NATURAL RESOURCE MANAGEMENT________________________

Indigenous Knowledge and Land Use Planning

My thesis analyses the need for the integration of indigenous knowledge into rural land use planning concepts, based on an example from a mountainous region in rural Northern China. The definition of indigenous knowledge comprises three components: research on the historical dimension, investigation of the present views of the people concerned with land use planning and the analysis about knowledge generation outside scientific institutions.
The historical component in China is well documented with traditional cultivation techniques and ancient visions of nature. Many of these techniques remained unchanged until the beginning of the 20th century and enabled the land users to receive relatively high yields in a sustainable way. During the time of collective land management 1958-1978, however, it was centrally planned and ordered how land should be used and which crops should be cultivated following the socialist ideology and without considering local and historical perspectives. This promotion of this "ideological" knowledge with its top-down approaches has thus resulted in neglecting traditional techniques and the application of indigenous knowledge.
Following the economic liberalization at the beginning of the 1980s, land users and local decision makers could then have a wider influence on the use of land resources and on how to cultivate their fields. However, in many regions in China, agricultural activities have been no longer economically viable and this leads to a non-agricultural use of land which is often not sustainable. The official agricultural extension service focuses now on modern science and technology, but still follows a top-down approach (tuiguang= push and spread). The legal situation of land tenure is still unclear so that many land users are not motivated to use sustainable and traditional methods on their land plots. In this process, indigenous knowledge has been further losing its importance.
The second part of the thesis presents the views of the land users in the case study of Liudu Village, Fangshan County on the border between Beijing and Hebei Province. Using participatory appraisal methods it was revealed that some traditional techniques such as mixed cropping and agro-forestry systems are still applied; that geomantic principles (feng shui) sometimes influence land use decisions; that the principle of yin and yang are used on agricultural fields and that decision makers still follow the historical conflict of Confucian and legalist land distribution. However, these applications remain sporadic and cannot significantly contribute to solutions of modern problems i.e. water and soil pollution through massive chemical emissions.
Nevertheless the findings show that local people are able to carry out their innovations outside the official scientific extension service and different from traditional techniques if their own environment is threatened. This includes breeding of larger animals which is both ecomically attractive and sustainable because the night soil can be used as manure. Especially old people have concepts on how to use land in a sustainable way. Newly generated knowledge can therefore provide answers to the present problems, if they are integrated into scientific and official approaches of land use planning and land management.
In order to achieve a sustainable use of land, the ideas of the land users should be considered and put into a higher level planning context. Useful instruments for this are Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Originally purely technical, they offer a range of possibilities to integrate the views of local actors. The thesis develops a concept of 15 planning steps for participatory land use planning based on a combination of indigenous and modern knowledge.

For further reading: http://opus.kobv.de/tuberlin/volltexte/2011/2894/

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