurgy, mathematics, medicine, surgery and natural
resource management (Rao, 1985; Gandhi, 1982; Tunon and Bruhn, 1994). Traditional
skills, local techniques and rural craft provide a wide spectrum of knowledge
in India, and since "knowledge cannot be fragmented" (Gandhi, 1982)
we have to take the validated local knowledge into account together with science
for evolving a robust sustainability science. Sharp boundaries between formal
and local systems of knowledge, and natural sciences and social sciences may
indeed be imaginary. Perceived confines may just be the unexplored domain
that defies cognition for want of interdisciplinary explorations. This is
however changing, as Wilson (1998) notes, disciplines are being rendered "consilient".
Scientific community is increasingly realizing that "there is a continuum
between artificially dichotomized aspects of science: objective versus subjective,
value free versus value laden, neutral versus advocacy" (Rykiel, 2001).
This disciplinary mosaic will have profound impact on science and policy development.
Since local knowledge systems in India are still being practiced among the
masses, they can contribute to address the challenges of forest management
(Pandey, 1998), sustainable water management (Pandey, 2001), biodiversity
conservation (Pandey, 2002a), and mitigation of global climate change (Pandey,
2002b&c, Magistro and Roncoli, 2001). Ecological consequences of climate
change (McCarty, 2001; Pandey, 2002c; Walther et al., 2002) require
that we access all stocks of knowledge for mitigation strategies.
Strategies employed for conservation and management of natural resources
prominently rely on nature reserves, national parks, wildlife sanctuaries
and other such categories of protected areas (See for example, Inamdar et
al., 1999; Sarkar, 1999; Myers et al., 2000; Pimm et al.,
2001; Roberts et al., 2002; Sechrest et al.., 2002; Briers,
2002; Wilson, 2002). Protected-area-alone approach for nature conservation,
however, has serious flaw (Pandey, 1993) as it has further exacerbated the
problem of human-animal conflicts, and a majority of reserves have failed
to achieve the conservation goals in marine (Tupper, 2002) as well as terrestrial
(Rajpurohit, 1999, Vanclay, 2001; Rawal and Dhar, 2001; Madhusudan and Karanth,
2002) ecosystems. Such an approach has also "led to conflicts between
the local communities and the management authorities" (Ashish Kothari,
Further, application of island biogeography theory to conservation practice
has been contended since long. As Simberloff and Abele (1976) note "theoretically
and empirically, a major conclusion of such applications that refuges should
always consist of the largest possible single area can be incorrect under
a variety of biologically feasible conditions. The cost and irreversibility
of large-scale conservation programs demand a prudent approach to the application
of an insufficiently validated theory." Protecting biodiversity in protected
areas indeed has remained a challenge across nations.
On the other hand there are detailed accounts of a variety of mechanisms
and contexts through which local people conserve and maintain biodiversity
across landscape continuum (see for example, Arnold and Dewees, 1997; Kothari
1996, 2000; 2002; Kothari et al. 2001; Kothari and Anuradha 1999; Pandey,
1996, 1998; Berkes, 1999; Collins and Qualset, 1998; Ramakrishnan et al.,
1998; Medin and Atran, 1999; Nazarea, 1999; Posey, 1999; Venkataraman, 2000;
Hartley, 2002; Daniels and Vencatesan, 1995; see figure 1).
Practice to set aside areas for the preservation of natural values such has
sacred groves of Asia and Africa and royal hunting forests in India are some
historical examples (Kanowski et al., 1999; Chandrashekara and Sankar,
1998) of nature conservation. Several of these areas became national parks
and wildlife sanctuaries in India and elsewhere.
Consensus that seems emerging is that we might need multiple conservation
and sustainable management approaches (Dinerstein and Wikramanayake, 1993;
Chandrashekara and Sankar, 1998; Schellnhuber and Wenzel, 1998; Margules and
Pressey, 2000; NRC, 1999; Clark, 2001) Under these circumstances, instead
of an exclusive approach, both protected areas and community areas seem complementary
As the human and livestock population grows and natural resources decline
command-and-control management of natural resources tends to become the norm.
Stricter enforcement of protected areas again is gaining currency as a management
proposal due to perceived failure of people-oriented approaches to safeguard
biodiversity. Unfortunately, such an approach usually results in adverse consequences
for natural ecosystems and human welfare in the form of collapsing resources,
social and economic conflict, and loss of biological diversity (Holling and
Meffe 1996; Meffe et al. 1998). Additionally, this resurgent focus
on authoritarian protection practices largely overlooks key aspects of social
and political process including clarification of moral standpoint, legitimacy,
governance, accountability, learning, and external forces (Brechin et al.
