School of Education

A Teary PhD Victory: The value of Indigenous Knowledge of Tubers for Food Production Under Climate Change

Dr Bolanle Susan Olaniyan
Dr Bolanle Susan Olaniyan

An excited Dr Bolanle Susan Olaniyan graduated with her PhD in Education for her research that explored the role of Indigenous Knowledge (IK) in root and tuber farmers’ responses to climate change in Nigeria.

‘IK has been a recourse for local people in responding to changes and challenges brought about by climate change. Indigenous science of weather forecasting helps farmers in planning their farming activities to enable their crops to get enough rainfall for a good harvest. Local farming practices that lead to water conservation, retention of soil fertility and sustainable land management have also helped them adapt to climate change,’ explained Olaniyan.

Her study documented the IK embedded in root and tuber production and how such knowledge is used in climate change adaptation at the farm level. IK was employed at different stages of the decision-making process during the farming season and the resultant outcomes were also identified. The study proposed possible topics for introduction in the Agricultural curriculum and mainstream climate change adaptation policies.

During her PhD journey, Olaniyan lost her great aunt while waiting for her student visa that she received two days after her death. ‘She was my recourse for family history and indigenous knowledge systems. Then came May 2018: as I was preparing for my research proposal defence, my cousin developed a tumour in his brain and the journey of hospitals, tests, surgery and treatments began. My beloved cousin died as I was preparing to conduct fieldwork in 2019. Somewhere along that journey my brother-in-law was killed by unknown gunmen. During fieldwork, my laptop was stolen along with the audio data and other resources for my PhD.’

Thankfully, Olaniyan was able to retrieve most of the data. In a turn of events, after nine years of marriage, she found out that she was pregnant. An overjoyed Olaniyan gave birth to a girl, who sadly died in May this year.

She expressed gratitude for the support of her husband, Ademola Olatide Olaniyan who encouraged her to apply for study at UKZN while on his postdoctoral fellowship at the University. She is also grateful to her supervisor, Professor Nadaraj Govender ‘who believed in me and helped me gain strength in the midst of the tears and encouraged me to forge on and honour the memories of the departed with the completion of the study.’

‘To the indigenous farmers of Kwara state (Nigeria) who opened their hearts and homes to the city girl, the need for your voices to be heard and the IK embedded in root and tuber production that enables you adapt to climate change kept me pushing past the tears and continued writing. Teary pages indeed but success with consistent focus and hard work,’ said Olaniyan.

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