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Developing a new platform for African Indigenous Knowledge


Project description

Preservation and Visualization of African Indigenous Knowledge for Resilient Food Systems

The World Bank has recognised that African Indigenous Knowledge (AIK) is innovative and unique among local and subsistent smallholder farmers, and it is central to sustainable food production and enhancing biodiversity and natural resources in many poor, rural societies. AIK refers to tacit knowledge held in different languages, cultures and skills passed down from generation to generation by word of mouth. AIK is a key driver of food production, preservation and consumption for more than 80% of citizens in Africa, and can therefore assist modern efforts of reducing food insecurity and hunger. However, the documentation and dissemination of AIK remain a big challenge confronting librarians and other information professionals in Africa, and there is a risk of losing AIK owing to urban migration, modernisation, land grabbing and the emergence of relatively small-scale commercial farming businesses.  

This project aims to explore the potential of STFC data science and citizen science for creating the first interactive, digital, open infrastructure along with ethical standards for collecting, preserving and disseminating AIK of agriculture and food production, preservation and consumption practices. The digitalisation, promotion and utilisation of AIK, skills and practices in agriculture and food production constitutes a valuable way to increase and sustain resilient food system and to achieve Zero hunger (SDG 2), good health & Well-being (SDG 3), ensure sustainable production and consumption (SDG12) and reduce climate change impacts (SDG 13) .

Learning from AIK, by investigating what local communities know and have, can improve understanding of food production and consumption, in particular in times of stress or shocks affecting the food systems and communities. Thus, the platform will be useful for local populations, research and policy-makers, and it could lead to transformative innovation in the food system, creating a fundamental shift in the way the UK supports sustainable, modern food production efforts in Africa.

Meet the Principal Investigator(s) for the project

Dr Steven Sam - Dr Steven Sam joined the Department of Computer Science at Brunel University London (UK) as a Global Challenge Research Fellow in June 2019. He obtained a PhD in communication, digital technologies and social change from the University of Queensland (Australia), where he received the UQ Outstanding Higher Degree by Research Theses Dean’s Award in 2016. Prior to joining Brunel, Steven was a Research and Engagement Officer and Sessional Academic at the Centre for Communication and Social Change, the University of Queensland. Steven’s expertise is in the areas of communication, human computer interaction, digital technology design and social innovation.  His work involves two strands: The first strand focuses on technology (e.g.  mobile phones, mobile applications, computing, internet and AI) adoption and impact on organisations, people and society. The second strand involves using, ethnography, visual methods and human-centred design approaches to find innovative solutions to complex and challenging problems affecting vulnerable groups and communities in areas such as health, education, agriculture and governance. Here, Steven’s work is informed by two questions: What problems affect vulnerable groups and what communication and technology tools can we use to address the problems?