2002). A single stock of knowledge is inadequate to address the challenges
that sustainability science faces today (Pandey, 2002a).
Water Harvesting and Biodiversity Conservation
Revival of local rainwater harvesting globally could provide substantial
amounts of water for nature and society. For example, a hectare of land in
Jaisalmer, one of India's driest places with 100 millimeters of rainfall per
year, could yield 1 million liters of water from harvesting rainwater. Even
with the simple technology such as ponds and earthen embankments called tanks,
at least half a million liters a year can be harvested from rain falling over
one hectare of land, as is being done in the Thar desert, making it the most
densely populated desert in the world. Indeed, there are 1.5 million village
tanks in use and sustaining everyday life in the 660,000 villages in India
In the Negev Desert, decentralized harvesting through the collection of water
in microcatchments from rain falling over a 1-hectare watershed yielded 95
cubic meters of water per hectare per year, whereas collection efforts from
a single large unit-rather than small microcatchments 345-hectare watershed
yielded only 24 cubic meters per hectare per year (Evenari et al.,
1982.). Thus, 75% of the collectible water was lost as a result of the longer
distance of runoff in larger watershed. Indeed, this is consistent with local
knowledge distilled in Indian proverbs: "capture rain where it rains"
(Pandey, 2001). This is also inconsonance with Water and civilizations with
a promise of using history to reframe water policy debates and to build a
new ecological realism (Priscoli, 1998).
There is an urgent need to policy innovations on rainwater harvesting that
has been found useful by many studies (Boers and Ben-Asher, 1982). In the
cities, rainwater could be harvested from building rooftops for residential
use, and any surplus could be channeled through bore wells to replenish the
groundwater, avoiding loss to runoff. However, if rainwater harvesting is
to be used to their full potential, policy innovations must include institutional
changes so that such resources are effectively managed (Ostram et al.,
1999; Pandey, 2000).
In Rajasthan, tanks and ponds have been a mainstay of rural communities for
centuries. Strategies for tank rehabilitation (such as proposed for 1200 large
tanks in Rajasthan) must not treat tanks only as flow irrigation systems;
such an approach is very likely to result in a flawed strategy. A strategy
that considers tanks as multiple-use socio-ecological entities, and which
recognizes multiple stakeholder groups is more likely to enhance the social
value of tanks (Shah and Raju, 2002).
In order to fully reward the context specific cultural resources, such as
local knowledge, government subsidies need to be removed to allow market mechanisms
to run their course and surplus revenue generated can be given to the communities
who own the systems such as tanks.
Since low-intensity agriculture promotes biodiverse farms across landscape,
such systems need to be supported and promoted. Agricultural intensification
has been found to impact biodiversity in farms badly (Donald et al.
2001). Crop-animal systems in Asia, where 95% of ruminants are found in the
mixed farming systems is famous for diversity. Crop-animal systems are projected
to see growth and remain the dominant system in Asia. Biodiversity in such
mixed farming systems are vital for food production (Devendra, 2002). Crop-animal
systems, in which livestock play a multi-purpose role, are the backbone of
Asian agriculture. Increased productivity from livestock will be necessary
in these systems to meet the increased demand for animal products, to alleviate
poverty and to improve the livelihoods of resource-poor farmers (Devendra
and Thomas, 2002). In the face of land degradation native farm vegetation
will play a major role in the sustainability of the farming systems.
Incorporating Traditional Knowledge in Practice
Any attempt, endeavouring to integrate traditional knowledge for biodiversity
conservation and sustainability of natural resources should be based on the
principle that traditional knowledge often cannot be dissociated from its
cultural and institutional setting. Regarding the cultural and institutional
the following suggestions may be useful:
Each programme aiming at the promotion of traditional
knowledge should be based on the recognition that natural resource rights
and tenurial security of local communities forms the fundamental basis of
respecting traditional knowledge.
More attention is needed on protection of intellectual
property rights of traditional people.
Innovative projects may need to be developed that aim
at the enhancement of the capacity of local communities to use, express
and develop their traditional knowledge on the basis of their own cultural
and institutional norms.
There is an urgent need for the integration of Traditional and formal sciences.
