Tuesday 6
Traditional knowledge and resilience thinking
Juliana Merçon, Evodia Silva-Rivera
› 11:35 - 12:30 (55min)
› Rondelet
With Our Own Hands: A celebration of life and food in the Afghan and Tajik Pamirs
Jamila Haider  1@  , Frederik Van Oudenhoven  2@  
1 : Stockholm Resilience Centre  (SRC)  -  Website
Stockholm Resilience Centre Stockholm University Kräftriket 2B, SE-114 19 Stockholm -  Suède
2 : International Society of Ethnobiology  (ISE)  -  Website
ISE 14 School Street P.O. Box 303 Bristol, Vermont 05443, USA -  États-Unis

The Pamir Mountain range of Central Asia, joining Tajikistan, Afghanistan, China and Pakistan, is a region of high biocultural diversity. Cultures, languages, and biodiversity meet here, making it a ‘centre of origin' of various grain and fruit crops. This diversity is set against the backdrop of the harsh and scarce landscape that characterises the Pamirs. Our presentation is a story of the people who have made soil from rocks above 2000 m, lived through decades of modern war, and have successfully cultivated and produced foods that are found nowhere else on Earth and whose existence is now threatened.

Through folk tales, poetry, photography, science and art from the Pamirs, we address the question how local and traditional knowledge can meaningfully be incorporated into a development process. Against this analysis we question what is meant by ‘development' and how dominant models commonly used by aid agencies invariably fail to take account of the complex social-ecological context of the Pamir Mountains. In this presentation we identify ideological and institutional barriers to incorporating traditional social-ecological knowledge into the development process and offer a narrative approach to imagining an alternative future of development. 

Our presentation is based on the insights gained while writing With Our Own Hands, A celebration of Life and Food in the Afghan and Tajik Pamirs. The book was written to fulfil the promise of a grandmother's wish that we document some of her recipes. She was fearful that her knowledge of how to live and prosper in this harsh landscape would be lost as none of the seven dominant languages and dialects spoken in the Pamirs are written. Soon after beginning the research for the book, we found that food, more than any other topic, enables the people who are generally the subjects of development interventions (and who, ironically, are also the ones most excluded from the development process)—the elderly, women, and farmers—to express their opinions and ideas about what development should be.

Throughout our work in attempting to give the Parmiri people a voice we were reminded of the inescapable tension between romanticising local knowledge on the one hand, with the need for development on the other. In today's dominant development imagery, development success (of emancipation, progress, market development) is symbolised by a photograph of a woman holding the key to the community saving's box. Her neighbour, cooking a traditional noodle soup called osh, is left out of the frame. For those able to see it, the soup represents an example of a food and agricultural system that is particularly well-adapted to local social-ecological conditions: it is made from a nutritious mixed flour of grains and nitrogen-fixing pulses, grown together in the same field to reduce the pressure on local soils. The irony in these contrasting images is that the ‘key' to development often creates a dependency on external solutions and obscures the local sources of ingenuity that are needed to sustain and adapt the traditional seeds, knowledge and values that produce dishes such as osh.

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