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Indigenius innovation


No one knows the land we live on better than indigenous peoples, whose way of life is deeply connected to the earth. Even amidst the rapid development of technology, we can still learn a lot from them.


It will certainly serve humanity better if we work together with our indigenous communities, integrating both traditional wisdom and new technologies, or looking back into indigenous knowledge to find sustainable solutions to modern-day challenges. We need to advance “indigenius innovation.”


For instance, in terms of disaster risk reduction, local resources and knowledge that have been passed on from generation to generation provide valuable lessons for the creation of disaster risk reduction and management policies. Traditional weather forecasting, such as the observation of the moon, the sun, the stars, animals and insects, prove to be a valuable knowledge in disaster risk reduction.


According to a report by the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), the indigenous inhabitants of Simeulue Island in Indonesia managed to survive the catastrophic Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 because of their time-tested knowledge that buffaloes run to the hills when a tsunami is coming.


Meanwhile, the people who live near the Damodar River in West Bengal, India use markers inscribed on trees and the observation of ants moving their eggs to higher ground as a warning sign of impending floods.


Governments can also leverage on indigenous communities’ local networks for information sharing.


In agriculture, one of the challenges is water supply. In the United States, industrial farming uses large amounts of water supplies and causes river and stream pollution. In contrast, the agricultural terraces of the Inca limit land usage and facilitate water distribution through canals powered by gravity.


In medicine, traditional healing processes, particularly the use of herbal plants have been proven to provide relief to ailments. Here in the Philippines, many Filipinos even those living in the cities use herbal plants like lagundi and guava leaves. Sambong, for instance, is known to help cure coughs and colds. Today, these plants are available in local drug stores in the form of capsules or syrup.


We can also integrate traditional wisdom and new technologies to provide sustainable solutions to both the concerns of indigenous communities and our overall environmental concerns.


For example, the use of GPS systems by the Inuit to capture information from hunters, which are then combined with scientific measurements to create maps for use by the community. Another is in Papua New Guinea, where the Hewa people’s knowledge of birds that would not tolerate habitat alteration or shortened fallow cycles was recorded in a way that is useful for conservation purposes.


But indigenous innovation does not necessarily involve the most advanced technology. Its core is in the deep connection with the environment that allows indigenous peoples to understand how to fully maximize tools and technologies.


Our indigenous peoples have lived in communion with our environment, with other living beings in our planet, for many centuries and millennia. And now even with the most advanced technologies, their ways of life prove to be among the most efficient lifestyles we ought to look into so that more generations can still enjoy the beauty and bounties of the Earth.

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