Learning and Application of Indigenous Fisheries Knowledge


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African indigenous education is the African way of knowing where teaching and learning of knowledge and skills happens from homes and local community. Generally, indigenous education is vocational education and can also be defined as a practically illustrated and attempted job or career skill instruction (Education encyclopedia 2009). It existed informally in Africa before the introduction of formal education by the missionaries (Ssekamwa, 1997). African indigenous system of education revolved around families, clans, tribe and regions. The teachers were the parents and adult members of the community gifted and skillful in a particular technology (Namuli, 2002; Ssekamwa, 1997). The learners were the children who were introduced into life sustaining skills. This enabled them to be self reliant and useful to the community. Teaching had no set time table or curriculum, but was done whenever and wherever necessary. Adults would carry along with them the young ones as they go for an activity and the learners would be taught while doing the job. Like Mjelde (2006,p. 22,23) stated, here, one learnt through one's own activities in a work situation and through interaction with others.

Very little information however, exists if any about this kind of education in the fishing communities of Lake Victoria. This research will be carried out from Kigungu fish landing sites on Lake Victoria in Amolatar District. The research is designed to explore into how knowledge and skills of fishing are transferred to the young recruits (learners) and how they use these in the "African way" to sustain their livelihoods. By "African ways", I mean fishing using locally made fishing gears, using local indigenous knowledge of finding fish stock location, position location in the waters, fish preservation and resource conservation.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

The Ugandan fishing industry is characterized by the indigenously trained fishing communities. They have close ethnic background and share common cultural practices and languages with exception of only a few immigrants who get adapted and absorbed into the culture of the local fishing community. Because fishing is the source of livelihood here, the practice is guarded and the knowledge passed on from generation to generations by the skilled members of the community. One fascinating gap in knowledge of the indigenous pedagogy of fishing is "man's relations to the ecology of fishes"(Bergmann, Hinz, Blyth, Kaiser, Rogers, & Armstrong, 2004) . One wonders how fishers find their way to and from the fishing grounds (where only water and sky and their horizon are visible) and how they locate fish stocks before they can place their fishing gears. We still know very little if any how the indigenous knowledge of fishing is applied in fisheries ecology, how they interpret weather (nature) in relations to fishing and how these knowledge is preserved and passed on to the next generation. These are my motivating factors to do this research.

Theoretical Framework

In an attempt to develop a theoretical framework for utilizing IKS in fisheries education and management to promote sustainable fishing, there is need to answer the following questions. What is indigenous knowledge (IK)? What special contribution can it make to sustainable fishing? How can this contribution be incorporated into fisheries education?

Semantic definitions of the term indigenous include; originated and produced, growing, living, or occurring naturally in a particular region or environment. Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary defined the term indigenous as "native, belonging naturally" (Hornby, 1974, p. 433).

Conceptual definitions may include; Integrated system of cognition, beliefs/values, and practices with contextual information system and comprehensive in dimensions of application (Williams & Muchena, 1991, p. 52)

There is no universally accepted term for the category of knowledge referred to in the present work. It is variably referred to as traditional knowledge, local knowledge, indigenous knowledge, traditional environmental knowledge (TEK), or, as Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS), indigenous technical knowledge, ethnoscience, local science, traditional science, people's science, and village science (Williams & Muchena, 1991, p. 51). Each has somewhat different emphasis, but the essence of the category is knowledge that is specific to a particular place and a particular group of people. An important aspect of IKS is that it covers the whole range of human experience. The dimensions of IK include physical sciences and related technologies (agriculture, ethonobotany, ethnoecology, medicine, climatology, engineering, irrigation), social sciences (politics, the military, economics, sociology, and ethnology), and humanities (communications, arts and crafts).

For the purposes of this research, I will use the term indigenous knowledge systems, or IKS, to mean the local knowledge that is unique to a given culture or society which accumulates over generations of living in a particular environment that enable the community to achieve stable livelihoods in their environment.

