Canada funds indigenous knowledge preservation in the North Rupununi


The High Commission of Canada today announced a new project partnership with the North Rupununi District Development Board (NRDDB). Through the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI), the High Commission is supporting a community project to preserve traditional indigenous knowledge through the empowerment of indigenous women leaders within their communities.

This project is particularly significant since it will be contributing to the global effort to preserve indigenous languages during the International Decade of Indigenous Languages, as many of them are endangered because they are not taught in schools or spoken more publicly. Current data indicates that at least 40% of the 7,000 languages used worldwide are at some level of endangerment.

Through the project, the NRDDB will be working with Annai and surrounding communities to identify critical traditional skills and opportunities for knowledge preservation. The women from the area will be asked to participate in the creation a video library of “stories” to build a record of their knowledge, in their native languages for future generations.

One of the key areas of knowledge that the NRDDB will be seeking to record is traditional farming practices and the knowledge of plants. The focus will be on identifying traditionally used plants, their nutritional value, medicinal power and value added products that can be extracted from these plants. The manner in which these plants can be cultivated and grown will be recorded. The women and men from the communities will also be asked to share knowledge pertaining to traditional modes of survival used for generations by Indigenous people during times extreme weather such as flooding, droughts or fires which their ancestors were able to navigate.

Another aspect of the project is to conduct a research among Annai and the surrounding communities to understand and assess the factors limiting women from accessing leadership positions. The findings of the research will be used to create a work plan to change the perception of the role of women in their communities. The NRDDB wants to create a space for women to be equally represented in decision making and will be encouraging community leaders to diversify boards to have a greater representation of women within the next three years.

The women and youth in the community will also benefit from training on leadership and communication to provide them with the knowledge they need to take up roles in their communities and become agents of knowledge transfer.

Upon signing, the High Commissioner Mark Berman reminded that Canada is strongly committed to working with Indigenous peoples and is also a leading advocate for gender equality and the increasing the role of women in society.

“Canada has been actively working on reconciling with Indigenous nations and we recognise the value of their traditional knowledge and their care for the environment. We also understand the value of ensuring that women are included as equal partners in the development process and we are pleased to work with the NRDDB to empower Indigenous women to be the drivers of Indigenous knowledge transfer,” he stated.

This library of valuable information will be available for use as a resource for climate change adaptation and mitigation and will be distributed to the surrounding villages, as well as stored digitally in the NRDDB archive to address knowledge loss among youth.

Executive Director of the NRDDB, Mr. Ivor Marslow, noted that this project will enhance the work that the organisation has been involved in. This includes advocating for the sustainable management of the Rupununi Wetlands and building the skills and capacity of community members.

“We would like to thank the Canadian High Commission for their support through this project. We hope that through this project the capacities of the people of the North Rupununi communities, with specific emphasis on women, will be boosted. It is our desire to see our Indigenous women promoted as leaders and this project will help to encourage them to continue taking their place on that platform,” he said.

The project activities will occur over one year and is the third Indigenous based project being supported by the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI) this year.