Planet Diversity World Congress on the Future of Food and Agriculture

Knowledge transfer among generations

How to prepare for future challenges

Organisers: Anneke Jostes and Christine Weißenberg, University of Kassel, Organic Agricultural Sciences Witzenhausen, Germany

The exchange of knowledge and experiences between people is not only important for development processes but also for preserving traditional knowledge resulting from lives and activities of different generations. Food processing and agriculture, in particular, are based on this kind of knowledge exchange. In times of increasing industrialization in the agricultural sector, due to specialization tendencies resulting in monoculture, this knowledge transfer is at risk. Therefore, passing on traditional knowledge plays a major role in maintaining the biodiversity of cultivated land:
• A varied land use system with different crops and plant varieties, which create habitats for animals and keep the soil fertile, requires knowledge about their regional suitability and their demands.
• On a farm it is necessary to inform future generations about particular problems and advantages of a location.
• Special environments often depend on traditional animal husbandry systems with old well-adapted breeds.

The older we get, the more experiences we have and it is important to pass the knowledge on to others so that they can benefit from it. Younger people have less but probably different experiences than elderly people. Therefore generations should be in contact with each other.

Minutes of the Workshop
We started with a group of about thirty participants from various countries: Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Finland, India, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, Nigeria, Poland, Serbia, Togo, Uzbekistan and Germany. There were people of different ages but mostly students about 23 years old.
During the workshop we arranged mixed workgroups and looked at knowledge transfer among generations at the individual level in our own cultural surrounding.

Out of this work session appeared several challenges and questions:
• Find criteria which knowledge to keep and not to keep.
• How to motivate younger generations to revert to traditional knowledge?
• Why do we need knowledge transfer in the thematic fields of agriculture, food and diversity?
• How to deal with gender orientated knowledge transfer?
• How to connect generations? How to close a generation gap?

Two of these questions were discussed in the plenum in the second work session. As the invited student group form IAAS had to leave and due to workshop-participant fluctuations there remained a group of fifteen people coming from Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Ecuador, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, Nigeria, Uzbekistan and Germany.

How to deal with gender orientated knowledge transfer?
Usually children all over the world grow up close to their mothers. In Nigeria and Indonesia for instance primarily mothers are in charge of teaching the basic knowledge. But they are often poorly educated themselves. For example in some ethnical groups in Nigeria it is common to keep female children at home instead of sending them at least to basic school. 

As the women are probably in most parts of the world responsible for the education of the young children it is important to secure their social position. They need time and possibilities for passing on knowledge and motivating the children to learn. Therefore the conditions for women must be improved. It is necessary to educate girls, to encourage them to go to school and to give them a vocational training, so that they become self-reliant women.

An other aspect is that special knowledge is kept as female or male domain by traditionally passing it on from mother to daughter and from father to son. Especially at a time where old, traditional knowledge is threatened to get lost, it is important to keep it wherever possible. So the question rises how to cross this knowledge barrier.

The young generation has to start with it! On the one hand they need to ask the older “grand” generation about their experiences and special knowledge. And on the other hand they have to invite the next generation – their own children - to hear about this knowledge. The parents also need to exchange their own knowledge: when one of them has not the time to pass it on the other one can teach it to the children.

In a school in Lima in Peru workshops about baking and textile producing are offered to the pupils. Mothers and fathers organize these workgroups. The idea is to integrate parents into school the education – otherwise there are often problems because children learn different or even contrary things in school and at home.

Surely people need to act and pass on their personal knowledge but therefore they need an environment, which allows them to do so. Political or religious leaders must be encouraged to make it their own topic and support necessary structures and activities. For example in Islamic countries women need an approving surrounding and a change in mentality and attitudes to be able to strengthen their social position and to become involved in decision making.

How to connect generations? How to close the gap?
Is this just a problem in the western countries? In Europe, for example, children usually leave their homes and families in the age of seventeen or eighteen years. The situation in Indonesia is a different one: There, children stay with their families until they get married. When discussing about the question how to close the gap between generations, there can be not just a gap between children and grandparents, but also a gap between children and their parents. Young people sometimes think they outmatch their parents because of a better education such as university. On the other hand, invisibly, they loose something in their relationship and respect for the parents and possibly traditional knowledge, which doesn’t seem to be of much value for them. It occurs that young people aren’t interested in dealing with older generations and don’t have a lot of respect for older people as they are often slower than young ones. The missing interest also appears the other way around: Old people aren’t really interested as well in what the young folks got to say and also don’t respect them as much.

It’s important that generations have respect for each other. They shall value each other for the strengths and weaknesses, which also depend on their different ages. Being interested in each other is essential and forms a base for further exchange and knowledge transfer.

Different generations often don’t live together. The spatial distance between them might be a barrier for exchange and transfer of knowledge.

Housing projects, which intend to bring different generations together, are one opportunity to support the exchange between generations. In these houses, apartments or rooms are rent to individuals, couples or families of different ages. Additional to that, the residents can be asked to join activities.


In western societies, there is nowadays a tendency of individualization. People see themselves more as separate beings with individual interests and very independent from other people. By contrast, in Tadzhikistan for example, the family is like an umbrella and individualization isn’t as much an issue.
The lost of connection to the family and the environment is obvious. The occurring knowledge gap is therefore seen to be a systemic thing. It is necessary to built up the communication to nature again.

Festivals offer opportunities to bring generations together. Organising such an event in a way that there are lots of things of different levels interesting for different generations can be a worthwhile challenge.

Minutes from the Workshop

from Viola Weiler, University of Kassel, Organic Agricultural Sciences Witzenhausen, Germany

Testimony from the Workshop

from Ruth Corsten, International Association of Students in Agricultural and Related Sciences

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Last Contributions

Knowledge transfer among generationsTransfert de Savoirs entre GénérationsKnowledge transfer among generationsTransferencia de conocimientos entre generaciones

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