Hearing from community researchers – testimonials from the Darwin Traditional Knowledge project

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Much of the work we do is through local community researchers. These peer researchers are recognised members of, and have kinship, ties, and alliances, with the Indigenous communities with whom research is taking place. They play a vital role in ensuring that the information collected is representative, respectful of different views and opinions, and that the research process is community owned.

Here we hear from some community researchers working on the Darwin Traditional Knowledge and Conservation project about their experiences, challenges and achievements.

Lucia Daniels – Parikwaranawa

When the project started, I was scared at first because we were being placed in groups and we were not sure what would be happening next. But after I got to know what the project was about I was happier because it was something new that I was going to learn.

So I got myself involved in every activity, got use to the equipment also and it became easier for me. I and my teammates used the tablets to capture materials using the different framings, and also to create a video of traditional ways in our community. It was very difficult at first but it became easier with the guidance of the project team.

It was in the month of January when we, the chosen community researchers, started to work in the community. We had to make three videos. At first we were not sure of how to begin, but we went ahead collecting materials and making appointments with villagers. During our visits I had fun because we were all schoolmates. Sometimes there were ups and downs between us, but I never let it go beyond me. We had visits from the project team in the months of January and February. I enjoyed most when they were here because they were the ones who advice that we have to do a little more, like going into farms and doing more interviews.

During the interviews we had challenges like some villagers didn’t want to participate because they think they don’t gain anything from it, but we went ahead with the others who gave their full contribution. I will continue to make videos of any challenge in the community and share it with other youths coming behind. I will also share my knowledge of what I learnt with them.

Luca Phillips – Parikwaranawa

Well, what I have learnt is how to capture materials and editing and how to create a simple video. I find working with my community good because it makes me a better person for the future.

Working with my peers as a community researcher makes me feel reliable to my peers. Also working with the team of the project is a great honour, because each time they come they are the ones who make comments that help the community researchers to get better. I have gained new knowledge each time the team of the project comes, like going out in the field and doing more capturing of raw materials.

As a young man I have faced some challenges such as when I go out and interview persons. But I overcome that situation by seeking advice from peers (community researchers), family members and the Village Council as a whole.

Finally I intend to use the knowledge and skills that I have gain to make life in the community better by going out and sharing with others.

Samaria Edwards – Maruranau

As a community researcher, it was an opportunity for me, because I’ve never been engaged with any project like this. At first, I was nervous to handle the equipment that we are working with; also going to elder people to interview them. But after sometime I built up my courage to talk with older people.

What I have learnt is that it helps you to become brave to speak. I also learnt from the information that the people gave us about things that I did not know.

I gain understanding from this project. It will really help us as Wapishana to live in a traditional way and this is very important for us. It helps to keep it by documenting it because our elders, who are the main resource persons, are passing away. So that was really good for me that they have passed on their knowledge by giving us the information. So that we will also pass it on to our children.

Working with the project team was really great help because I didn’t know anything about how to do these kinds of research. It was really good to learn and they are the ones who helped us and I got to know that we are helping them. There were challenges faced, especially with the interview questions. Also with getting people to participate. It took a little while to understand that they did not have to participate if they did not want to. I hope that the information from the videos is helpful though.

Brian James – Parikwaranawa

First of all, I would like to thank the Village Council for accepting this project in the village. Engaging on this project has given me a great opportunity to build my capacity in different areas, especially socialising with the elderly persons, and by sharing their knowledge in the different ways of doing traditional farming that I did not know about e.g. natural pest control.

Working with the Village Council was good, encouragement was given.  There were some challenges from some of the residents. Challenges I had face during the work process are some of the residents would not give consent to be interviewed, but by seeking more advice I was able to overcome that.

As I work along with the community researchers we work collectively. Working with the training team from the project was excellent because they are local people like me and I was able to understand their explanations, also they worked cooperatively and they are friendly.

From the beginning of this project I gave gained knowledge and skill to do certain things for my community. I would like to pass it on to persons who are interested, especially to the youths, to let them know how important traditional farming is.

Daniel Cyril – Maruranau

I have learnt from the project how to do fieldwork, edit short videos, taking to people, trying explain why we are doing the work, what it is needed for and where it is going.

Working with the team helped me learn about working together. Deciding together where we want to go and what to do next; like field work within the village, when to go, or what work we will do.

As for the community members they were happy about it. They understand the need of the project. But as time went by they did not give us enough time. To say how are things going; they leave us alone. There were challenges we faced as researchers. The young people don’t want to be interviewed. Some people say “they making money through our back so I will not welcome them when they ask me.” Some way we have to find a solution, so we started by saying that it is for our grandchildren and your grandchildren.

What I intend to do with my skill is to use it where I think there is a need for it. To show what I have learnt from the team. Doing the project helped me understand more about how important my culture and traditions are.

Follow Deirdre Jafferally:
Deirdre Jafferally has 17 years’ experience working in community based wildlife management and conservation. Deirdre first started working at the Iwokrama International Centre for Rainforest Conservation and Development, Guyana in the area of environmental monitoring. Recently, Deirdre has focused her interest in community resource management and Indigenous knowledge in the pursuit of a PhD exploring the implications of socio-ecological changes on Indigenous knowledge and practices, and its impact on forest conservation. She holds a BSc in Biology and MES in Sustainable Development and Ecological Monitoring.