IKS is the basis for local-level decision making in agriculture, health care, food preparation, education, natural-resource management, and a host of other activities in rural communities. When Nile perch was introduced in to lakes Victoria and Kyoga in the late 1950s and 1960s, by early 1980s its catches increased dramatically followed by a drastic decline in population of several indigenous fish species (Balirwa, Chapman, Chapman, Gheb, Lowe-McConnel, Seehausen, Wanink, Welcomme, & Witte, 2000, p. 240). Lack of involvement of the local fishing communities in fisheries management has built distrust and non corporation with the central government fisheries staff which has met with great difficulties (Cowx, Van der Knaap, Muhoozi, & Othina, 2003, pp. 305-308). The introduction of the fishing community Beach Management Units (BMUs) to co-manage fisheries with the central Government of Uganda on Lake Victoria and other major lakes in Uganda is a sign that the top-down approach ("foreign knowledge") had failed and the indigenous efforts are being sought to manage the fisheries resource.

In most cases, a careful amalgamation of indigenous and foreign knowledge would be most promising, leaving the choice, the rate and the degree of adoption and adaptation to the clients. Foreign knowledge does not necessarily mean modern technology, it includes also indigenous practices developed and applied under similar conditions elsewhere. These techniques are then likely to be adopted faster and applied more successfully.

Objective of the Study

This research is centered on the following objectives;

General Objectives

The present study aims to record and interpret the pedagogy of local knowledge held by Kigungu fishers about the ecology, fisheries and reproduction of the three commercial fish species [Nile Perch (Lates niloticus), Nile Tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) and Mukene (Rastrienobola argentea) on L. Victoria], further discussing the differences and similarities between information provided by the two groups of fishers, and comparing such information with published scientific biological data.

1.4.2 Specific Objectives

To find out the indigenous ways of teaching and learning the art and science of fishing.

To identify the collection of traditional fishing gears in operation to date.

To identify the ethno-ecological information about the major commercial fishes of Lake. Victoria.

To compare the ethno-itchthyological information provided by the local fishers with the existing scientific biological data about the migration, reproduction and fisheries of the commercial species.

1.5 Research Questions

The present study aims to record and interpret local knowledge held by fishers of Kigungu landing sites about the learning of the art and science of fishing and ethno-ecology of fishes, further discussing the differences and similarities between information provided by the fishers, and comparing such information with published biological data. In this sense, I will be guided by the following questions for which I seek the answers.

When do the young recruits join the fishing vocation, how are the trainings conducted, who are the teachers in the vocation, how is weather interpreted in relations to fishing? And does the ethno-ecological information agree with biological literature? Would it be possible to obtain new insights and future research guidelines based on the information gathered from fishers of Kigungu? Ethno-ecological studies may also help in promoting dialogue and cooperation between fishers and scientists (Silvano & Begossi, 2005) and (Pomeroy & Williams, 1994).

1.6 Scope of the Study

In this study which will be conducted within a period of five months, I will confine myself to the fishing community of Kigungu Fish landing site on Lake Victoria. The study will cover the socio-cultural explanations of pedagogy in the fishing vocation and compare it with the existing fisheries biological literatures to harmonize the indigenous fisher's knowledge with the existing scientific explanations in fisheries.

1.7 Significance of the Study

Answers to these questions would potentially contribute to enhancing the vocational education and fisheries biological databases about indigenous knowledge of fishing on L. Victoria and would show to fishery scientists some ways in which local fishers' knowledge can be useful to co-management initiatives. To date little use is made of the fisher's indigenous knowledge in management decision making process (Bergmann et al., 2004). In doing this, I hope to improve mutual understanding between fishery scientists and local fishers in Uganda therefore helping these fishers to get more involved in managing the fisheries resource. Besides increasing the available ethno-ichthyological information on L. Victoria, this research will be one of the first ethno-ichthyological studies involving Kigungu fishing communities.


Literature Review

Modern Africans tend to invest little faith in developing indigenous knowledge (Ngara, 2007,p.7), however, there is need to revisit the African traditional ways of knowing to harmonize the past with the present so that we shall be able to establish the true basis for indigenous fishing pedagogy in the informal "world". The lack of involvement of the fishing communities can only be seen as a retrograde step. Cowax et al.,(2003, p. 205) recognized that central government management created an atmosphere of distrust leading to non cooperation of local fishers with the fisheries departments, and no support for the statistical data collection procedures within the fishing communities. Furthermore, over-fishing and the use of damaging or illegal fishing gears are in part a reflection of the failure of centralized management strategies.

