The BOSAWAS Biosphere reserve is the home of the indigenous Mayangna, or Sumu, people, who have lived here for centuries. They have developed an intricate and extensive knowledge of the local flora and fauna and have shaped the biological system through their cultural practices. In 2005, following the request of Mayangna leaders in Central America, UNESCO’s Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems (LINKS) programme launched a project to record and safeguard Mayangna knowledge and worldviews.
After several rounds of community-level interviews, discussions and reviews, the project has resulted in a book of over 400 pages on Mayangna knowledge and know-how. The book, Conocimientos del Pueblo Mayangna sobre la Convivencia del Hombre y la Naturaleza: Peces y Tortugas, is divided into two volumes and published in two language versions: Mayangna and Spanish. It captures in meticulous detail the breadth and depth of indigenous knowledge about the aquatic world.
In 2010, the project entered into a major new phase, during which classroom materials on local knowledge in the Mayangna language have been developed, with a view to introducing them into the school curriculum in BOSAWAS and eventually elsewhere in Nicaragua. In this way, young children learn to appreciate the value and sophistication of their traditional knowledge and to respect the knowledge of their elders.
JULIEN GASTELO AND FRANÇOIS-XAVIER RICHARD
"The Mayangna teachers are connected by an awareness that one of them summarized in one sentence: “Education is the key that will allow us to survive and repair the footprint of our existence on earth.” When Alberto Lopez articulated this thought, he was referring not only to his people but to all human beings. It appeared that beyond borders, all pathfinders for change were animated by the same desire, to teach us to live by listening to others and listening to our planet."