Traditional knowledge diminishes among tribals: IIITM-K study

Thiruvananthapuram, Dec. 12: Traditional knowledge passed down several generations of the tribals in Kerala by their ancestors has suffered massive erosion and is gradually disappearing now, reveals a study conducted by city-based Indian Institute of Information Technology and Management-Kerala (IIITM-K).  


A first-of-its-kind study in India, it provides a quantitative estimate of traditional knowledge that is disappearing at an alarming rate.  


“The degradation of conventional knowledge is alarming,” revealed the study, conducted by C.V. Raman Laboratory of Ecological Informatics at the IIITM-K among eight tribal races in the Western Ghats.


The study was conducted among the Kurichyar, Kattunaikkar (Wayanad); Cholanaikkar, Paniyar (Nilambur); Irular, Kurumbar (Palakkad); and Kaanikkar, Malapandaram (Kollam) tribal groups. Statistical analysis of the compiled data has thrown unprecedented result in the form of estimates for erosion or retention of traditional knowledge within the communities.


The survey was designed in such a way as to elicit binary mode of response as ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ The information was gathered on the basis of a simple questionnaire and it was assessed scientifically. The questions covered areas including honey collection; knowledge about herbs and their usage; prevention of blight in paddy fields; finding of edible leaves and potatoes; worship of rain, turmeric, hibiscus and paddy; umbrella making; treatment for venom; and various tribal arts and handicrafts. 


The knowledge of the participants was segregated in 10-25, 25-50 and above 50 age groups. During the study, it was revealed that the dwindling of traditionally-inherited knowledge is mostly finds among youths, especially among men.


The Kurichya and Kurumba triabls have lost more than half of their traditional knowledge, Cholanaikar and Malapandaram tribals have lost 33 per cent while Kaani and Kattunaikkar have lost 40 to 45 per cent. Malapandaram tribals have ‘very least traditionally-acquired knowledge before and now’.


Commenting on the findings, Dr. Jaishankar. R. Nair, Head of C.V. Raman Laboratory of Ecological Informatics, said the study on traditionally-inherited knowledge was conducted among the tribals living in the Western Ghats as it is included in the UN’s World Heritage Site.


“The diminishing of traditional knowledge is detrimental to the existence of geo heritage sites. The study manifests the need for preserving this traditional knowledge at any cost,” he added.


The survey and research team comprised Saroj Kumar, V Sooraj. N.P, M. Somasekharan Pillai and Ram Boojh.


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