The fact that so much effort is now being invested into understanding the basis for indigenous natural resources management indicates that the negative attitudes commonly held about indigenous knowledge during the colonial era have begun to change. A case in point is the establishment of the beach management units (BMUs) for the management of fisheries resources on Lake Victoria in the three riparian states of Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. In addition, BMUs are now operational in most lakes (for example, Kyoga, George, Edward, Albert and Kwania) of Uganda. The expectation is that the citizens and government share responsibility in fisheries management as an active partners in fisheries planning, management and development (MAAIF, 2003, p. 10). Breidlid (2009,p.142) recognized that, the lack of respect for local or indigenous knowledge and the assumption by western scientist that western epistemology and scientific discourse is superior is a serious obstacle to sustainable development because they fail to meet human development needs and at the same time to protect nature and the ecosystems. After the Asian Tsunami disaster of 2005 destroyed all the fishing equipments and harbors in the coastal areas of Sri Lanka, in the Island Newspaper, Amarasiri (2005) wrote this:

"I argue that the traditional fishing sector that provided livelihood for the poor and the marginalized communities in the country's littoral, should be assisted not only to restore their livelihood, technology and know-how of traditional fishing but also to bring back the vigour of the culture that embodied the much valued folk wisdom coming down from many generations".

Fishing in the wild waters is a skillful technique which has developed over time from the crude traditional methods of using hands, feet, woods, bones and later on spears and modern hooks and fishing nets (Brandt, 1972,p.5-8,38-45,185-204). Modern fishers equipped with electronic fish finders, predetermine fish abundance in the fishing grounds before deploying their fishing gears. Our fore fathers too knew in their own ways how to predict fish abundance, the knowledge of which can still be traced to a few descending fishers. The African ways of knowing are grounded in the indigenous African cultural traditions, history and ecology (Ngara, 2007,p.7). While modern systems which use Sonar as fish finders, global positioning systems (GPS) for position location and weather station reports to determine the conditions in the sea, these equipments are affected by the environmental conditions and other factors which render the information outputted questionable and unreliable. But, the indigenous systems prevail and are accurate. One can however regard this knowledge as unauthentic and unreliable as some can not be verified by scientific methods.

In African systems, the pedagogy of vocational skills showed the youth being apprenticed to skilled masters of healing arts, blacksmithing, midwifery, pottery, craftwork, etc (Ssekamwa, 1997). Fishing is a unique vocation, given the environment in which it operates and the engagement of only a few members of a community means it attracts the brave and the determined youth only. Unlike other vocations where almost every member of a society constituted a tutor / teacher (Ssekamwa, 1997), the foregone reasons meant that, the teachers for the fishing vocation were few and not easily accessible unless followed in the wild waters. This therefore obviously might have called for some kind of physical qualities and interest of the learners. The fact that fishing is a kind of production learning might have motivated the learners as the fish caught in the process would be used for food or battered for some other goods and services in the community.

Governments commonly manage fisheries through legal and administrative measures which Abila, Lwenya, Geheb, and Crean,(2000, p. 318) called the "command and contro regime". The system regulates when, where, who and how fishing activities are carried out. Following the introduction of Nile perch in lakes Victoria and Kyoga, the commercial catches of indigenous fish species has never returned to its peak, with some species going to extinction. Currently, the catches of Nile perch itself have drastically gone down. The communities themselves recognize that the fishery is overexploited but unless they are informed of the status of the stocks in relation to catch statistics they cannot be expected to respond to calls to reduce the amount of fish harvested. The failure of the of state organs to regulate fisheries has prompted re-thinking into new strategies for fisheries management (Abila et al., 2000, p. 318).

With the support of the fishing communities the sustainability of the fishery can become an achievable objective by, for instance, adhering to agreed-upon fishing methods and patrolling of certain parts of the lake. The incorporation of the local fisher's knowledge into scientific fisheries investigation is thus paramount in the management of the fisheries resources in Uganda.

CHAPTER THREE: Materials and Methods

In this chapter information on the study area, the study design, sampling techniques and the method of statistical data analysis are discussed.

The Study Area

This study will be conducted in Kigungu fishing village, which is situated along Lake Victoria in Entebbe peninsula, Entebbe Municipality (Wakiso District). The village is located at the extreme south-western end of Entebbe peninsula, between longitudes 32o 25' 05'' and 32o 25' 25'' East and latitudes 0o 02' 00'' and 0o 02'15''East. It is about ten kilometers south of Entebbe municipality just behind Entebbe International Airport (Figures 1).

Kigungu is not only a fishing village but a growing trading center with a strong religious base. According to LaBonte, (2008), the first Catholic missionaries (Father Lourdel Mapera and Brother Amans) were believed to have first set foot on Ugandan main land at Kigungu on 17th February 1879.

