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Hum Organ. 2013 Spring;72(1):1-11.

On Not Knowing Zoonotic Diseases: Pastoralists' Ethnoveterinary Knowledge in the Far North Region of Cameroon.


In this article, we consider the implications of Murray Last's (1981)Knowing About Not Knowing for the study of ethnoveterinary knowledge of mobile pastoralists in the Far North Region of Cameroon. Specifically, we ask two interrelated questions: (1) what is the nature of this knowledge, and (2) what is the best way to study it? We conducted a study of pastoralists' knowledge of human and animal infectious diseases to evaluate the claim that mobile pastoralists in the Chad Basin do not have a concept for zoonotic diseases. We used a combination of free lists and semi-structured interviews to study pastoralists' knowledge. The results suggest that pastoralists do not have a concept for zoonotic diseases. Moreover, we found considerable variation in pastoralists' ethnoveterinary knowledge and examples of not knowing, which contrasts with previous studies that do not describe much variation in ethnoveterinary knowledge. In our discussion, we consider to what extent descriptions of ethnoveterinary knowledge are the product of researchers' conceptual framework and methodology.


Africa; ethnoveterinary knowledge; pastoral systems; practical knowledge; zoonotic diseases


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