Roland Bardy

BardyConsult, Germany,
Executive Professor, Florida Gulf Coast University, USA

Sustainable development in developing countries is only possible when it involves a bottom-up approach and brings in a multitude of local endeavors. In order for this to occur, community knowledge bases must be captured and utilized. There are innumerable economic, social and ecological benefits of using local communities’ resources and stakeholders, and their indigenous knowledge. A combination of knowledge management and systemic approaches can amalgamate this into practical methodologies for building new ventures toward sustainable development and fostering pertinent projects and programmes.

Traditional knowledge and value patterns in relation to ecology and human life have always been intrinsically engrained in the lives of indigenous people. They have, however, not always been met with an open-mind by developed nations. But for agendas destined to helping societies with low life expectancy, low levels of sustenance, and low standards of living much more must be done than to merely transfer sophisticated scientific models from “the West”. Development policies for these communities must integrate traditional wisdom and thus provide opportunities to practically and purposefully apply it. One way to do this is to create regional centers where this body of knowledge can be maintained and be made available. An example of this would be the Education for Sustainable Development Programme at the United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability. Another key way to preserve and make available indigenous wisdom is by connecting this knowledge and experiences with academic institutions on the ground and worldwide.

What we are talking about is centuries of co-existence with natural ecosystems that has resulted in some of the richest collective memories on patterns and behavior of biological resources and environmental changes. Indigenous peoples, for example in Africa, have developed a close and unique connection with the lands and environments in which they live, and they have a wide array of beliefs, as well as a strong sense of ethics and what is right and wrong. In addition, they have been deploying a wide range of different techniques to cope with their intricate relationships with their biodiverse resources which are embedded in their cultures. They range from soil and water conservation; mixed cropping, contour cultivation, and other vegetative measures to land use change and rational land-use planning in agroforestry. Applying this wisdom in conjunction with carefully selected Western techniques will successfully unearth the vast opportunities that exist on African soil and in similar communities elsewhere.