Rhodes University student’s dream of preserving indigenous knowledge wins support at conservation conference

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Marina Khoza, MSc (Botany)
Marina Khoza, MSc (Botany)

Rhodes University student Marina Khoza, who will be graduating with a distinction in MSc (Botany) this year, was part of a team that won a $5000 cash prize for its Africa THINKS indigenous knowledge teaching solution at the Business of Conservation Conference (BCC) in Rwanda last year.

The Africa THINKS team also comprises environmental futurist Professor Nicholas King and field biologist and educator Karen Vickers, who manage the non-profit educational organisation Nsasani Trust.

Africa THINKS, a teaching hub for indigenous nature knowledge systems, was entered into the Beyond Tourism in Africa challenge at the BCC and was one of the top three out of 15 other shortlisted teams. A total of 300 teams entered the competition initially.

The Beyond Tourism in Africa challenge was a global competition with no profession, nationality, or age limitations. The only strict criteria was that at least one of the team members had to be connected to Africa.

“Besides the $5000 cash prize, we also received $1400 to help us create a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) out of our business venture, and we aim to launch our sample by the end of this year,” explained Khoza.

The other two winning teams were Home of Gorillas with David Gonahasa and Fidelis Kanyamunyu from Uganda, and Value Nature with Mark Gerrard, Simon Morgan and Gavin Erasmus from South Africa.

“This win means a lot for indigenous knowledge preservation,” Khoza said. “They say that an elder dying in a village is like a library burning down. We are excited about building a platform that will benefit community members who have vast knowledge but have no place to share it.”

She explained that Africa THINKS will be designed to elevate African perspectives about wildlife (plants and animals) and all the mythologies, taboos, linguistics, cultural and spiritual links to the environments people find themselves in.

“As the custodians of the last mega-herbivore populations and holders of historical wisdom on living sustainably within environmental constraints, African people will be able to teach the world about how natural systems function ecologically. This will also help correct centuries of colonial dogma around the meaning and value of knowledge,” she concluded.