Local agricultural knowledge construction among the Giriama people of rural coastal Kenya
Beckloff, Randall Dee
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The purpose of this study was to understand how local agricultural knowledge is constructed and disseminated in a rural community in coastal Kenya among the Giriama ethnic group. Local agricultural knowledge was of special interest as it is vital to life in rural Giriama communities. The research questions that guided this study were: 1. In this community, what factors shape the process of local agricultural knowledge construction? 2. In this community, how do adults learn local agricultural knowledge? In order to provide an in-depth and focused perspective on this process, a qualitative case study research design was selected. Data were collected in Kenya during a five-month residence. Field observations, interviews, and examination of artifacts constituted the data set. Data were analyzed using the constant comparative method. This inductive analysis process revealed that local agricultural knowledge was shaped first by the modernizing influences of individualization, government agricultural practices, school attendance, and the increased monetization of life. In addition to modernizing influences, evolving gender roles, time and energy constraints, and access to knowledge also shaped local knowledge. It was also found that local agricultural knowledge was learned through observation, trial and error, social interaction, conferring with respected people, and oral literature. These findings prompted four conclusions: (1) modernization was a pervasive force that shapes the construction of local knowledge, (2) that local knowledge construction is strongly shaped by gender, (3) that local agricultural knowledge construction was an informal process, and (4) that ensuring community survival was the principal motivation influencing the construction of local knowledge. Implications for practice drawn from these conclusions are that adult educators must consider gender as they plan and implement interventions and that interventions that utilize and build on informal methods are likely to be most effective. Finally, it was suggested that future research should more fully document and understand the educative function of oral literature and that additional research to understand the impact of age on local knowledge construction should be pursued.