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Quantifying Indigenous Knowledge: A rapid method for assessing crop performance without field trials

Research reports

This paper describes the development and use of a methodology for quantifying indigenous technical knowledge. Matrix ranking is adapted and used in systematic interviews with experienced farmers to generate numerical data on crop performance. Data sets compiled from a number of interviews are then subjected to statistical analysis. This enables hypotheses to be tested and agronomic parameters to be quantified without field trials. The methodology was developed to complement on-farm and station research. It may also have potential as an alternative to field trials because it provides information that is directly relevant to the farm situation at a far lower cost than field trials. This is particularly true for perennial crops, as conventional trials for these may take many years to yield data. Though the methodology has only been tested in the field of agronomy, the concept may have wider applications in a number of other disciplines in which indigenous technical knowledge is important in the research and development process. The paper therefore comments on both the risks and the potential of using the methodology.

Anne K. de Villiers