In spite of the current obsession with formal learning approaches, where people are encouraged to learn from each other, many African farmers remain convinced they can learn more from plants and animals.
That is how, over generations, they have acquired knowledge from plant and animal medicines. Every rain season provides farmers and any curious person an opportunity to learn from the secret teachings of plants and animals.
Rather than continue relying on fellow human beings for knowledge, direct perception and knowledge acquisition from nature is powerful beyond measure.
Learning directly from plants and animals is an age-old tradition in many African communities.
Unfortunately, due to reluctance by policymakers to fully integrate this natural way of learning into formal educational systems, many people are losing their capacity to learn naturally from nature.
Children are shoved into formal schools, where they are supposed to learn through reading books where information has been de-contextualised and frozen. Learning directly from plants and animals can complement learning from reading stories and novels like Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe), Waiting for The Rain (Charles Mungoshi), and many others.
How technology can help in developing best learning practices from nature
Digital technology can assist in exploring natural techniques used by indigenous people to learn directly from their plants, animals and nature. It should be possible to harvest intuitions and perceptions of numerous remarkable farmers, who cultivate the majority of plants and keep diverse animals in your community or country.
Capturing the steps through which ordinary farmers learn from plants and animals will make it possible for the world to generate new knowledge and learning pathways. Ultimately, the young generation will be able to obtain tools necessary to gather information directly from nature.
Instead of using experiments, they can directly learn the medicinal uses of plants and animal parts, engage in diagnosis of various diseases, and intimately understand how nature functions.
Learning through crops and animals gives you an opportunity to focus on the whole game, not just the score; the whole field or pastures, not just the yield. It also reinforces behaviours that produce positive results — for example, an increase in environmental consciousness. By looking closely at crops and livestock, you can build productive relationships between human beings, crops, livestock and the whole ecosystem. Do not squander an amazing opportunity to learn from nature this farming season.
Giving local knowledge a new shelf life
Using technology to enhance personal knowledge mastery among individual farmers can build long-term memory in ways that give local knowledge a meaningful shelf life. Most indigenous farmers who have relied on their memory for generations, have quietly and patiently honed skills in gathering knowledge from nature for others to use and internalise. From the way they interact with crops and livestock, most African farmers show the power of curiosity in generating knowledge. It is through careful scrutiny that people can realise their impact on the environment.
Due to the seasonal nature of most African agricultural activities, transferring knowledge between summer, autumn, winter and spring is fraught with forgetting and re-invention of wheels. That is why some form of documentation is important. Once farmers and ordinary people are empowered to capture knowledge from their crops, livestock and nature, people in other areas and time-zones can benefit from it. Building institutional memory requires an environment that encourages capturing and sharing knowledge artefacts. Crops, livestock and nature can be the basis for such artefacts.
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