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Justice for Peace through Traditional Knowledge Systems and Conservation : Recognition, Revitalization and Reconciliation

02 Jul 2021

On 31 August 2020, the University of Rwanda (UR) joined the African Institute for Indigenous Knowledge Systems (AIIKS) with the Center of Excellence in Biodiversity and Natural Resource Management (CoEB) as the focal point. The AIIKS is established at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

To launch the establishment of the AIIKS in Rwanda and bring together researchers, educators, students, and practitioners working in traditional knowledge, a 3-day workshop was held in Kigali, Rwanda on 16-18 June 2021. This event was a collaborative effort, organized by CoEB and the Sheffield Institute for International Development (SIID) at the University of Sheffield (United Kingdom), and was funded by SIID. The workshop included speakers, panel discussions, trainings and interactive sessions designed to engage attendees both in person and online in a blended approach.

The first day of the workshop highlighted the importance of ‘Respect and Recognition’ of traditional knowledge systems (TKS) for justice and peace. Kanyinke Sena from the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues/IUCN CEESP SC started the day as the keynote speaker stating that traditional knowledge faces many challenges in regards to policy, Western power, globalization, and a lack of recording that creates obstacles to the preservation and protection of this knowledge, but, there are measures that can be taken to alleviate these challenges. Some solutions include the development of appropriate traditional knowledge policies and practices, establishing traditional knowledge resource centers, training, researching, and developing TK networks.

The second day revolved around the themes of ‘Restore and Revitalize’ and ‘Reconcile’.Prof. Muxo Nkondo from the University of Kwazulu Natal was the keynote speaker and said the biggest challenges concerning the conservation of TKS are lost connection, environmental degradation, and modern generations. Throughout the day, a variety of speakers engaged the audience around the themes, sparking thoughtful questions and discussions. To conclude the day and honor the wealth of traditional knowledge present in Rwanda, demonstrators from the Azizi Life Center and Ifumba Y’Ubuzima provided demonstrations about traditional art and crafts and traditional medicine practices in Rwanda.

The last day of the workshop revolved around training sessions on several topics including : 1) ‘Cultural Appropriation, another form of traditional knowledge extractivism’ by Naomi Lanoi Letelo from the University of Nairobi, Kenya ; 2) ‘Traditional Knowledge and Intellectual Property : Legal framework for protection and associated contextual issues’ by Kellen Twinamatsiko from the Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition department of the Rwanda Development Board, Rwanda ; and 3) ‘Research Methods and Approaches in Traditional Knowledge’ by Mayashree Chinsamy from the University of Kwazulu Natal.

More than 40 participants attended each day both in person and virtually and we greatly hope this is just the beginning of a more collaborative, inclusive, and prosperous agenda for the study, practice, and protection of traditional knowledge in Rwanda. Nathan Taremwa, Lecturer & Research Associate at CoEB-UR, is the lead contact for the AIIKS activities in Rwanda through CoEB. We are grateful to Elaine Hsiao, postdoc at University of Sheffield and Research Fellow at CoEB who enabled access to the funding, and to the team who organized the workshop : Nathan Taremwa, Elaine Hsiao, and Adrienne Chitayat.

Workshop participants

story by Joselyne Barakagwira
CoEB Education & Awareness Raising Coordinator

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