International Symposium:
‘Biocultural Diversity between Research and Policy’

Date: 30 September 2014 (Tuesday)
Time: 10:00 - 17:00
Place: Lecture Hall, RIHN( → Access)
Organiser: FS ‘Biocultural Diversity in the Asia-Pacific: Towards Dynamic Transmission of Traditional Ecological Knowledge’
Contact: RIHN, OKAMURA E-mail
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  1. 10:00-10:10 Word of welcome/ Introduction of today’s program
  2. Masayuki Onishi (Visiting Professor, RIHN)

    Session 1: Bougainville (10:10-12:00)

    Chair: Syuntaro Tida (Associate Professor, Uni of Kyoto)

  3. 10:10-10:25 Introduction of the Session
  4. Masayuki Onishi

  5. 10:25-11:05 ‘Bougainville: an Island of Traditional Villages’
  6. James Tanis (Former President, Autonomous Region of Bougainville)

  7. 11:05-11:30 ‘Language Education at the Grassroots’
  8. Masayuki Onishi

  9. 11:30-12:00 Questions and answers
  10. 12:00-13:10 Lunch Break
  11. Session 2: Southeast Asia (13:10-15:45)

    Chair: Ryuji Ishikawa (Professor, Hirosaki Uni)

  12. 13:10-13:25 Introduction of the Session
  13. Nathan Badenoch (Associate Professor, Kyoto Uni)

  14. 13:25-14:15 ‘Bio-cultural Aspects of Development Policy and Practice: Language and Livelihood as Indicators of Sustainability’
  15. Jim Chamberlain (Independent Scholar based in Laos)

  16. 14:15-14:45 ‘Traditional Ecological Knowledge in Myanmar’
  17. Aung Si (Postdoctoral Fellow, Uni of Melbourne)

  18. 14:45-15:15 ‘Some useful Plants in Myanmar’
  19. Makoto Kawase (Professor, Uni of Tsukuba)

  20. 15:15-15:45 Questions and answers
  21. 15:45-15:55 Coffee Break
  22. Session 3: General Discussion (15:55-17:00)

    Chair: Toshiki Osada (Emeritus Professor, RIHN)

  23. 15:55-16:10 ‘Navigating Competing Knowledge Systems along the Policy and Research Continuum’
  24. Nathan Badenoch

  25. 16:10-17:00  General Discussion

Symposium Participants

  • Postdoctoral Fellow, School of Languages and Linguistics, Faculty of Arts, University of Melbourne

  • BADENOCH, Nathan
  • Associate Professor, The Hakubi Project, Kyoto University

  • Independent Scholar based in Laos

  • ISHIKAWA, Ryuji
  • Professor, Dept. of Applied Biosciences, Faculty of Agriculture and Life Science, Hirosaki University

  • KAWASE, Makoto
  • Professor, Faculty of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Tsukuba

  • ONISHI, Masayuki
  • Visiting Professor, RIHN

  • OSADA, Toshiki
  • Visiting Professor Emeritus, RIHN

  • TANIS, James
  • Former President, Autonomous Region of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea

  • TIDA, Syuntaro
  • Associate Professor, Dept. of Linguistics, Faculty of Letters, Kyoto University

Abstract of each session/presentation

Bougainville Session

Island Melanesia, Bougainville Island in particular, is renowned for its high-level of biological and cultural diversity. The former can be illustrated by different landscape types and the number of endemic species of plants, mammals and birds, and the latter by a large number of indigenous language varieties, a complex clan/subclan network that spans the island, and the richness of traditional knowledge inherited in each community.

Bougainville recently went through a severe civil war (known as Bougainville Crisis 1988-2001) which was triggered by environmental and social destruction due to the operation of the Panguna Mine. The island was completely blockaded for a decade. During this period the majority of Bougainvillians heavily relied on local natural resources and traditional wisdom for survival. After the Peace Agreement (2001), the island is now preparing for a referendum for independence.

One of the important questions our project would ask, then, is: how could these rich biocultural resources, in the light of this unique experience of Bougainvillians in the very recent past, be utilised educationally and politically for building a new nation? The Bougainville situation provides us an excellent opportunity to examine which components of biological and cultural diversity are important for the resilience of small-scale communities, and how.

