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The Role of Indigenous Knowledge Systems in Conservation

The dominant conservation models in Kenya often exclude local communities from accessing land and tend to be ineffective in achieving conservation goals. Literature suggests Indigenous knowledge systems (IKS) contribute to sustainable land and wildlife use. There is need to better understand the sources of knowledge that inform the most effective and just conservation models. In Kenya, neighboring communities, Gazi and Makongeni, employ an initiative successfully conserving mangroves. To understand the sources and depth of environmental knowledge, I conducted 58 interviews with participants 18 years and older. I compared the influence of two sources of knowledge: IKS and formal education, and found both present in the villages. Other factors including environmental education campaigns and incentives provided by the local conservation project had an impact on encouraging conservation and increasing environmental knowledge. Poverty and a lack of alternative energy sources also impact conservation efforts. This case study cannot prescribe a perfect conservation model, but voices of community members should undoubtedly be at the core.

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