Re-Learning our Roots: Youth Participatory Research, Indigenous Knowledge, and Sustainability through Agriculture
There has been an increasing realization of the significance of Indigenous knowledge (IK) in achieving sustainability. Education is also considered a primary agent in moving toward sustainability. However, research that explores education focused on sustainability in Malawi is sparse, especially where the roles of IK and youth perspectives have been considered. This research draws on the concepts of uMunthu, Sankofa, and postcolonial theory to enable a “third space” (Bhabha, 1994) centred on culturally appropriate Malawian ways of knowing working in tandem with non-Indigenous knowledge and practice. Three main questions guide the study: (1) How do participants understand place and environmental sustainability in relation to knowledge and practice (both Indigenous and non-Indigenous)?; (2) Within the context of Chinduzi village, the Junior Farmer Field and Life Skills School (JFFLS) program, and its engagement with issues of environmental sustainability, what forms of knowledge and practice are evident (both Indigenous and non-Indigenous)?; and (3) What are participants’ views on how environmental sustainability should be further engaged in the JFFLS program in relation to knowledge and practice (both Indigenous and non-Indigenous)? Data collection methods included focus groups, place mapping, individual conversations, observations, and archival documents review. The data were coded using inductive analysis and the research employed aspects of participatory research and Indigenous research methodologies. The research findings reveal that while there is general consensus among the participants supporting youth learning IK in school, others are not supportive because they consider IK to be inferior. In considering place and environmental sustainability, the findings revealed that participating Elders describe their sense of place in terms of historical agriculture-related knowledge and practice. On the other hand, participating youth express their sense of place in drawings of their favourite places. The drawings revealed that youth are largely rooted in their social-cultural interactions within their community, but also influenced by global culture. The study results show that the JFFLS curriculum includes both Indigenous and non-Indigenous knowledge and practice in both agriculture-related and life skills lessons. To achieve environmental sustainability in the community, participants recommend all youth in the community learn local Indigenous knowledge and practices for protecting the environment.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
DepartmentSchool of Environment and Sustainability
ProgramEnvironment and Sustainability
CommitteeClark, Douglas; Lotz-Sistika, Heila; McVittie, Janet; Newenham-Kahindi, Aloysius; Settee, Priscilla
Copyright DateAugust 2013
Junior farmer field and life skills school