What is Indigenous Knowledge?

IK can refer to the knowledge belonging to a specific ethnic group. This is the knowledge that people in a given community have developed outside the formal educational system over time and continue to develop. It is based on experience, often tested over centuries of use, adapted to local culture and environment, dynamic and changing. Also known as Traditional knowledge it is an important element of the intellectual and cultural heritage of indigenous people. It reflects the social and historical identity and significantly contributes to the future well-being and sustainable development of indigenous people.

This definition encompasses all forms of knowledge – technologies, know-how skills, practices and beliefs – that enable the community to achieve stable livelihoods in their environment. Examples include indigenous or traditional dances, music, designs, utensils, terms and expressions, food security, human and animal health, education and natural resource management etc. Indigenous knowledge is sometimes called Traditional Knowledge (TK) or Local Knowledge (LK).

Indigenous Knowledge has been discussed globally for at least ten years at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).Finally, WIPO member states agreed that indigenous knowledge is important and should therefore be valued, recognized and protected. The Act seeks to protect indigenous/traditional communities from exploitation by individuals, corporate and multinationals.

Once recorded or protected through the normal intellectual property registration, IK can be commercialized by communities that owns it. Therefore the Act has brought about the protection of indigenous knowledge through IP.