Knowledge of traditional medicine and other indigenous knowledge systems are fragile with inadequate appreciation, recognition and sharing of it, especially the area of traditional medicine and medicinal species, a direct utilization of high biodiversity, are most at risk and undermined in  most development interventions.  The indigenous knowledge sector in most developing countries is under-regulated and not well mainstreamed in national plans for agriculture, environment-biodiversity, climate adaption, poverty reduction and healthcare provision.  In this paper, the author is going to discuss five strategies which can be used to document indigenous knowledge.
Indigenous knowledge is defined by Mugabe (1998) “as knowledge that is held and made use of by people who regard themselves indigenous to a particular place.  This is based on a combination of cultural uniqueness and prior territorial occupancy relative to a more recently arrived population with its own distinct and subsequently dominant-culture”  Greyling B (2007:2) posits that “indigenous knowledge is part and parcel of the culture and history of any local community… because indigenous knowledge is mostly stored in people’s minds and passed on through generations by word of mouth rather than in written form, it is vulnerable to rapid change (Sithole 2006)hence the need to document Indigenous Knowledge.
The first strategy which can be used to document indigenous knowledge is to seek the involvement of a particular community because indigenous knowledge is imbedded in the cultural practices of a particular community, their beliefs, cultural norms, traditions and rites. Grayling B (2007) says every sphere of the community must be involved whenever the documentation of indigenous knowledge is thought.  Every member of the community must be encouraged to participate.  People such as community leaders, councilors, tribal authorities, field workers and community members themselves should be encouraged to participate in the documentation programs.  Field workers are normally responsible for data collection from the community through interviews, questionnaires, and etcetera.

Information gathered is recorded on audio cassettes audiovisual cassettes, recorded in diaries or passed digitally on websites.  Field officers also reach out to the community by inviting people to come to the library to post their information on the internet.  They also go out to functions and visit individual as needed to do recordings which are added to the database later”.  The elderly, the youth, cultural groups including artists and crafters, professionals and technologists are all consulted in the documentation of indigenous knowledge.

Mahapatra & Mahalik (2012:101) says “most of the indigenous traditional knowledge are undocumented and are available orally or in memory of the group of the community of a region or area”.  They go on to say sources of the traditional knowledge mainly derive from human experiences, beliefs and practices which are collected from several sources.
The second strategy which can be used to document indigenous knowledge is the use of libraries.  Grayling (2007) says libraries can initiate a documentation of indigenous knowledge.  He says people must not restrict the library’s role as to provide access to information resources only but library are also responsible for publication of indigenous knowledge and build up a collection on that subject.  The library had a responsibility to provide access to information also from the oral, digital and any other media I which it is supplied.  As the author had indicated above that field officers are responsible for the recording of traditional knowledge from the community in paper form, audio, audio visual formats, the recorded information is surrendered to the library.

The library through its indigenous knowledge development policies, classify, index, catalogue, accession any indigenous knowledge in whatever format and show the information.  The result would be the proper care and easy access of information.  The library facilities database design, setup and branding, along with the public internet access at any branch or other community centre from which the program is run.  In short, the library can train field officers on IT skills, interview techniques etc and it is a custodian of all indigenous e-resource that is created

The third strategy which can be used to document indigenous knowledge is the use of information communication technologies.  Information and communication technologies (ICT’S) and digital technologies are omnipresent in the global information society.  Dyson et-al[ 2007:319] defines ICT’s as “computers, software, networks, satellite links and related systems that allow (end) users to access, analyze, create, exchange, and use data, information and knowledge.  Dyson et-al; [2007:XVI) says the multi-media consists of digital video and recording devices, online databases, communication tools such as internet and technologies offered by ICT’s “provide new opportunities to preserve and revitalize indigenous cultures and language.  ICT applications have the potential to generate and share indigenous narratives, stories and experiences as a source of meaning that is: lived and made transparent in everyday relations, rituals and activities (NAHO, 2001:3) quoted in Averweg U.R. (2007).

Averweg U.R (2207) says in the eThekwini Municapal libraries “a Ulwazi Indigenous Knowledge” program, the eThekwini Municipality’s existing library ICT infrastructure provides electronic access to local communities.  It allows community members to add local knowledge content via the internet and thereby become ‘digital’ and information-wise.  In this program, ‘ICTs) are an enabler to preserve and revitalize indigenous knowledge, indigenous cultures and languages.

Gumbula J (2006:95) posits that whenever digitalization of indigenous knowledge is the first step to identify the material to be preserved and the capture it into the digital form so that the material can be systematically documented, shared, and re-used by permitted groups or individuals.  “Because of the oral tradition of indigenous knowledge, audiovisual digital recording devices such as digital video cameras and audio recorders are a primary tool for capturing techniques, practices, stories, language, songs and dancer.  Scanner is used to digitalize photographs, manuscripts, maps and historical documents”.

The fourth strategy to be used in documenting indigenous knowledge is the involvement of tertiary education institutions such as colleges and universities.  These institutions can include in their curricula the teaching of indigenous knowledge up to university level.  Universities can publish journals and book on indigenous knowledge.  However, it is the capacity of the educational institution to conduct researchers that they are at better position in the documentation of indigenous knowledge.  Weisheit (2012)

Universities can; conduct inter-disciplinary research on indigenous knowledge systems initiate long-term efforts to promote and utilize indigenous knowledge for social, economic, cultural and educational development and integrate indigenous knowledge in the various professional fields such as medicine, agriculture, construction, art, and crafts, social services, business studies etc.

The fifth strategy which can be used to document indigenous knowledge is the development of sound policies which encourages the documentation and use of indigenous knowledge.  For example, in Zimbabwe we had the Act which gave birth to ZINATHA, the Patent Act, the Copyright and Neighboring Rights Act, the Intellectual Property Act.  All these are national policies which encourage the documentation of traditional indigenous knowledge.  Policies can be developed at institution level, for example, the collection development policies should encourage the collection of books with local content.  Regional and global policies can also encourage the use of indigenous knowledge to achieve the Millennium Development goals hence the need to promote such information.

Nakata M & Langton M 2005, Australian Indigenous Knowledge and libraries, UTSePress Sydney, Australia

Averweg U.R, The role of information and communication techniques in indigenous knowledge preservation, eThekwini Municipality and University of Kwazulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

Ngulube P, 2002, Managing and preserving indigenous knowledge in the knowledge management Era:  Challenges and opportunities for information professionals.  Sage Publication found online

Nakashima D, 2004, The local and indigenous knowledge systems programme of UNESCO, UNESCO

Weisheit A, 2011, Institutionalisation of indigenous knowledge research for development:  Institute of Indigenous Knowledge (IIK), Mbarara University of Science and Technology (NUST), UGANDA found online

Etiwel Mutero works for the National University of Science and Technology,he holds a National Certificate in Records and Information Science from Kwekwe Polytechnic and  a Bachelor of Science Honours Degree in Records and Archives Management from the Zimbabwe Open University.Do you want assistance in writing your college or university assignment? You can contact Etiwel Mutero on 0773614293 or

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