Indigenous Knowledge and Livestock Raising

Livestock and beekeeping

Notes to broadcasters

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Just about everywhere in the countryside, people use traditional practices to raise livestock. The methods used are very specific to a given region and have been developed over a long period of time, handed down from one generation to the next.

Your community is probably no exception. For example local people probably learned how to collect and use plants to treat livestock diseases from their parents and grandparents. The following report describes two examples of indigenous livestock husbandry; these can be adapted to make appropriate programs for listeners in your community.


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Today I’m going to talk about livestock.In particular I’ll talk about traditional ways of raising livestock – methods that have been passed down from one generation to the next.

Let’s start with some chicken talk.The people in a village called Simirinac in Costa Rica keep chickens, and they know many local ways to house and feed their chickens. They build special small sheds for their chickens using live poles as the foundation.

Live poles? Yes, they use live poles – poles from plants that are still growing – so that the poles don’t rot in the ground. It’s a clever idea.The poles are cuttings from a plant calledcana brava.Cana bravais a type of local cane that grows very tall. The people build the sheds off the ground. They are little houses on stilts that keeps the chickens dry and away from predators.

They make the roof from sheets of corrugated iron and plastic. They only need a small number of nails and screws to construct the shed, so it’s not too expensive. The shed has a slatted floor so the manure can collect on the ground below.The local people have learned that the best number of chickens for each shed is thirteen – four chicks, four medium sized chickens, four productive chickens and one rooster.

Today, this shed design still works for the people in this community, as it worked for their parents and grandparents many years ago. Are there any good chicken shed ideas in OUR community?


Let’s move on to the subject of animal breeding – especially breeding animals that are well suited to local conditions.

This is a very important practice, because it saves local animal breeds.

In East Java, a region in the country of Indonesia, farmers have had great success in developing numerous hardy breeds of livestock Of course, local breeds are partly a result of natural selection. But farmers have also played an important role by deliberately selecting certain breeds for specific traits.

Livestock-keepers watch to see which animals can survive and produce in the local climate. Farmers sell animals that are weak, have a disease, or animals that do not make good mothers. They also sell animals that get sunburned easily or suffer in the rain.

But which animals do they keep? They keep animals that can tolerate disease and drought. They keep animals that can survive with scarce or low quality feeds. Other farmers select animals that can walk long distances. An older animal that knows the route well and keeps the herd going steadily is always valuable.

These selection strategies used by farmers, along with natural selection, have created local breeds that are hardy and healthy.


That concludes our program about raising livestock today. We’ve heard about two communities in two different parts of the world. Both are using local knowledge to manage and care for their animals. These are just two of countless examples of the value of indigenous knowledge.

Indigenous knowledge is a powerful symbol of the wisdom of the ages, and a cause for celebration.


Contributed by: Adiat Junaid, Toronto, Canada.

Reviewed by: Dan Gudahl, Contracts Officer, Winrock International, Morrilton, AK USA.

Information sources

Chicken shed model: using local plants to house and feed chickens“, Register of best practices on indigenous knowledge, Management of Social transformations Programme (MOST) and the Centre for Research and Advisory Networks (CIRAN).

“Veterinary practices in the prevention of contagious diseases and surgery”, N. Ole-Lengisugi Marecik, The World Bank Group, Indigenous Knowledge Database, IK Practice No 62.
Indigenous farming systems, practices and knowledge: some examples” in Farming for the future: An introduction to low-external input and sustainable agriculture, Coen Rijntjes, Bertus Haverkort, and Ann Waters-Bayer, 1992. ILEIA, PO Box 64, NL-3830 AB Leusden, Netherlands.