Documenting Kenya’s Rich Heritage: Indigenous Knowledge Goes Digital

The Kenyan government, through the Natural Products Industry (NPI) Initiative, is embarking on a groundbreaking journey to document and digitize indigenous knowledge (IK) intellectual assets across the country. This initiative, known as the Documenting and Digitizing (DoDi) Programme, seeks to preserve traditional knowledge, including medicinal remedies, foods, heritage sites, music, dance, and indigenous technologies. The program, anchored at the National Museums of Kenya, aims to not only safeguard this wealth of knowledge but also to drive economic transformation at the grassroots level.

Quick Summary

  • DoDi Programme Overview: The DoDi Programme is a collaborative effort involving state agencies, county governments, and local communities. It focuses on documenting and digitizing indigenous knowledge intellectual assets within the 47 counties of Kenya.
  • Indigenous Knowledge Innovation Bank (InKiBank): As part of the DoDi Programme, an Indigenous Knowledge Innovation Bank is being established. This digital repository will contain diverse IK assets from different counties, preserving traditional wisdom for future generations.
  • Value Addition and Commercialization: The program goes beyond documentation; it aims to identify products that can be developed from the indigenous knowledge assets. These products will undergo value addition and be packaged for the marketplace, generating income for local communities and supporting the government’s Bottom-Up Economic Transformation Agenda (BETA).
  • Ownership and Protection: The Director General of the National Museums of Kenya, Prof Mary Gikungu, emphasized that the intellectual assets belong to local communities, in accordance with the Protection of Traditional Knowledge and Cultural Expressions Act 2016. The goal is to ensure that communities benefit directly from their indigenous knowledge.
  • Phased Approach: The DoDi Programme is being rolled out in phases. Thirteen counties are selected for the initial phase, with nine counties already part of the program. The phased approach ensures a systematic and comprehensive coverage of all 47 counties.
  • Constitutional Mandate: The initiative aligns with the 2010 Constitution, which mandates the state to protect and enhance intellectual property, indigenous knowledge of biodiversity, and the genetic resources of communities for their benefit (Art.69 (1) (c)).
  • Community Engagement Challenges: In the early stages, the DoDi Programme faced skepticism and doubts from some communities. To address this, National Government Administration officers conducted public Barazas to raise awareness about the program’s objectives and how communities stand to benefit.

Empowering Communities through Indigenous Knowledge

The DoDi Programme represents a significant step toward preserving and leveraging Kenya’s rich indigenous knowledge. By engaging communities and ensuring their ownership of intellectual assets, the initiative not only safeguards cultural heritage but also opens avenues for economic empowerment at the local level. As the digitization progresses, the Indigenous Knowledge Innovation Bank is poised to become a valuable resource for education, research, and sustainable development.

Toward a Digitally-Preserved Cultural Legacy

In an era of rapid technological advancement, the digitization of indigenous knowledge becomes a powerful tool for cultural preservation. The DoDi Programme not only respects the traditional wisdom embedded in indigenous knowledge but also positions Kenya to embrace its cultural legacy in the digital age. As the initiative unfolds, it holds the promise of unlocking new opportunities for economic growth, community resilience, and the intergenerational transfer of invaluable knowledge.


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