International Agriculture News, Opinions

The Value of Traditional African Knowledge in Agriculture

TEDGlobal is an annual conference exploring innovative ideas and creative projects from all around the world.

TEDGlobal 2017, held in Arusha, Tanzania, featured more than 45 speakers and performers exploring ideas in TED’s signature format of short, dynamic talks. In “How Africa Can Use Its Traditional Knowledge to Make Progress,” indigenous knowledge expert Chika Ezeanya-Esiobu shares successful examples of traditional African knowledge in modern agriculture and policy-making.

“I have been conducting research on Africa’s knowledge system, original, authentic, traditional knowledge. In the few cases where this has been implemented in Africa, there has been remarkable successes recorded,” Ezeanya-Esiobu says.

One example Ezeanya-Esiobu cites is Niger’s Tassa technique, an indigenous irrigation practice that she shows to be far more effective in the region than western irrigation methods. Tassa is a traditional soil and water conservation practice stemming from the Sahel region of Africa. Farmers hand-dig small pits uniformly across a field to collect rainwater and place manure at the bottom of each pit to increase soil fertility. Seeds are then planted along the ridges of each pit. When rain falls, the pits fill up with water and provide a nutrient-rich source of water to support growing plants. This simple and inexpensive traditional technique has resulted in major increases in crop yield and helped farmers build resilience against drought, Ezeanya-Esiobu explains.

“In an experiment that was conducted, two similar plots of land were used…one plot of land did not have the Tassa technique on it, the other one had Tassa technique constructed on it. Then similar grains of millet also were planted on both plots. During harvest time, the plot of land without Tassa technique yielded 11 kilograms (24 pounds) of millet per hectare. The plot of land with Tassa technique yielded 553 kilograms (1,219 pounds) of millet per hectare.”

Ezeanya-Esiobu believes that harnessing the immense stores of African cultural, medical, and scientific knowledge is critical for sustainable development in agriculture and other sectors across the continent.

“Africa’s advancement rests simply in the acknowledgment, validation and mainstreaming of Africa’s own traditional, authentic, original, indigenous knowledge in education, in research, in policymaking and across sectors.”

Click here to watch Chika Ezeanya-Esiobu’s TEDGlobal talk “How Africa can use its traditional knowledge to make progress”.

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