Administered by FAO and funded by the Government of Norway, the LinKS project ran from 1998 to 2005 and was a regional effort carried out by a coalition of international partners, local governmental and non-governmental institutions in Mozambique, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Swaziland to explore the linkages between local knowledge systems, gender roles and relationships, food provision and the conservation and management of biodiversity.
The project sought to help development practitioners recognize that farmers have knowledge, practices and skills that are often highly sustainable and respectful of the natural ecosystems they depend on for their food and livelihoods and that in this context, rural men and women have different knowledge about how to use and manage genetic resources derived from their different roles and responsibilities in the farming system.
International partners who worked on the LinKS Project included the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI) in Rome, Italy, the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) in Ottawa, Canada, the World Bank Indigenous Knowledge Programme and the Regional Office of the World Conservation Union (IUCN) office in Harare, Zimbabwe. Together, IUCN and the project supported the Southern African Regional Network on Indigenous Knowledge Systems (SARNIKS) to set up mechanisms for learning, information exchange and advocacy in the region
The project's principal areas of work were research in collaboration with the Agricultural University of Norway’s Centre for International Environment and Development Studies (Noragric), capacity building and training and communication and advocacy.
During Phase I the project accomplished the following activities:
- Raising awareness about the importance of farmers’ knowledge and experience among more than 650 development workers and policy makers in the project countries.
- Sponsoring debate of policy issues and supported local initiatives to examine and develop strategies to enhance recognition and application of local people’s knowledge for food security and sustainable use of biodiversity.
- Providing field-based data for FAO’s work on local knowledge and biodiversity management.
Phase II built on the activities of Phase I. During Phase II, LinKS continued to train researchers and development workers from partner organisations, so that they built a better understanding of gender, local knowledge, biodiversity and food security; and provided them with diverse learning opportunities in gender-sensitive and participatory approaches. These training activities were closely linked to the research activities; the research teams followed a LinKS training course before they started with their field research activity.
In Phase II, more emphasis was put on medium term research activities, which were focused mainly on local seed management and animal genetic resources. After each research activity, research reports and case studies were prepared and disseminated, assuring a better visibility of men and women’s knowledge about the use and management of agro-biodiversity among development workers and policy makers.
The dissemination of research results led to the third major activity of the project: Support for partner organisations, policy makers, and rural populations to network, exchange information, experiences and to take action for the promotion of greater recognition of rural people’s knowledge, needs and perspectives. The project provided financial as well as technical support for partner’s initiatives like seminars, meetings, electronical newsletters, leaflets, community to community visits, to strengthen mainstreaming and advocacy activities.
The Project succeeded in:
- Highlighting the different knowledge of rural men and women on the use and management of resources, derived from their different roles and responsibilities in the farming system and increased the use of gender-sensitive and participatory approaches;
- Increasing farmers’ participation in the formulation of agricultural development policies.
- Developing a base of partnerships with international and national organisations.
- Training about the role and importance of local knowledge; how to use gender analysis and participatory methods for both research and action processes; and
- Significantly adding to the participating organization’s knowledge base on plant genetic resources, and the conservation and management of biodiversity and natural resources management.