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Indigenous Technical Knowledge (ITK)


This term is used to describe the existing technical knowledge in local societies/cultures.

ITK is particularly important for basic water supply, sanitation and irrigation activities since it has been used since time immemorial in the following contexts: well-digging and management; gravity-fed ponds; irrigation works; control of seasonal flows by terracing, diversion, dams, aqueducts, etc.; water-lifting. ITK often fulfils criteria of appropriateness and cost-effectiveness, and can be used as a basis for Participatory Technological Development (see below).

However, development professionals, who may even develop parallel systems without realising that ITK systems exist, often ignore it. ITK is most effectively gathered by using participatory approaches and observation.

Local people often do not know that a particular piece of local technology is unique, and they can also feel threatened by technology from outside. It is therefore important for them to understand that their technology is as valid as modern counterparts.

Further information: The Centre for Indigenous Knowledge on Agriculture and Rural Development, Iowa State University, USA, and The Leiden Ethno-systems and Development Programme (LEAD), Institute of Social and Cultural Studies, University of Leiden, Netherlands.

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