Traditional and Local Knowledge Systems in the Caribbean: Jamaica as a Case Study
In Jamaica, like elsewhere in the Caribbean, traditional and local knowledge systems represent a blend of knowledge, worldviews, beliefs, skills, and practices derived from Amerindian, European, African, and other cultural groups. Through a process called creolization, new and unique knowledge systems were developed 90around Old and New World plant species, and this creative process still plays an important role in the island’s culture today. The historical movement of people and plants offers a solid basis to better understand Jamaica’s present-day applications of traditional knowledge in areas as diverse as agriculture and diet, folk or traditional medicine, development of the national nutraceutical industry and regulation of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), consumption of bush teas and fermented beverages called root tonics, and plant conservation. Jamaica’s rich multicultural knowledge systems consist of intertwined elements of biological, cultural, and linguistic diversity that merit deeper understanding, protection, and sustainable development for the benefit of local communities across the island. In order to better appreciate the multiple dimensions of these biocultural knowledge systems, counteract their loss, and recognize their value, equitable and dynamic collaborations are needed across multiple sectors, including social and natural scientists, policy and decision makers, the private sector, educators, and local communities. Continued documentation and valuation of these systems are urgently needed, especially in the face of challenges such as climate change and loss of biological diversity that disproportionally affect island nations.