Independent Knowledge Systems: briefing

Meeting Summary

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Meeting report


12 April 2000

Documents handed out:
Proposed Framework for the National Research Foundation's Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) Research Programme (See Appendix 1)
National Research Foundation's Indigenous Knowledge Research Business Plan (See Appendix 2)
Executive Summary of Indigenous Knowledge Systems (See Appendix 3)

Chairperson: Mr D.M Kgware
Dr P Nerhulolo, from the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology, explained that an audit had been carried out on indigenous knowledge systems by previously disadvantaged universities. Rural communities around these institutions were also drawn in. It was noted that people are concerned about the protection of their indigenous items and information.

This concern for protection, in part, culminated in the pending Bill on indigenous knowledge systems. The Bill aims to protect and promote these systems.

The Department was concerned that if the proposed Bill did not take into account the international context where the products were going to be promoted, problems could arise. A lot could be learnt from India on how it has dealt with its own indigenous knowledge systems. As a result the Department is proposing a study tour to India.

A sum of R10 million had been put aside to provide support for indigenous knowledge systems.

Mr P Mjwaga, from the National Research Foundation, added that the Department is looking at interfacing indigenous knowledge systems with modern science. He said that they are developing a conceptual foundation for it. There was concern about the potential commercialisation of the indigenous items. The need for the protection of the indigenous knowledge systems in the light of the potential abuse by foreigners was highlighted.

The strategy that would be followed was:
a) to establish partnerships between universities, communities and other organised establishments
b) set up centres of excellence across the SADC region
c) look at internationalisation, especially from India
d) building research capacity
e) pre-review and project evaluation.

He further said that as part of their prioritisation process, there would be workshops with all the relevant stakeholders.


Mr Qokweni (UDM): Co-ordination with other departments was necessary in the light of the multi-dimensional nature of the indigenous knowledge systems. What extent of community participation existed in relation to indigenous knowledge systems?

(A): We must include as many departments as possible because most of what is entailed in the indigenous knowledge systems affect different departments. The involvement will also be necessary in order to avoid breaking statutes already applicable in this country and to make sure that our research is in line with other departments. Communities have been approached for active participation, for example Mr Serote has approached a chief in Free State.

(Q): Who are the other stakeholders that you are talking about?

(A): Universities, representatives of the Traditional Council, and the Departments of Trade and Industry, Health and Environment Affairs and Tourism.

(Q): People from overseas are ravaging our mountains in their quest for healing plants, for example around Thabazimbi, are you doing anything to protect our environment as well as protecting our people from abuse by foreigners?

(A): Until the Bill on Indigenous Knowledge Systems is processed, we cannot talk about protection of indigenous knowledge. Mechanisms on protection will depend on the Bill. We can only raise awareness around the need for the protection of indigenous knowledge.

(Q): How will people know about the planned workshops?

(A): There will be workshops for each and every region. Attempts are being made to attract as many relevant people as possible.

(Q): What is the progress regarding the consortium which had been established by a group of researchers who wanted to gain financially?

(A): We are not aware of any consortium set up by researchers as yet, but we will follow this up.

The meeting adjourned.


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