Following considerations may be useful in this regard:
Development of methods for mutual learning between local
people and the formal scientists.
State forest policies and sustainable forest management
processes need to give full attention to ethforestry and local institutional
arrangements to incorporate traditional knowledge in forest management and
Traditional knowledge and traditions can contribute to
the preparation of village microplans, which are prepared for eco-development,
joint forest management and rural development. The plans should be based
on both geographic and traditional community boundaries rather than only
on administrative boundaries.
Revival of the traditional water management systems that
have served the society for hundreds of years but are currently threatened
There is a clear need to integrate traditional and formal
sciences for participatory monitoring, and taking feedback to achieve adaptive
strategies for management of natural resources.
In spite of the value of traditional knowledge for biodiversity conservation
and natural resource management there still is a need to further the cause.
The following consideration may be useful in this respect:
Encouraging the documentation of indigenous knowledge
and its use in natural resource management. Such documentation should be
carried out in participation with the communities that hold the knowledge.
Due attention should be given to document the emic perspectives regarding
IK rather than only the perspectives of professional outsiders. The documentation
should not only consist of descriptions of knowledge systems and its use,
but also information on the threats to its survival. People's biodiversity
registers are a case in point (Gadgil 1994 & 1996, Gadgil et al.
2000). The program of People's Biodiversity Registers promotes folk ecological
knowledge and wisdom by devising a formal means for their maintenance, and
by creating new contexts for their continued practice. PBRs document traditional
ecological knowledge and practices on use of natural resources, with the
help of local educational institutions, teachers, students and NGOs working
in collaboration with local, institutions. Such a process and the resulting
documents, could serve a significant role in "promoting more sustainable,
flexible, participatory systems of management and in ensuring a better flow
of benefits from economic use of the living resources to the local communities"
(Gadgil et al. 2000).
Facilitating the translation of available and new documents
describing Indic traditions such as ancient texts on medicinal plants, into
local languages and dissemination of these documents amongst local people.
Such a translation is indeed required because texts are often available
in languages (e.g. Sanskrit) not understood by many in contemporary India.
On the other hand, translation of local knowledge into formal scientific
terminology will provide space to external researchers, policy makers, and
practitioners to comprehend and support people's knowledge systems and initiatives.
Facilitating the exchange of information amongst practitioners
of local knowledge.
Developing clear and concise educational material on traditional
knowledge systems to be used in communication programmes to impart information
regarding the merits and threats to indigenous knowledge systems to both
policy makers and the general public.
Scientific institutions have an important role to play in supporting the
knowledge systems. As has been pointed out earlier, it is now recognised that
a dichotomy between local and formal systems of knowledge is not real, and
that any knowledge is based on a set of basic values and beliefs and paradigms.
Therefore, there is a definite need to further develop systematic insight
into the nature and scope of traditional knowledge. The following activities
may be useful in this regard:
Developing curricula and methods for providing formal
training and education in traditional knowledge systems to agencies, researchers
and practitioners who work in collaboration with communities. In this context,
the Indian Himalayan Region, which represents a unique biogeographic entity,
new initiatives by G.B. Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development
have yielded positive results (see Dhar et al. 2002).
Developing research projects aimed at assessing the possibilities
and constraints of using traditional knowledge under specific conditions.
Such research projects should move beyond the first generation research
projects, which aimed at demonstrating the value of local knowledge systems
by focusing on successful cases of application. Second generation research
projects shall focus on comparing application of knowledge systems across
a range of circumstances and across disciplines to craft the traditional
Developing new methods for incorporating local knowledge
systems in natural resource management regimes through action research.
Along with science, local technologies (Gandhi, 1982) and people's knowledge
systems such as ethnoforestry have an important role to play for biodiversity
conservation and sustainability. Tribal's bag (Cox, 2000) and ancient texts
(Tunon and Bruhn, 1994) may still be the best way to screen for new herbal
medicines that may be useful in the treatment of diseases in the era of global
climate change. Village communities and other small-scale societies residing
continuously over a territory create, transmit and apply comprehensive knowledge
about the resources contained in the territory. In villages where women take
active part in natural resource management including agriculture and forestry
they develop repositories of local knowledge that is continuously applied,
tested and improved over time (Harding, 1998).
