The role and value of local knowledge in Jamaican agriculture: adaptation and change in small-scale farming

The role and value of local knowledge in Jamaican agriculture: adaptation and change in small-scale farming

Local knowledge is fundamental to food security in Jamaica

In Jamaica, traditional cropping systems based on local informal knowledge have been practiced since the days of slavery and play a vital role in meeting food security. This paper discusses some conceptual and empirical issues related to the application of local knowledge among small scale food farmers in central Jamaica.

The authors indicate that some commentators take the view that scientific knowledge and traditional knowledge are incompatible whilst others argue that there can be intersection between them.

The paper reveals that a number of local practices have a scientific basis, yet the point is not to legitimise these practices by associating them with science; the point is to emphasise that there are intersections between science and local knowledge.

Findings include:

  • the individual and collective ingenuity of small-scale farmers is fundamental to the survival of the domestic food production sector, rural development and food security in Jamaica
  • in the context of the socio-cultural, economic, political and environmental realities of small-scale agriculture in Jamaica, local traditional knowledge is indispensable
  • local solutions based on traditional wisdom and farm level experimentations are essential in the ability of farmers to continue to survive

On balance, the document concludes the following:

  • local and traditional knowledge is valuable, adaptable and necessary in coping with risk and uncertainty
  • still, it is important to reiterate that local knowledge does not possess the ability to solve all rural problems on its own and should not be implemented as an alternative to conventional scientific knowledge
  • in fact, the continued negative attitude towards traditional knowledge is an injustice to farmers and is unfavourable for rural development
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