Wageningen World 04 2019 (in English)

Page 28

Mixing science with indigenous knowledge

Philosopher David Ludwig is documenting the biological knowledge and spiritual beliefs of local communities in Brazil. And he is looking for ways of integrating them with Western know-how. ‘It starts with taking people outside the academic setting seriously as experts, and recognizing that local people understand the local context far better.’ TEXT ALEXANDRA BRANDERHORST PHOTO ANP 28

WAGENINGENWORLD | 4 | 2019

‘I

n Bahía, a state in the north-east of Brazil, the local people believe that the mythical creature Caipora ­inhabits the forest. If you harvest too much wood, you will anger Caipora and you will get lost in the forest,’ says David Ludwig, a researcher in Wageningen’s Knowledge, Technology and Innovation chair group. In indigenous communities, spiritual beliefs and taboos dictate behaviour and forestall excesses like too much hunting or tree-felling, he explains. ‘One part of the ­forest might be sacred, so you are not allowed to hunt there. Or during a particular period – which turns out to be the spawning season – people are not allowed to catch fish.’ These spiritual ideas often lead to a sustainable way of life, notes Ludwig. ‘Indigenous groups have been living in the middle of the rain forest for a long time without destroying it. That is why it is important to consider