Local knowledge is an eclipsed marginal truth the history of which lies in the organic fringe ignored by the high / elite culture and also by the historians who ‘wrote’ history. The enquiry of local knowledge begins from the fall of the Eurocentric rationalism and its know-how of ‘scientific technology’ that ruled the world for more than two centuries. Different from Eurocentric concept of progress, when people think of sustainable development the local knowledge becomes important. Instead of following the progress and development imposed by the power centers of the upper strata to the bottom I tentatively suggest a return to the one that grows form down to earth observations upwards, which is the local learning. It is an amalgamation of all branches of knowledge to an integrated structure of the society. Local knowledge cannot be found out or defined according to the rules of universal theories; it sprouts from regional specificities. Not depending on the established research methodology and personal / individual subjective study, one has to take the society – centered perspective as this is a community based research and participatory action. The methodology of this process is sharing the local / traditional knowledge (SLK / STK).
This is a methodology of exchanging and sharing knowledge the inhabitants of each locality achieved through observations, experiments, success and failures during the last hundreds of years. This they acquired by seeing, hearing and doing things themselves; and the locals even today term these as knowledge by seeing, knowledge by hearing and knowledge by observing. Things hidden in the layers of the past are unearthed when informal dialogue are conducted with the people of an older generation, Martha Johnson says, “TEK [Traditional environmental knowledge] is based on diachronic data (long time series of information on one locality); Western science is largely based on synchronic data (short time series over a large area).”
People who collect information from the folk are really making an anthology of knowledge transmitted through oral tradition. Local / folk knowledge has its own way of classification systems. It contains rational observation of natural laws and tactics that do not harm the environment but give sustainable appreciation for it. Natural wealth is not ‘exploited’, but manipulated without inflicting any injury to nature. With the help of local technology, natural wealth and wealth of knowledge are welded to these people are many. The alienated society of the present age is badly in need of collectiveness, awareness of local history and autonomous cultural and economic existence. The collective endeavour of the labour – culture of the tribal /folk local people created a number of art forms along with many branches of practical knowledge. As the number of informants of all branches of disciplines is decreasing fast, the knowledge of the environment also is taken away from the people. The history of those who were out of the periphery of the “known” history of kings and centers of power also is disappearing. In the process of collecting information about the multiform methods of farming, bio-diversity, local practices, the structure of interlacing myth and history the participatory researchers can bring out a new picture of life of the people. The history of people can be brought to life for which the oral tradition of transmission of knowledge by the locals is to be studied.
All the traditional ways of study, transmission of knowledge, practical skill etc. have declined to their lowest ebb due to globalisation. As a result of this, local knowledge is snatched away from the aqtual authorities of it and patented: it is high time that a resistance against this exploitation is waged. The forestlore that gives the knowledge of the wilderness and the seeds is the basic structure of bio-diversity which is now jeopardized. The local people used to keep the healthy seeds in their terracotta and palm / coconut leaf containers every year for the next season and this sustained the balance and resistance of seeds for centuries together. The rituals, art forms, customs and beliefs connected with this knowledge actually created a structure of the life for them. To make this knowledge a contemporary living tradition through the skilled works, folk art forms and other ways of expressions is the purpose of this study. By registering even a piece of knowledge, the declaration of intellectual property right of the local knowledge is established. Planning then becomes a festival of local people.
This embraces all aspects such as knowledge of the soil, flora and fauna, preservation of the balance of environment, water management, local veterinary, local myth / philosophy, local methodology of education, local games, local antiques, markets, festivals fishing etc. This is different from the history of knowledge written by power centers and if lies in oral tradition. Unlike the imposed / applied / distorted information propagated by the beneficiaries of power centers, this sprouts from the organic situations of local people and their life. This is not a ‘taught’ one but a perspective of life. It is not a human centered objective outlook, but a perspective comprising the relationship of everything nature; and it is unlike that knowledge which teaches how to control and exploit nature.
The need of a defensive role is necessary in this century and a new methodology is to be formulated for collection and the study of Local Knowledge. That follows:
1. Formation of centers for the study of LK.
2. Formulation of the methodology of collection of LK.
3. Giving training to people in collection the LK.
4. A model questionnaire at micro level.
5. The cultural work such as field survey.
6. Props and tools for field survey.
7. Categorisation of the collected information and preparation of a Register of LK of each branch.
8. Museum, library and audio, video documentation of LK.
9. Exhibition of material culture / folklore and creative crafts.
10. Sharing the Local / Traditional knowledge. This can be arranged in informal ways of assembly of knowledgeable local people. It is a counter structure against the prevailing formal one. Old scholars and knowledgeable persons of both sexes ready to share information with younger generation are to be invited or they are to be contacted. When the knowledge is shared, it is to be documented properly. It is a discourse, discussion, sharing and exchange of ideas. When a number of knowledgeable persons of the locality gather together and exchange ideas / impart knowledge, the collected matter will be of an integral nature.
11. Special training in collection and recording the local dialects, idioms, sayings, secret language and local classification systems.
12. Visit to the workplaces of the skilled people, foundries and their houses.
13. Imparting training to youngsters under the leadership of handicrafts masters.
14. Rejuvenation of the almost defunct knowledge of handicrafts, local recipe, folk performances etc. Preparation of calender of local rituals, festivals, and agricultural activities.
15. Declaration by the local people of their right of intellectual property, right to have the patent of local seeds, plants, special genus of flora and fauna etc.
This intellectual / cultural fortification will redefine the outlook of like of the people. The Centre for Folklore Studies, Trichur, Kerala in collaboration with the people’s Plan Programme and NGO s has organized and executed a number of programmes in Kerala.