Agricultural know-how are skills acquired through experience or apprenticeship as a farmer. Referring to traditional know-how involves the preservation and transmission of these skills from one generation to the next. Transmission occurs by observing, practicing and copying other farmers. Goblet pruning of grapevine, in the community of Pantelleria (Italy, Sicily) illustrates the notion of traditional know-how in agriculture. Winemakers and farmers of Pantelleria have shared throughout generations this pruning technique, with rituals and parties that bring all the inhabitants together. Thus, this practice contributes to the cultural identity of the community.
After the Second World War, farmers began to base their know-how on the ideology of technical progress and science, rather than on skills inherited from previous generations, considered as old and outdated. This marked a break in the transmission of traditional know-how.
The appropriation of traditional know-how appears as an alternative solution to intensive agriculture. In agroecology, farmers are updating and adapting traditional know-how, by synergetically mobilizing, local knowledge acquired through expertise with current scientific knowledge. For example, farmers had always selected and produced their own farmer seeds until the seed industry appeared. Today, farmers are reappropriating little by little the varietal selection to make the species once again adapted to territory and farmers’ practices. Agroecology is enriched with traditional know-how to design new production systems to address local issues.
References to explore
Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), 2019. Culture and food traditions: by supporting healthy, diversified and culturally appropriate diets, agroecology contributes to food security and nutrition while maintaining the health of ecosystems. Agroecology Knowledge Hub.
Convention on Biological Diversity. Article 8(j): Traditional Knowledge, Innovations and Practices : Introduction. United Nations Environment Programme. Accessed March 30 2019.
United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Traditional agricultural practice of cultivating the « vite ad alberello » (head-trained bush vines) of the community of Pantelleria. 2014. Accessed March 30 2019.
World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). 2010. Traditional knowledge. Accessed March 30, 2019.