Posted to the Ethnos Project by on July 21st, 2013

Public libraries in South Africa engage with local communities to preserve indigenous knowledge. This involves teaching them to use ICT tools.

Indigenous knowledge affects the well-being of the majority of people in developing countries. Some 80% of the world’s population depends on indigenous knowledge to meet their medicinal needs, and at least 50% rely on indigenous knowledge for their food supplies. Because it is mostly stored in people’s minds and passed on through generations by word of mouth rather than in written form, it is susceptible to rapid change.

Nowadays, ICTs can help to document and disseminate indigenous knowledge. In South Africa, it is mainly libraries that have accepted the challenge of preserving indigenous knowledge systems. For example, the consortium of eThekwini Municipal Libraries, which serves 89 local public libraries in the Durban area (Durban is the second-largest city of South Africa), started a crowdsourcing experiment to collect local indigenous knowledge.

This Ulwazi programme mainly records Zulu culture, but it has the broader aim of capturing the mix and interaction of different cultures in the Durban area. Examples of indigenous knowledge collected through the Ulwazi programme are traditional celebrations, traditional clothing, Zulu proverbs, traditional folk tales, the use of spiritual herbs and traditional agricultural methods.

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