Virginia Nazarea

  • Introduction
  • Guidelines for Using this Protocol
  • The Protocol

  • This protocol is the product of approximately one and a half years of experience on an exploratory research project called "Memory Banking of Indigenous Technologies Associated with Traditional Crop Varieties: A Focus on sweet potatoes" (Nazarea-Sandoval 1991).

    The first phase of the project was a time for experimentation in terms of data gathering as well as research design. This document is a report on the results of trial-and-error with a variety of methods. Its aim is to provide guidelines for researchers from diverse backgrounds natural and social, basic and applied sciences -- to document local agricultural beliefs and practices, evaluation criteria, and preferences for traditional varieties of crops. The overall goal is to help preserve genetic and cultural diversity in relation to food crops. The memory banking initiative seeks to complement genebanking in recording and conserving diversity before all is lost. Documentation, reconstruction, and systematization of cultural information pertaining to indigenous knowledge, beliefs, and technologies need to be given more prominence and to be more tightly integrated into genebanking procedures (See Memory Banking: The Conservation of Cultural and Genetic Diversity...).

    The presentation in this protocol is to a certain degree patterned after "A Protocol for Using Ethnographic Methods to Investigate Women's Health" by Gittelson, Pelto, Bentley, Russ, and Nag.


    Because, for the most part, we have to rely on informant accounts, the investigation is pursued on several dimensions using complementary methods of data collection and analysis. The methods are outlined in the following sections, along with samples of instruments and results. The use of multiple methods in research to countercheck and dovetail information is referred to in the literature as triangulation (see, for example, McNabb 1990). This is the general strategy followed in the memory banking protocol.

    Thus, for each general procedure proposed for the integration of memory banking data into the full process of documentation and evaluation of genebank accessions, three specific methods are presented and their relation to each other discussed. Figure 1 illustrates how the various methods are used to "triangulate" and provide a multidimensional perspective on the problem. The domains investigated by the different methods are also specified.

    As presented, the procedures can be used as a step-by-step guide to memory banking. Explaining the rationale, advantages, and pitfalls of each method allows the individual researcher to judge what modifications and adaptations to make to suit the research design to the research objectives field conditions, and other constraints. In the last section, the different methods are compared with respect to their objectives, respondents, and manageability (Table 1).

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