A scientific inquiry into the area of 'indigenous knowledge' is basically an effort to discover/rediscover (in the tribal’s' traditional modes of production and conservation) appropriate means to cope with the problems of modernity affecting largely the lives of the poor: not only in precarious environments, but amidst fast-depleting local resources as well.
Essentially a selection of papers: based on Cross-cultural, interdisciplinary investigations, the book takes a critical look at both the ascribed benefits and limitations of indigenous knowledge in general, and with regard to forest management by local tribal people in particular. Also including, contextually, an overview of the various aspects of forests lifestyles, forest use, and management of natural resources in different climatic and cultural zones on the subcontinent, the authors emphasize the social meaning of forests as a cultural legacy - with case studies from different regions of India, namely, Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh.
It is the first volume in the newly-launched series 'Man and Forest' in South Asia, putting together research findings that represent accounts of experience and empirical evidence in the fields of forest management, social anthropology, ethno-botany, economy, forest policy and cultural history.
Franz SchmithUsen is professor of Forest Policy and Forest Economics at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) since 1984. His research activities focus on law and public administrations, land tenure and utilisation rights, and combined resources management systems.
One of our partners, with whom we cooperated from the m beginning, was the Council of Cultural Growth and Cultural = E-. ones in Cuttack, Orissa and in particular its General Secretary, Bh. Patnaik who was the initiator and facilitator of many _ e contacts at every level. Research, we dare say, would ever been possible without his enthusiastic participation: early in the take-off phase of the project (1991-93). His 's prof. Dr. (Mrs.) K. K. Patnaik, Dr. H.C. Das and later on Dr. Es" were advisors and guides to the research scholars, Dr. Jena, Ms. P. Pathi, S. Behera, Dr. Savyasachi and Ms. A. who worked for the project from a period of some months to seven years. Other partners were A. S. Mehta, Secretary of Seva Mandir, a NGO located in Udaipur and L.P. Bharara, principal scientist (now retd.), from the Central Arid Zone Research Institute, Jodhpur, Rajasthan, who either conducted research on their own or integrated indigenous knowledge into their practical development work. In the second phase Dr. N. Patnaik, Director of the Social Science and Development Institute in Bhubaneshvar, Orissa, joined the project. For the international seminar he had already been invited as an expert on tribal affairs. All of them inspired the discussions in the research network and thus contributed to the success of the project despite the many difficulties and obstacles that sometimes made fieldwork tiresome.
The main objective of the second phase of this project network (1996-99) is to investigate indigenous knowledge of trees and forests among various forest dwelling tribes as a mode of appropriation of nature in a wider Himalayan perspective. In this phase SAGUN, a Nepalese NGO that has been working on indigenous knowledge and forest related matters with other partners, and government officials from Bhutan who do research on forest and development policy have joined the research network. In all empirical studies which have been conducted within the network, an emphasis is laid on local, regional and national natural resource policies. As a cross-cultural cooperation, scientific knowledge and development practice at the local level were to be seen as interlinked and theoretical and methodological support for the local researchers were provided by the Chair of Forest Policy and Forest Economics at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland. The German Ministry for Economic Cooperation has been financing the major part of the project through the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) within the scope of promoting its programme of tropical forest research, now merged with the Ecological Flanking Programme for the Tropics (Toeb). In this interface the research project is to promote local, regional and international cooperation and exchange among researchers, an extended web of partner-NGOs and university institutions with environmental and socio-cultural concern in the wider Himalayan region.
We wish to thank our research partners in the network who have cooperated with us and have been exchanging their data, experiences and views among each other in a fruitful way as well as the financing agencies for their generous assistance. A rewarding cooperation between comparatively small and rather independent research units located in two continents and with different professional backgrounds and experiences cannot be taken for granted. What helped us to overcome the difficulties the project had to face, was the shared interest in the many ways in which some of India's rural communities perceive forests, the readiness to work as equal partners, and the personal commitment of the researchers involved.
The highly welcome contributions of S. Brodt, R. Pant, S. Vasan and S. Kant supplement the papers presented at the international seminar, adding more to the scope and regional distribution of research on indigenous knowledge of forests in India.
Many thanks go to those who were involved in administrative affairs and facilitated the research project and the international seminar in New Delhi, particularly the head office and the Project Administration Service of the GTZ in India and the Max Mueller Bhavan in New Delhi for their very successful hosting of the seminar and their assistance in so many practical matters which contributed to make it a real success.
The editors express their gratitude to all who have assisted in preparing and editing this volume and to Mrs. Nadja Cottager in particular whose help in finalising the manuscripts was most valuable.
Book's Contents and Sample Pages
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