The indigenous knowledge systems are a significant resource which would contribute to the increased efficiency, effectiveness and sustainability in environmental conservation among rural communities of developing countries in particular. They form the basis for community-level decision making in areas pertaining to food security, human and animal health, education and more important in natural resource management. However, despite their critical role in the conservation of the bio-physical environment, these practices and technologies are being marginalized or even forgotten among rural communities in different parts of the world. To ascertain the role played by these traditional practises on the bio-physical environment, this paper identified and established the Teso community indigenous environmental practices and assessed changes in these knowledge systems from the time of Kenya’s pre-independence to the 2000s era. Data were collected using various social science methods such as the questionnaire and focused group discussions. The results showed that the use of totems, protection of sacred places, prohibitions and gender and age restraints declined by 41.3, 68, 41.8 and 38.2%, respectively. The evident decline in the use of the indigenous environmental knowledge systems has negatively impacted on the state of the bio-physical environment exemplified by the Chi-square Pearson (P) values of 0.00 between decline in the use of age and gender restraints and the deterioration in land fertility and only a few elders using the knowledge systems and reduction in the number of rivers, streams and wetlands as exemplified by the Chi-square Pearson (P) value of 0.02. In view of the above, it is recommended that rekindling, recording and preservation of indigenous environmental best practices among local communities such as the Teso for sustainable natural resources management be re-invigorated and integrated in conventional environmental management plans. This also calls for participatory decision-making between policy makers, implementers and actual resource users.
Key words: Indigenous knowledge systems, conservation, bio-physical environment.
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