Understanding indigenous and exogenous knowledge interactions within agricultural communities in rural Bangladesh

GCRF QR Pump Priming Award (£7000)

Co-Investigators: Dr Suvodeep Mazumdar & Dr Andrea Jiminez

Agricultural communities in rural areas in the global South have long accessed indigenous knowledge (i.e.that has existed within families and communities) to provide growing sustenance, income and resilience to climate events. Much of this tacit knowledge is shared from generations to generations as a part of daily-living. The introduction of exogenous knowledge (i.e. modern scientific knowledge, techniques, real-time data) such as chemical fertilisers and genetically modified crops have increased yields many fold, albeit at risk of traditional knowledge becoming subordinated and potentially extinct. Preserving indigenous knowledge is essential to ensuring long-term environmental protection, crop diversity, food security, sustainable development and resilience to climate change. Moreover, adopting such knowledge will lead to protecting and safeguarding the cultural heritage of generations of agricultural communities.

With the proliferation of mobiles and affordable smartphones, agricultural communities in rural Bangladesh can now access external data, resulting in an interesting hybrid situation where indigenous and exogenous knowledge mix. Previous studies have explored either the use of indigenous techniques for farming and environmental protection; or application of new technologies for agriculture. There is now a critical need to understand how indigenous knowledge that has existed for centuries in Bangladesh can be adopted in conjunction with other forms of data to overcome future environmental and agricultural challenges.

The project (comprising of Information School, Sheffield Institute for International Development, two universities (ULAB and NSU) in the global South, an NGO (Tech4Dev, BRAC) and an innovation lab (a2i)) therefore aims to answer ‘how can tacit, indigenous knowledge be combined with exogenous knowledge to help communities better respond to environmental and agricultural challenges?’. The study will (via participant observations, 20 semi-structured interviews and two field visits (15 days)) attempt to gather a deeper understanding of how agricultural communities use, generate and preserve indigenous knowledge as well as how exogenous knowledge is currently delivered to the communities.