Indigenous Knowledge Systems Conference - indigenous knowledge

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                CENTRE, ON 26 JULY 2010

Programme Director
The Honourable Minister of Science and Technology, Mrs Naledi
His Worship The Mayor of eThekwini, Mr Obed Mlaba
The Vice Chancellor of University of KwaZulu-Natal, Dr Malegapuru
Distinguished guests
Members of the media
Ladies and gentlemen

I would like to apologise on behalf on behalf of the Premier of
KwaZulu-Natal, Dr Zweli Mkhize, who could not make it to this
function as he is seized wit other State duties.

This expo marks a milestone in the history of Indigenous Knowledge
Systems in our country. Thanks to this progressive Government, our
indigenous knowledge has been recognised after years of relegation
to the back banner. Previously there we deliberate attempts to
discourage people from taking a kin interest in indigenous knowledge.
We have been made to believe that this is a primitive way of living
and doing things. However, there is a lot that can be learnt from

forefathers’ inventions, long before the latest technology came into

It is against this background that we even have the Department of
Health and the University of KwaZulu-Natal hosting a national
conference on traditional medicines and HIV and Aids. These kinds
of partnerships are most welcomed as they will go a long way in
benefiting ordinary citizens. One needs not look any further. It is
proven that traditional medicine plays a crucial role in slowing down
chronic illnesses such as Aids, diabetes, cancer and many other life-
threatening diseases. Long before the Western way of healing was
introduced into our country, people have been relying on indigenous
knowledge.    The presence of people who are still reservoirs of such
knowledge is a blessing to us and we need to use them to attain such
important knowledge.

Research tells us that more than 80 percent of people still consult
traditional healers and that has been the case for centuries. It is also
unlikely that this will change in the foreseeable future. Most of these
people are from rural areas. The challenge we have today is how do
we marry indigenous knowledge and the modern way of medical
technology? This then calls on all stakeholders to work together
towards this goal.

The other challenge we have in the country is ensuring that this
knowledge is preserved for the benefit of future generations. It is a
fact that most of crucial information among the African community is

not well documented. We rely on verbal accounts by knowledgeable
elders on how things were done. The danger then becomes when
those people pass on. The valuable knowledge is not preserved
somehow and thus we lose it, tantamount to losing the whole village

We also need to ensure that we legally protect the information we
have to avoid it being stolen by people who take it out of our country
for further research and bring re-introduce it as something new. In
this way our country loses a lot of revenue and, most importantly,
intellectual property. It therefore becomes so important that we form
these partnerships to address such issues.

It is very interesting to note that in Africa, especially our Province, we
were able to melt steel long before modern technology arrived. We
had our own way of preserving food; we were able to embalm our
loved ones in such a way that their bodies would not rot for such a
long time. We even had our own painkillers. All that knowledge still
exists up to this day.

We therefore need academics to assist us in researching further on
these systems and how we can improve on this to fit in the current
way of doing things. Academics also need to write books about
indigenous knowledge systems so that the level of awareness among
it is raised, so that even the international community and future
generations can always have some referral points on such topics.
One cannot leave out the media for the crucial role they can play in

informing society about indigenous knowledge systems. Our country
has an abundance of such and we just to get out more and visit
village elders and experts so that we can formulate informed opinions
on the topic. By doing this we would be doing a great service for the
human race, not the Government of the day.

This expo is also crucial in taking forward Government’s goals of
developing rural areas. It must be noted that to some people in rural
areas, use indigenous knowledge to eke out an existence. By
promoting indigenous knowledge systems, we will be assisting them
generate revenue and thus develop rural economies and improve the
quality of lives.

We need to understand that we cannot move forward if we do not
understand how things were done by those who came before us so
that we can also leave a legacy for coming generations that they can
use a springboard for new inventions.

This expo then presents an opportunity for our country to shine on the
world stage. I therefore wish you well during your deliberations at this
expo and welcome you all to this Province.

I thank you.