Join Forces to Mitigate Food Insecurity and Climate Change Agriculture, Engineering & Science

Delegates at the inaugural IKS BRICS Conference in Durban.Delegates at the inaugural IKS BRICS Conference in Durban.

Mitigating food insecurity and the effects of climate change required a collective effort on a global scale, said UKZN’s Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Professor Salim Abdool Karim.

Abdool Karim was speaking at the first BRICS countries Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) Conference held at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban.

The members of BRICS countries are Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.

The focus of the Conference was on the role of indigenous knowledge and institutions in meeting global challenges of food and global security, environmental governance, climate change and human rights.

The significance of local community engagement using Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) and institutions in these global challenges was the major highlight of the gathering.

This was evident through the participation and involvement of traditional leaders and healers, farmers, youth organisations and the inclusion of indigenous languages in the conference proceedings.

Abdool Karim said the Conference themes focused on the critical areas of food security and climate change and working to improve the situation in those areas to protect the earth would require a collective effort at a global level.

The view of the Conference organisers was that global challenges such as climate change, environmental degradation and international terrorism had no boundaries on the adverse effects they had on poverty, food insecurity, forced migration and human rights.

‘The insecurity they cause affects everyone regardless of race, nationality, religion, class and gender. Therefore, its mitigation requires a collective effort within and across national borders,’ the organisers agreed.

The major argument was that although the majority of the population in the BRICS countries still depended on their IKS for a livelihood, these tended to be marginalised in the search for sustainable solutions to global challenges.  Therefore, the significance of incorporating IKS in combating these global challenges was based on the awareness that once people and communities felt they were part of the business of the state, they become inspired and ready to protect the state, resources and the environment in general as a home and place of work. 

Inkosi Winston Themba Mavundla, who represented the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial House of Traditional Leaders, delivered the opening address in which he emphasised the importance of indigenous institutions and associated principles such as Ubuntu in mobilising communities for the preservation and protection of the environment.

Chief Director of Science Missions at the Department of Science and Technology, Professor Yonah Seleti, said the conference was significant, not just because it was the first of its kind, but ‘the timing is happening after the Paris Agreement where the significance of climate change was highlighted’. Seleti said IKS could be a significant player in managing climate change issues globally.

Director of the Department of Science and Technology-National Research Foundation Centre in Indigenous Knowledge Systems, Professor Hassan Kaya, said one of the primary aims of the conference was to contribute to priority areas at next month’s 8th BRICS Summit in Goa, India.

Director of the South African BRICS Think Tank, Professor Godfrey Netswera, said the conference allowed academics from the South to ‘come together in order to exchange knowledge.’ Netswera stressed the importance of publishing findings and documenting research on IKS, with a particular emphasis on examples from the South. 

‘It will change the mind-set of the Black child, and of the child from the South, so that we start looking at ourselves as people who contribute to the generation of knowledge… and not just as knowledge consumers,’ he said.

Several academics and postgraduate students from Africa and beyond presented papers on a wide variety of topics. 

The youth forum discussion yielded different perspectives on the role of youth in the promotion and preservation of IKS.  Youth leaders from the South African Institute for International Affairs, Women’s Leadership and Training, Child and Youth Care, Youth Coalition on Climate Change and learners shared their experiences and successful interventions within their national and international networks of young women, men and communities.  They acknowledged their critical role in carrying forward the significance of IKS in alleviating global challenges for all citizens. 

The Conference was hosted by the DST-NRF Centre in Indigenous Knowledge Systems (CIKS) at UKZN in collaboration with eThekwini Municipality’s Municipal Institute of Learning (MILE); the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIHSS); the South African BRICS Think Tank (SABTT); the Africa Programme of the United Nations University for Peace (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia); the Durban Chamber of Commerce, and the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD).

Raylene Captain-Hasthibeer