Indigenous Knowledge Needs To Go Mainstream

New Delhi, January 20th, 2022: The Tribal Cultural Research and Training Institute, Govt. of Telangana, with the technical support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), has organized a two-day national workshop on ‘Indigenous Knowledge & Health Care: Way Forward’. The aim of the workshop is to bring out strategies and action plans for communitising health care integrating indigenous knowledge and tribal health practitioners in primary health care to promote participatory health governance.

Tribal practices were not recognized earlier, however, if the tribals maintain an indigenous ecosystem amongst themselves and encourage the study of their knowledge, it would go a long way in preserving their rich culture, stated the Hon’ble Minister ST Welfare, Government of Telangana,  Smt. Satyavathi Rathod at the inauguration of the virtual workshop.

The Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA), along with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), is committed to preserving traditional tribal medicine by supporting studies on it, and its pharmacopeia.  Explaining the current efforts of the Ministry and National Action Plan on tribal health, Shri Naval Jit Kapoor, Joint Secretary, MoTA, GoI informed, “We all are aware that indigenous tribal culture is a part of our tradition and culture, however, according to the Abhay Bang Committee report, sickle cell disease, malaria, TB, maternal and child health, and integration of tribal healers with main systems of tradition are the primary concerns. We have rich tribal practices and traditional knowledge. Take the case of Patanjali, which has done excellent work in Uttarakhand in identifying healers and medicinal plants. TATA Foundation has also been organizing national-level workshops for traditional practices and healers. While the Uttarakhand TRI (Tribal Research Institute) has been chosen as the nodal TRI for this purpose, the Quality Council of India (QCI) has a system to register tribal healers and incorporate them. We need to have a compendium and repository for all that has been done to date, but the problem is to get traditional tribal healers into the mainstream as these are also not a part of AYUSH. The work of one TRI should stand as an example for other TRIs as well.”

During the webinar, Dr. Christina Z.Chongthu, Secretary and Commissioner, Tribal Welfare Dept. The government of Telangana focused on the need for strengthening and promotion of indigenous knowledge. She said, “Each region has a repository of indigenous knowledge and we need to document them and pass them on to our future generations to preserve these valuable knowledge systems. We must not lose out on this knowledge our ancestors have left for us due to lack of support, instead, we must make a conscious effort to enrich this culture and share the good practices amongst ourselves”

Ms. Shoko Noda, Resident Representative, UNDP, added, “Tribal communities must be more empowered to access mainstream healthcare. According to a report by the World Health Organisation (WHO), 8 in 10 people in developing countries depend on traditional medicine for primary health care.”

Referring to TRI’s role in documenting indigenous knowledge, Dr. A.B. Ota, Director, SCSTRTI, Govt. of Odisha said, “Each TRI has done some work in the area of rich tribal culture practices. We have to develop a template for collecting this information and have proper documentation in place. Since the module is being formulated for tribal health healers, we must identify them with the expertise of the TRIs and other institutions.”

Dr. Urmila Pingle, Founder – Centre for People’s Forestry touched on the topic of overexploitation of forest land by big companies as well as forest depletion as factors impacting indigenous knowledge. She explained, “Knowledge amongst the tribals must not be lost and can be done in a systematic way. For example, the methodology of People’s Biodiversity Registers, which we already have in place. However, we are losing medicinal plants due to forest depletion and other factors. Many of these plants are being used in allopathy and this is leading to overexploitation of traditional forest land by big companies. A sense of ownership of the habitat needs to be instilled amongst the tribals. This will not only provide livelihood but also help preserve their traditional medicinal knowledge.”

The workshop inauguration ended with a vote of thanks by representatives of UNDP.