3. 2 The Study Design

This research will employ qualitative and quantitative research methods. It will be conducted in two phases. The first phase will comprise an interview with each of the fifty target respondents. Questions about ecology and biology of fishes will be conducted on key fishers who have been in fishing for over 10 years. This is so because I expect them to have a great deal of experience and they should be familiar with fishes and fishing on this lake.

In the second phase of data collection, I will accompany the fishers to their fishing grounds and observe fishing in action. I will pay particular interest to the fishing gears used, where and how they set the fishing gears in relations to the weather and how they maneuver their way to and from the predetermined fishing ground. In this phase I will randomly [1] sample five fishers to follow on their different fishing expeditions.

3.3 The Sampling Procedure

In this study, I will use the random sampling method of (Crawley, 2005). A sample of 50 adult men (from 18 years old) fishers will be used. I will use male not below 18 years as it is the dominant gender in this vocation and because some one below 18 years is recognized as a child Uganda (Uganda Constitution, 1995, p. 156). There exist generally and clearly division of labour in vocational education, girls dominates in home economics and handicrafts while boys dominates in architectural crafts, industry, agriculture, seamanship and fisheries (Mjelde, 2006). The list of all adult active fishers in the office of the beach management unit (BMU) will be extracted. All their names will then be written each on a piece of paper and rolled up. All the papers will then be put in a box and shaken thoroughly. The choice of which fisherman to be interviewed will be done by drawing at random each paper from the box, one after another and the names of 50 fishers recorded in the "sample list". The fishermen will then be contacted in advance to arrange for an interview schedule. This is so because fishers tend to jump from their boats after a fishing expedition to their recreational drinking joints and it is difficult to catch up with them in those places.

3.4 Methods of Data Collection

In the present study, I will gather data through interviews, using standardized interview guides and observation. This is because I want first hand information form the host's mouth. The interview further will allow me ask clarifications on areas of particular interest. The interview guide will include but not limited to the following questions about the indigenous knowledge of fishery, ecology and biology of the commercial fishes of L. Victoria, some of which will be presented to interviewees as a photograph: Which fish is this (common name)? What is its usefulness? Do you catch it during the day or during the night? How do you catch it (fishing gear and techniques)? Where do you catch it (fishing grounds)? In which months are the catches abundant (seasonal occurrence)? Does it form schools? From where does it come and to where does it go (migratory behavior)? Where does it live (habitats)? What does it eat (feeding habits)? Do other fishes or animals eat it (predators)? When does it appear with eggs (reproduction)? All these questions will be asked in the same way, in an understandable manner to the interviewed fishers, who will be allowed plenty of time to answer. With this procedure I will aim to gather quantitative collective ethno- ecological information that I will compare with the existing scientific biological literatures. Artisanal fishermen offer rich and unknown sources of both theoretical and practical information which they observe concerning the behavior, food, habitat, reproduction and behavior of fish species (Eraldo Medeiros, 2000).

Fishers will also be asked among others, the following questions about how they learnt the knowledge and skills they use in fishing and how they preserve and transfer that knowledge to their new recruits. Do you have a local fisher's organization? What are it functions? How do you enjoy fishing (motivation)? When did you begin to fish? How did you learn to fish? Who taught you how to fish (teachers)? Do you teach other fishers? How do you teach them (teaching methods)? What do you teach them (learning content)? What do you use for teaching (materials)? Where do you teach them? Which indigenous fishing gears do you use to date? Why do you still use these gears? Which modern fishing gears do you use? How do you compare these gears (ecology, resource management, efficiency)? Here I expect to gather the didactics of knowledge and skills transfer among the fishers and I will be able to discuss and compare with the modern principles of vocational knowledge and skills transfer.

Observational study will involve following fishers on five fishing trips to their fishing grounds. I will pay much attention to how they locate fish stocks and fishing grounds and how they trace their way back to the landing site after fishing and any other activities they perform while in the water such as fishing rituals, if any. This observation will assist me to triangulate the information given during the interviews.

3.4 Measurement and Data Analysis

The information gathered from the fishers will be quantified as frequencies and percentages of respondents who will give similar answers to the questions to be asked. The assumption here is that, the information given by most fishers is a representation of the common cultural knowledge spread to the community. Ethno-ecological information will be tabulated side by side with the scientific biological data from the existing literature for logical comparison.

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