The 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity requires that every Contracting
Party should respect, preserve and maintain knowledge, innovations and practices
of traditional and local communities and promote the wider application with
the approval and involvement of the holder of such knowledge, innovations
and practices and encourage the equitable sharing of the benefits. As nations
implement the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) work programs, apply
its guidelines, and execute national strategies, its influence on science
is likely to grow. CBD-compliant national laws and policies already set priorities
for research and affect the way in which scientists can access and use genetic
resources (Kate, 2002).
By acknowledging and making use of peoples' knowledge we shall also promote
the principle of equity of knowledge (Pandey, 1998). Equity of knowledge between
local and formal sciences results in empowerment, security and opportunity
for local people. If the state and formal institutions incorporate people's
knowledge into the resource management decisions, it reduces the social barriers
to participation and enhances the capacity of the local people to make choices
to solve the problem. Traditional societies have accumulated a wealth of local
knowledge, transmitted from generation to generation. Experience has taught
them how the water, trees, and other natural resources should be used and
managed to last a long time. Equity of knowledge can also enhance the security
in its broadest sense. By capitalizing on the collective wisdom of formal
and traditional sciences, we shall be able to help people address the problem
of global warming as well as to manage the risks they face because of the
destruction of the local resources. Collective wisdom can help in the planning
and implementation of suitable programmes for managing the agroforests (Pandey,
2002b). This results in ecological, economic, and social security.
Equity of knowledge also provides opportunity for local people to participate
in the management of local affairs with global implications. It also provides
the opportunity for self-determination. The process of acquisition, transmission,
integration, and field application of traditional knowledge on tree-growing
with formal science promises to enhance the productivity and efficiency of
managing the natural resource. Human ecological perspective is vital in crafting
the sustainability science for natural resource management.
There has been a concern that care needs to be taken to distinguish valuable
knowledge from myth (Nature 2000). This may be useful from a different perspective
as well: that the useful knowledge is not lost. Identification of science
behind traditions (Arunachalam 2001) is a more constructive endeavor than
entering into the 'indigenous vs. scientific' or 'traditional vs. western'
arguments (Agrawal 1997). Scientists need not encounter traditional knowledge
systems uncritically, just as local people need not approach formal science
uncritically. Politically strident advocates of local knowledge systems as
well as formal science have done more harm than good by defending the exclusive
truth claims on the part of their discipline. "Exclusive truth claims assertion
of epistemological privilege are now not tenable either on the part of science
or local knowledge systems" (Pandey 2002a).
Nonetheless, it needs to be reiterated that formally trained scientists as
well as researchers on traditional knowledge systems have often misinterpreted
the process of what is often referred as validation. The term 'validation'
need not be understood from a narrow reductionist perspective of disciplinary
confines. It can, and should, draw on complimentarity and the "consilience"
across local and formal systems. Thus, both formal and local methods, as well
as local people and formally trained scientists, shall contribute to comprehend
the data, information and knowledge. In collaborative efforts of such kind
perhaps everyone involved may stand to benefit. Both local people as well
as external experts need access to the latest scientific developments and
see if it can help improve existing conservation knowledge and practices.
The policy makers need ready access to the science as well as understanding
the difficulties of its application (Kohm et al. 2000).
Indeed, there are numerous examples where local knowledge derived from long-term
nature-society interaction has been extremely useful in validating scientific
hypotheses and suggesting new research directions (see for example a recent
analysis by Kimmerer 2002, among others; see also Robertson and Hull 2001).
Likewise, formal scientific methods have been extremely valuable in validating
the traditional ethno-pharmacological knowledge by identifying the active
ingredients (chemicals) in plants used in ethnomedicine. One such example
of significant contribution that established the ancient-modern concordance
came with the isolation of the hypertensive alkaloid from the sarpagandha
plant (Rouwolfia serpentina), valued in Ayurveda for the treatment
of hypertension, insomnia, and insanity. Several such isolations of active
ingredients have been made since then (Dev 1999, Mishra et al. 2001)9.
Another example pertains to the conservation of ethnomedicinal species that
are also globally traded, and, therefore, have become endangered in India.
"A reasonable degree of scientific rigour" is required to assess
the threat status of species to be banned in trade (Ved et al. 1998)
as well as to monitor, learn and craft strategies for context specific adaptive
management by using formal and local sciences. The important issue to be guarded
here is that the benefits must go to the community.
Intellectual Property Rights are now being extended to beyond the conventional
domain of mechanical and chemical innovations to include biological resources.
