Friday, July 15, 2005

Vrije Universiteit Brussel: Conference on African Indigenous Knowledge

Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) will host an International Conference this autumn on "Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) in Africa and their Relevance for Sustainable Development"

The purpose of this conference is "to facilitate research on IKS, a systematic documentation, as well as the exchange and sharing of information on the subject." And this will be done in order to analyze how IKS can help Africa to accelerate the Sustainable Development process.

The Human Ecology Department of VUB (Free University of Brussels - for "English Only" speakers) will be organizing the international conference, which will take place on its Jette Campus from November 21st through the 23rd of 2005.

The conference is organized so as to meet its specific objectives, which, according to the web site, are:

- providing a platform for discussing and generating a heightened understanding of the role of indigenous knowledge systems in SD of Africa.

- raising adequate awareness on the importance of IKS in the SD process.

- analysing the major constraints hindering an effective development and use of traditional knowledge systems in promoting SD in Africa.

Indigenous knowledge and indigenous knowledge systems (IKS) in Africa have become increasingly significant in the area of sustainable development (SD) as well as in the rest of the developing world.

Unlike Western Knowledge Systems (WKS), which have become the norm in many global cultures, Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) are specific to certain areas and cultures. Because of the localized utility of the various IKS, they are being more and more suppressed by the pressures of a global economy and culture.

Also, because of the narrow range of utility of IKS, they have not been adequately researched and documented in the past.

If I may take the liberty to quote from a large chunk of the Conference's Announcement that contains language which may seem stilted, but is absolutely necessary because of its precise nature:

"Indigenous knowledge in Africa is an embodiment of different modes of thought and 'epistemology'. It is an appropriate avenue for appraising development paradigms being implemented in the continent. Indigenous knowledge refers to traditional and local knowledge existing within and developed around specific conditions of women and men indigenous to a particular geographic area in contrast with knowledge generated within the international system of universities, research institutes and private firms (Warren, 1991). The Convention on Biological Diversity (UN, 1992) calls on all the contracting parties to the Convention to respect traditional indigenous knowledge with regard to the preservation of biodiversity and its sustainable use. For the World Bank (2004), indigenous knowledge refers to the large body of knowledge and skills that have been developed outside the formal educational system.

The culture and knowledge systems of indigenous people and their institutions provide useful frameworks, ideas, guiding principles, procedures and practices that can serve as a foundation for effective endogenous development options for restoring social, economic, and environmental resilience in many parts of Africa and the developing world in general. It is therefore essential that traditional knowledge systems in the continent should not be subsumed by the domination of cultures that notoriously foster inequality and materialism."

"Indigenous knowledge systems (IKS) are 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 resource management. IKS point to how indigenous people manipulate their knowledge, which has accumulated, evolved and practiced for generations. They epitomize the relationship and interaction between indigenous peoples and their natural surroundings."

The point of bringing this attention to the readers of this Blog it to alert folks to a conference that will help western oriented individuals in understanding the importance of indigenous knowledge and indigenous knowledge systems in Africa and to use that knowledge and those systems in furthering the many and various goals of those individuals and groups who are seeking to improve the quality of life for All Africans.

More information can be found at the Announcement for the Conference (which is in PDF format) at:

Contact for the Conference is: Vu Van Hieu
Dep't of Human Ecology
Free University of Brussels
(Vrije Unversiteit Brussel)

A Conference pre-registration forms in html and pdf formats are available on line.

Specific questions about the conference may be addressed to:
Prof. Dr. Emmanuel Boon
Human Ecology Department
Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Laarbeeklaan 103
B - 1090 Brussels
T el: +32 2 477 49 35 or 32 2 477 42 81
Fax: +32 2 477 49 64

In the subject part of the e-mail please mention: " IKS Conference "

Vrije Universiteit Brussel's Human Ecology Department has a web presence at:

and the Conference Announcement is also located at:

It is worth the cyber trip there to see the types of things that they are doing at the Free University of Brussels.

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