n Indilinga African Journal of Indigenous Knowledge Systems - Indigenous knowledge systems and agricultural rural development in South Africa : past and present perspectives

Volume 13, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1683-0296



Indigenous knowledge (IK) has formed the backbone of rural livelihoods for centuries. It preserved biodiversity and ensured long-term sustainability of natural resources. In South Africa and elsewhere, its survival was threatened by the arrival of Europeans and colonialism. The status and role of IK in South Africa with special emphasis on agricultural rural development are discussed. The article shows how colonialism and, more recently, apartheid impacted the IK of South African rural communities. The essential aspects critical to understanding IK for agricultural rural development, particularly in research, are considered. Lastly, the emergence of IK within the research and political domains in South Africa is explored. Although the South African government has made substantial progress towards promoting and protecting IK for the betterment of rural communities, there are still gaps and challenges. Politically these include the need for further legislation on intellectual property and general implementation of existing IK systems policies. In research, although many studies have been carried out on culture and ethnomedicine, other IK categories, notably soil and agriculture, have received insufficient attention. If maximisation of the contribution of IK is to be realised these need to be addressed as they are central to agricultural innovation and agricultural development.

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