African and European weather and environments are quite different. This means European technology for improving farming might not work in Africa.
Locals often have knowledge of their environment that has been passed on through generations. Farmers tend to know about the properties of local plants. Hunters tend to know about the behaviour of animals. This knowledge can be used to improve farming in ways that formal scientists would not think of.
THE NEEM TREE IN NIGER
The neem tree is a plant used in Niger. Its seeds and leaves are used to protect grain stores against insects. Scientists from the University of Minnesota in America tested the plant. They found that its seeds were the most powerful part of the plant for keeping insects away.
Farmers then started using a paste of crushed neem seeds on their crops. This technique has successfully kept locusts away. The technique is safe because it does not damage the environment, which chemical pesticides can do.The technology can now be sent to other places in the world.
FISHING IN THE NIGER RIVER
During colonialism, French authorities imposed their own fishing methods on the Niger river. Teaching about fishing was centred on their approach until 1983, when the Niger River Fisheries Project began.
Local fishermen participated in the project to provide centuries-old information about river ecology. This was combined with scientific information from biological research, fish capture, and socioeconomic surveys. The management program they created has been successful; there was an increase in yields of fish as a result.
WHAT ARE THE ISSUES?
Local Innovators often don’t have enough political pressure to have a strong impact on big companies. However, people are becoming more aware of the dangers of using too many chemicals, such as contaminating water sources. Therefore, they are looking more towards using local knowledge in agriculture.
WHAT ARE THE SOLUTIONS?
Partnerships between scientists and locals should be encouraged. Local innovations can be spread more widely if they are combined with formal science. When scientists actually listen to locals, they can make the most effective use of their resources and skills. Local knowledge should become more mainstream in teaching about agriculture.