IIITM-K study says indigenous knowledge vanishing

The study conducted among tribals in Wayanad, Nilambur, Palakkad and Kollam

December 12, 2017 08:02 pm | Updated 08:02 pm IST - THIRUVANANTHAPURAM

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

The study, stated to be first-of-its-kind in the country, says that a quantitative analysis has shown that traditional knowledge is disappearing at an alarming rate. “The disappearance of indigenous knowledge is alarming,” says the study undertaken among eight tribes in the Western Ghats by the C.V. Raman Laboratory of Ecological Informatics at the IIITM-K.

The study was conducted among the Kurichyar and Kattunaikkar tribes in Wayanad, Cholanaikkar and Paniyar tribes in Nilambur, Irular and Kurumbar in Palakkad and Kaanikkar and Malapandarams in Kollam.

The survey questionnaire 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, cultivation of turmeric, hibiscus and paddy, umbrella making, anti-venom treatment and various tribal arts and handicrafts.

The knowledge of the participants was segregated into 10-25, 25-50 and above 50 age groups, the study showing that the younger the age group, lesser the corpus of traditional knowledge. The Kurichya and Kurumba triabls have lost more than half of their traditional knowledge, Cholanaikar and Malapandaram tribals have lost 33% while Kaani and Kattunaikkar have lost 40 to 45%. Malapandaram tribals have ‘very least traditionally-acquired knowledge now’, the study says.

Jaishankar R. Nair, Head, C.V. Raman Laboratory of Ecological Informatics, who led the study with a research team comprising V. Saroj Kumar, N.P. Sooraj, M. Somasekharan Pillai and Ram Boojh, 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 shrinkage in traditional knowledge base is detrimental to the existence of geo-heritage sites. The study highlights the need for preserving the traditional knowledge at any cost,” he said.

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