Exploring environmental knowledge: the construction and conservation of agricultural biodiversity in Ghana
AbstractThis paper explores the idea of environmental knowledge by focusing on the social construction of agricultural biodiversity. The fieldwork was conducted in 2003–2004 in Ghana. The research methodology consisted of interviewing and focus group discussions. The respondents varied from researchers and government officials to members of women’s farming groups who cultivate rice. This paper argues that by understanding how agricultural biodiversity is constructed it is possible to highlight different ways of understanding the environment by different actors. The paper begins with an overview of the emergence of agricultural biodiversity as a global environmental issue. With this background in mind, this paper examines the different ways of construction and conservation of Oryza glaberrima, the indigenous rice variety of Ghana. Three different discursive
positions, ranging from scientific to local knowledge, are identified. The Agric, Diversity and Local discourse frame and categorise rice and other crop varieties in a different manner. The categories identified reflect the visible characteristics
of the varieties and their social meanings, related to their use or function in the wider social context. These different categories are corresponding and conflicting, as well as inclusive and exclusive, and have become institutionalised into social rules, norms and practices, which further establish the efforts
to conserve O. glaberrima.