Case Studies and Conflicting Interests
Elgar Intellectual Property and Global Development series
Edited by Tania Bubela and E. Richard Gold
Chapter 6: Old Wine in New Skin: Traditional Knowledge and Customary Law Under the Evolving Normative Environment in Kenya
Kent Nnadozie INTRODUCTION Traditional knowledge (TK) and issues related to it now feature in virtually all international forums and negotiations on human rights, health, energy, trade, agriculture, and, most importantly, the environment. There is also extensive debate and a considerable number of initiatives related to TK at the national and sub-national levels. This is, perhaps, an indication of the fluid and pervasive nature of TK both in conceptual terms, its practical application, and the wide range of sectors in which it is apparent. Although cross- and multi-sectorial, as we have seen in the above discussion on Brazil, it is in the context of biological diversity or biodiversity that some of the thorniest issues in the discourse on TK have arisen – its nature, scope, application or use, ownership or control. The issues become even more fraught at the intersection of biodiversity with trade, modern science and technology, contemporary legal rules and concepts, as well as its interface with modern knowledge systems generally. It has thus attracted a large coterie of scholastic research and spawned an enormous amount of literature. This chapter focuses on the issue of TK in Kenya, specifically on the Turkana ethnic group. Kenya was the location of some of the earliest human settlements. Sites such as Koobi Fora, near Lake Turkana, have evidence of hominid habitation dating back 2.5 million years.1 However, Kenya currently comprises more than 40 ethnic groups. Most Kenyans place great importance on the family and community, and the traditional values and responsibilities associated with...