National Biological Diversity Act of India in response to our commitment to
the Convention on Biological Diversity and intellectual property rights must,
therefore, devise operational mechanisms to share benefits of commercial applications
of traditional knowledge on biodiversity with local communities. Also useful
shall be to ensure a harmonized basket of rules made under the Patent Act,
Protected Plant Varieties Act, and the Biological Diversity Act (see, Utkarsh
et al. 1999 for further discussion).
Ultimately, it does precious little to present models, concepts, and results
of studies in academic discourses if those efforts are not tested under real
conservation situations (Kohm et al. 2000). Conservation scientists
must make a transition from "staid observer to participant at some level"
(Meffe 1998). Gone are the times when scientists could afford to say that
their work is to create knowledge, transmit it and leave application to policy
makers and practitioners. Scientists shall have to collaborate with people
to put forth new hypotheses that incorporate aspirations of formal and local
systems of knowing and modify their methodologies accordingly.
I would, therefore, forewarn against the futile philosophical arguments that
engage in the questions of supremacy of one faith over the other, or, a particular
knowledge system over the other. Humanity needs to go beyond disciplinary
divide and find a common ground across cultures, faiths and disciplines (Pandey,
Collective wisdom of humanity for conservation of biodiversity, embodied
both in formal science as well as local systems of knowledge, therefore, is
the key to pursue our progress towards sustainability.
I am grateful to the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India
for supporting this work in part under the National Biodiversity Action Programme
Project. I would also like to thank Shri N. K. Joshi, Director, Indian Institute
of Forest Management, Bhopal and Additional Director General, Ministry of
Environment and Forests, Government of India, Dr. Ram Prasad, PCCF, MP, Dr.
Ashish Kothari, Coordinator, NBSAP, Kanchi Kohli, Seema Bhatt, Neema Pathak,
Madhu Sarin, Darshan Shankar and P.V. Satheesh for suggestions on an earlier
version of the paper. Support of the World Bank WWF Global Alliance
for Forest Conservation and Sustainable Use, the Ford Foundation and Wonrock
International to programmes on traditional knowledge and sustainability at
Indian Institute of Forest Management, Bhopal is gratefully acknowledged.
Table 1: Human ecological and indigenous perspective for biodiversity management
Suggestions for policy and practice*
Biodiversity Conservation and maintenance of ecosystem functions
- Application of the principles of sustainability science for forest
management attempting to address the nature-society interaction will
need an interdisciplinary approach as well as multiple stocks of knowledge
and institutional innovations to navigate transition toward sustainable
forest management (Pandey, 2002c).
- Representation of all forest types in protected areas, both formal
and ethnoforestry regimes, which are managed collaboratively (Reid,
2001) and link culture and conservation (Byers et al.,
- Protection of natural forests against wild-fires, grazing, and unmanaged
removals with the help of local strategies of herders, and resident
2000). As local people often have awareness about
the application of fire, the different fire use practices can be identified
for grassland management. These practices reflect a well adapted production
strategy. Policy decisions should as far as possible be flexible in
the light of local understanding of fire use (Mbow et al., 2000) wherever possible.
- Preventing fragmentation and providing connectivity to conserve biodiversity
in landscape continuum. Improvement of existing shifting cultivation
methods with integration of traditional knowledge and new practices
can be helpful in addressing the problem (Gupta, 2000).
- Maintenance of gene pool diversity in natural and cultural landscapes
(Saleh, 2000). Elements to conserve can be identified with the help
of the local ethnoecological perceptions (Johnson,
- Restoration of degraded forests with multiple use trees, shrubs and
herbs along with regeneration regimes that necessarily combine rainwater
harvest, direct seeding, resprouting, and plantations if needed.
- Maintenance of woody vegetation in ethnoforestry regimes in landscape
continuum (households, cultural landscapes, agroecosystems, and wilderness).
- Protection to a variety of woody vegetation management regimes in agroecosystems
to maximize social and economic benefits to the people as well maintenance
of ecosystems functions such as natural pest control, pollination,
carbon storage, regulation of hydrological cycle etc.