We plan to focus our research on plants/animals important for local people as sources of food, medicine and cash earning, and management of landscapes; local languages and cultural systems which have sustained traditional knowledge on these; and development of effective educational systems and policies which will enable local people to transfer such knowledge across generations. These topics constitute an interface between biological and cultural diversities and between traditional and modern scientific knowledge systems.

In this session, James Tanis will talk about Bougavinille’s traditional governance systems that are largely based on matrilineal kinship systems, and the challenges on this kind of governance systems posed by the pressure of globalisation. Onishi’s talk will focus on the recent history and current situation of language education and educational policy in Bougainville, and discuss what kind of contributions our project might make.

Introducing Bougainville

Masayuki Onishi

This introduction provides basic information on Bougainville — its geographical, geological and social settings, and some facts about its biological and cultural/linguistic diversity. This also briefly looks at its history and its socio-political situation during and after the Crisis.

Bougainville: an Island of Traditional Villages

James Tanis

This presentation discusses how Bougainville can maintain its traditional village life systems in the modern world. What kind of government policies should be implemented to support such village life systems despite challenges from the pressures of globalisation? Sub topics of the talk include: clan and matrilineal systems, intermarriage, landownership and leadership systems. The talk concludes by emphasising the importance of learning from the experiences of other island nations.

Language Education at the Grassroots

Masayuki Onishi

This presentation begins with the description of current linguistic situation and language policy of Bougainville/ Papua New Guinea in comparison with those of some other multilingual nations such as India. Then follows a discussion on the recent history and current situation of school systems and educational policy in Bougaiville. Some observations on local elementary and primary schools of south Bougainville will be presented with some ideas..for improving the situation.

Southeast Asia session

Mainland is an area of high biocultural diversity. Economic liberalization and integration at the regional level is proceeding rapidly, but the range of political regimes across the region is extremely varied. In general, decision making procedures remain compartmentalized (at both national and regional levels), and the basic reality is that policy and science remain at significant distance. While cultural diversity can be a sensitive issue, there is more political space available to discuss environmental issues. The opportunity of SEA could be understood as developing a strategic approach towards promoting an integrated concept of biocultural diversity through the windows of rural socio-economic development and biodiversity conservation, with a particular focus on resources, environments and cultural practices in daily life.

This session will look at Laos and Myanmar, presenting views of research and policy from the perspective of a) policies to safeguard ethnic minorities in a large-scale development projects funded by international financial institutions and implemented through government institutions (Laos), and b) emerging opportunities for significant scientific research in both natural and social arenas in a newly opened country where socio-economic and landscape change are gaining pace but political institutions remain volatile (Myanmar), and c) research on useful plants in Myanmar and Laos.

The objective of the session is to present the difficult conditions in these countries as opportunities to make significant progress in the conceptual and methodological work of biocultural diversity, while contributing to alternative policy approaches to implementation.

Introduction to Southeast Asia Session

Nathan Badenoch

The introductory talk will provide a basic overview of the biodiversity and ethno-linguistic situation of mainland Southeast Asia, highlighting the key issues associated with decision making processes that affect socio-economic development, ecology and resources.

Bio-cultural Aspects of development policy and practice: Language and livelihood as indicators of sustainability

Jim Chamberlain

This presentation will introduce the policy environment in Laos, focusing on how minority peoples’ livelihoods are considered within development projects. The interesting point of this presentation will be the nexus between national policy and the potential for influence from funders. This talk will focus on dynamics of livelihood and language use as a vehicle for understanding the outcomes of these policies and practices.

Traditional Ecological Knowledge in Myanmar

Aung Si

This presentation will give an idea of the type of scientific research opportunities that are emerging in Myanmar. The policy environment is still a question mark, but personal experience in doing research in the country will be brought to bear on the consideration of how the project might create a niche for itself in the rapid changes underway in the country.

Some useful plants in Myanmar and Laos

Makoto Kawase

This report will introduce you some useful plants in hilly and mountainous areas in Myanmar, Laos and vicinity. Understanding indigenous agricultural complexes that comprise diverse plant genetic resources of the region will provide keys for sustainable development.

Slash-and-burn or shifting cultivation is traditionally practiced there. They grow non-glutinous and glutinous rice, sesame, rice bean, taro, Hooker chives, shallot, soya bean, perilla, holy basil, Elsholtzia blanda, Zanthoxylum spp., Job's tears, etc., and they use wild vegetables such as Centella asaitica. Hunting small animals and gathering insects for food are commonly practiced there, too.