The VITEK Indicator: A New Method for Measuring the Retention or Change of Traditional Knowledge

Target 18 of the CBD Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 requires that, by 2020, "the traditional knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities [...] are respected, subject to national legislation and relevant international obligations, and fully integrated and reflected in the implementation of the Convention". To achieve this goal, it is crucial to have reliable means to gauge what is happening with traditional environmental knowledge (TEK) around the world.

There is general agreement about the value of TEK for the conservation of biodiversity and the sustainability of local cultures and livelihoods. However, there is mounting evidence that all over the world TEK is being eroded. A key element in this process is that inter-generational transmission and use of TEK are being diminished, because of rapid economic, social and cultural changes that are affecting indigenous and local communities. It is essential to understand and measure the loss and retention of TEK and its transmission, and to identify the drivers of change, in order to support community efforts to maintain and use TEK, for their own benefit and for the broader benefit of humanity. Therefore, there is a vital need for appropriate indicators to measure whether TEK is being retained, eroded or augmented, and to identify the factors that may influence these trends.

The Vitality Index of Traditional Environmental Knowledge (VITEK) was developed to address this need. It is a unique, locally appropriate, globally applicable tool for the direct measurement of the status and trends of traditional knowledge of indigenous and local communities. The VITEK has been validated in the field, and IUCN has recommended its application as part of the "Aichi Targets" of the CBD Strategic Plan.

This day-long training session will offer participants a hands-on, interactive, and fun introduction to the VITEK, its purposes and methodology, and its step-by-step application to assessing the status and trends of TEK in indigenous and local communities around the world. Participants will receive information and training materials on the VITEK and will be guided through a series of creative exercises to familiarize themselves with this tool. The session will be useful for a wide audience of indigenous and local community members, conservationists and policy makers, students and researchers.

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