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Devon Dick | Time come for indigenous research and medicine

Published:Thursday | December 1, 2016 | 12:00 AMDevon Dick

"That was a Baptist prayer," said Fae Ellington, master of ceremonies for the National Medal for Science and Technology and Innovations, after I had completed my prayer at the function. By Baptist prayer it was a hint at the stereotypical Baptist prayer as being long. Indeed, the programme said 'Grace', which means blessing the meal, and I did that and more by asking God's guidance on the occasion. Therefore, I did add to the length of the almost five-hour programme. I should have said, 'God is good and God is great, let us thank Him for his food. Amen'.

However, using the typical understanding of Baptist prayer as long, then ironically, Ellington is a Baptist MC, and furthermore, the awards function was a Baptist awards function. And Ibo Cooper, who did a very good musical presentation, his 50 years of Jamaican music in 50 minutes, is a Baptist musician. The protocol which was drilled in me was do not take an assignment at a function and after I have completed it, leave. However, when I was leaving after 11 p.m., I noticed that almost half of the people had left and the responses from the Innovator for 2016, Dr Henry Lowe, and the medallist, Professor Errol Morrison, were not yet done. Sorry that so many persons missed the gems that these two scientific giants would give to the audience.

Since Dr Andrew Wheatley, minister of science and technology, and his guest, Her Excellency Grace Naledi Mandissa Pandor, were on time then the function should have started earlier. Furthermore, it is not good to punish people for being punctual. What was excellent was that her speech was very early on the programme, and very good.




Her Excellency outlined what South Africa was doing in science and technology and how South Africa and Jamaica could cooperate. And she invited our minister to visit South Africa. She spoke about harnessing indigenous knowledge resources, and it should not surprise Jamaicans that Lowe, one of our leading scientists in the use of indigenous moss ball, is already cooperating with the South Africans. Her Excellency also pointed out the potential use of indigenous knowledge resources in social cohesion. It is a profound point, that work in the field of natural sciences can lead to social engineering. She said that in 2004, South Africa adopted the Indigenous Knowledge Systems Policy, which recognised that skills development at grass-roots level needs to equip communities for sustainable livelihoods and entrepreneurial opportunities. There is a deliberate focus on including community members, indigenous knowledge holders and practitioners when designing and implementing projects. This is a model for Jamaica in facilitating ordinary people who know the folk medicine to benefit from its usage, packaging and marketing. We need to allow rural people to benefit from their traditional knowledge and have this knowledge recorded before these holders of knowledge of traditional medicines die. This activity could lower our murder rate and make people less likely to engage in lotto scamming.

It was a stroke of genius by the organisers to invite the Jamaica Folk Singers to give a cameo performance. This group not only has performed in South Africa but its founder, Olive Lewin, documented and recorded these folk songs of our elders, thereby preserving an important part of our heritage. What Dr Lewin did for folk songs and music needs to be done for folk medicine. We need to invest in our human capital and unleash the potential of our elders and young people.

Her Excellency's speech was not a Baptist sermon, but it was much food for thought, which was a blessing and a challenge.

- Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of 'The Cross and the Machete', and 'Rebellion to Riot'. Send feedback to columns@