- Protection to large trees in natural, cultural and human modified landscapes
as well as agroforestry systems (Castro, 1991; Chandler, 1994; Chepstow-Lusty
and Jonsson, 2000) as they act as seed source, conserve carbon pool,
and act as habitat for seed-dispersing birds, small mammals, and other
- Soil conservation, and enhancement of soil fertility through conservation/restoration
of woody leguminous species across landscape continuum. Swidden farming
that is often central to the cultural identity of many indigenous
people, continues to be viable in several cases, despite increasing
population density and the continuing depletion of mature forests. By integrating commercially valuable perennial leguminous
trees with crops, soil fertility can be maintained along with improvement
to socio-economic condition of the people (Iskandar
and Ellen, 2000).
- Community-based management regimes and common property management (Lu,
2001; Burke, 2001) built on the principle of equity of knowledge among
stakeholders, and that rely capitalizing on natural recovery mechanisms
will prevent further catastrophic shift and degradation and retain
the multiple values of land. Community
conservation initiatives seeking to make conservation worthwhile to
local people have a strong economic dimension. But, the choices made
by local landowners are not a simple function of the economic returns
potentially accruing from a particular enterprise. They are as much
or more influenced by who is able to control the different flows of
returns from these different types of enterprise (Thompson
and Homewood, 2002).
- Secure land tenure for indigenous people, who otherwise perceive conservation
as luxury (Marcus, 2001).
- Maintaining the gender equity as a means to redistribute access to productive
resources and household benefits (Ahmed and Laarman, 2000).
- Institutional coordination
of pastoral movements over formal tenure for pasturelands (Fernández-Giménez, 2002).
- The adoption of agroforestry is determined
by the farmers' attitude to agroforestry, which in turn was shaped
by information received through farmer-to-farmer and farmer-to-extension
contact (Glendinning et
al., 2001). A clear extension programme, therefore,
shall always be helpful for designing the multifunctional agroforestry
- Adaptive strategies for resource management
Providing goods and services to the society
Social well-being of the people
Economic well-being of people
*Column 3 provides consolidated suggestions because each one often addresses
more than one key challenge.
For additional examples, see, Ashish Kothari and Priya Das. Local Community
Knowledge and Practices: Implications for Biodiversity. 2nd Congress on Traditional
Sciences and Technologies, Chennai. (Also in Darrel Posey (ed.), Cultural
and Biological Diversity, UNEP.).
See also NBSAP thematic as well as regional reports for various regions
that have specific examples pertaining to regions and ecosystems discussed.
1. Indian Forest Service, Associate Professor, Coordinator, IUFRO Research
Group on Ethnoforestry (6.19.00); Indian Institute of Forest Management, Bhopal,
India-462003, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
2. A detailed discussion on the dichotomy of knowledge systems is beyond
the scope of this paper; but see Agrawal (1995 a&b) and Agrawal (1997)
3. It is pertinent to note the review comments by PV Satheesh and Madhu Sarin
on local knowledge systems: "Within the cosmos of people's knowledge
systems there is an empirical assemblage of hypothesis, observation, experimentation
and ultimate acceptance that cover periods of centuries. It has its own built
in peer review system".
4. Intended conservation is understood here as a practice that is designed
basically for biodiversity conservation. Although the contrary may be argued
on this issue (see, Smith and Wishnie, 2000) but this article assumes that
notwithstanding the contending claims on whether the biodiversity conservation
by local people is an intended or incidental conservation, examples of local
resource management systems and biodiversity conservation are available extensively
in Asia, Africa, Americas, Europe and Oceania. Thus, several indigenous practices
on resource management do result into biodiversity conservation.
5. Kautilya was a political economist of ancient India who compiled the
Arthashastra around 300 BC.
6. Numbers refer to the book number, chapter and verse number and translation
referred here is by Rangarajan (1976).
7. Arrangements of the verses are based on the Bhat (1981); translation of
the relevant Sanskrit text of the Brahatsamhita is by the author.
8. This article does not discuss IPRs in any detail as the focus is little
different. Nonetheless, issue of IPR is very crucial. See, other thematic
paper on the issue. See also Mashelkar, (2001), and Utkarsh et al. (1999)
for multifaceted analysis.
9. For additional resources on Ayurveda, see, for example Dev (1997), Valecha
et al. (2000), and Pal (2002). Because plants are useful and needed during
urgency a system of protection that ensures their availability in neighbourhood
promotes biodiversity conservation.
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Deep Narayan Pandey, IFS
Coordinator, IUFRO Research Group-6.19.00 Ethnoforestry
Coordinator, International Network on Ethnoforestry
Indian Institute of Forest Management
Phone: 91-755-763490; Fax: 91-755-772878