Indigenous Knowledge in the Technological Development of Nigeria. Merits and Demerits

Seminar Paper, 2021

14 Pages, Grade: 5.0



Introduction: Indigenous knowledge is an important natural resource that can facilitate the development process of any nation in cost-effective, participatory and sustainable ways (Vanek 1989; Hansen and Erbaugh 1987). Indigenous knowledge according to Warren (1991) has value not only for the culture in which it evolves, but also for scientists and planners striving to improve conditions in different localities but in the rural and urban areas.

On the other hand there are also demerits associated with indigenous knowledge as it relates to technological development that can be injurious to the society in which it evolves. According to Wane (2005) indigenous knowledge has the following characteristics:

a. People have knowledge of and belief in unseen powers in the ecosystem.
b. All things in the ecosystem are mutually dependent
c. Personal relationships reinforce the bond between persons, communities and ecosystems.
d. Persons who know these traditions are responsible for teaching or passing them on.
e. Indigenous knowledge is generated within communities; however it is location and culture specific, is not systematic or documented, is oral.

Sustainable development researchers have found the following categories of indigenous knowledge to be of particular interest. These include:

a. Resource management knowledge and the tools
b. Techniques, practices and rules related to pastoralism
c. Agriculture
d. Agro forestry
e. Water management and
f. Gathering of wild food
g. Classification systems for plants, animals, soils, water and weather
h. Empirical knowledge about flora, fauna and inanimate resources and their practical uses
i. The world view or way the local group perceives its relationship to the natural world (Emeryy 1996).


Indigenous Knowledge According to Dei (1993) indigenous knowledge includes the cultural traditions, values, beliefs and world view of local peoples as distinguished from western scientific knowledge. Such local knowledge is the product of indigenous people’s direct experience of the workings of nature and its relationship with the social world. Warren 1991 further stated that indigenous knowledge is local knowledge, knowledge that is unique to a given culture or society. It is the basis for local level decision making in agriculture, health care, food preparation, education. Such knowledge is passed down from generation to generation, in many societies it is through oral transmission.

International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity (2003) states that “indigenous knowledge is the essence of the identities and world view of indigenous peoples”. It constitutes the collective heritage and patrimony of indigenous people. Therefore it is priceless and its value cannot be calculated for economic exploitations. Indigenous knowledge is further seen as a knowledge that is collectively owned and takes the form of stories, songs, folklore, proverbs, cultural values, beliefs, rituals, community laws, local language and agricultural practices (including the development of plant species and animal breeds). Indigenous knowledge is acquired mostly through firsthand experience; it has a spiritual component, dynamics and evolving (Stevenson 1998).

Technology: Leslie .A. White (1959) distinguished four kinds of cultural systems: technological, sociological, ideological and sentimental or attitudinal. These four categories are interrelated although according to him their respective roles in the culture process are not equal. The technological factor is the basic one; all others are dependent upon it. In a general way, the technological factors determine the content of the social, philosophic and sentimental sectors.

According to White (1959) the technological basis of cultural systems is rather easily demonstrated. He states that:

“All living organisms can maintain themselves as individuals and perpetuate themselves as species only if a certain minimum adjustment to the external world is achieved ad maintained. There must be food, protection from the elements, and defense from enemies. These life-sustaining, life-perpetuating processes are technological in a broad, but valid sense that is they are carried on by material, mechanical, biophysical and biochemical means”. (Leslie .A. White 1959)

Technology is the basis upon which the cultural system as a whole rests. It is the technology of a culture that determines in general the form and the content of social systems, philosophies and sentiments. In the cultural system, technology is the independent variables while the other sectors the dependent variables. All human life depends upon the material, physical, chemical means of adjustment of man as an animal. Species, as living material systems, to the surface of the earth and to the surrounding cosmos.

Technology can further be defined as a system created by humans that use knowledge and organization to produce objects and techniques for the attainment of specific goals (Volti 2009). Robert Aunger (2010) states that technology is what separates us from every other creature on earth. The best chimpanzees can do is to use small stones to break nuts on large stones while we build sky scrappers and rockets to the moon. In short, technology is what separates us from other creatures.

Having what indigenous knowledge is and what technology is; the merits and demerits of indigenous knowledge in the technological development of Nigeria will then be discussed. Technological development in Nigeria right from precolonial times has experienced the use of indigenous knowledge although it has not been fully explored by the Nigerian society. Indigenous knowledge includes (among other elements) ceremonies, language teachings, dance and drum, hunting, housing, planting, harvesting, arts and crafts, storytelling, technology, governance, sacred sites.


A. Merits of indigenous knowledge in Drug Technology and Medicine

The use of plant parts as medicine dates back to ancient times (Pat Uche Okpoko and Emeafor Obinna F. 2017) of the Nigerian society. For instance in the south eastern part of Nigeria, the following indigenous plants have been used as drug technology and medicine among the inhabitants of the communities in the south eastern part of Nigeria. Eze (2005) in Pat Uche Okpoko et al (2017) identified 84 medicinal plants in Umunocha-Obukpa, Nsukka.

The indigenous plants and their medicinal uses both in drug technology are listed below:

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Indigenous Knowledge in the Technological Development of Nigeria. Merits and Demerits
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indigenous, knowledge, technological, development, nigeria, merits, demerits
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Ph.D Chinwe Chimezie Uwaoma (Author), 2021, Indigenous Knowledge in the Technological Development of Nigeria. Merits and Demerits, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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