Ulrich Teucher

Indigenous Knowledge and Food Security

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Dr. Ulrich Teucher is working on diverse projects within his research interests in culture, health, and human development.

In 2012, Dr. Teucher spent seven months in Malaysia, collaborating with colleagues at the Crops for the Future Research Centre at the University of Nottingham, Malaysia Campus nearby Kuala Lumpur. Dr. Teucher witnessed a country that has undergone a large degree of change in recent decades. Malaysia has been transforming from a developing country to one of the Southeast Asian economic powerhouses, in part, by replacing forests with oil palm plantations. The deforestation has resulted in a loss of biodiversity while the growth of oil palms requires an increased need for fertilizers and pesticides.

In 2013, Dr. Teucher received President’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) funding for a pilot study to research “Crops for the Future: Documenting Malaysian Indigenous Peoples’ Knowledge and Use of Food Plants.” Indigenous peoples used to have a comprehensive understanding of the environment and food plants. However, according to Dr. Teucher, this knowledge has been disappearing. As the elders pass away, the indigenous communities have been losing essential elements of their cultural memory, identity, traditional songs and stories, practices and sacred rituals. Part of Dr. Teucher’s project is to document this knowledge and uses of food plants together with indigenous communities in Sarawak (East Malaysia), so that we can preserve a wider range of sources of nutrition.

As our world population has been growing exponentially, and we have been globally losing biodiversity and focusing on fewer and fewer crops, Dr. Teucher has been examining local and broader alternatives for preserving food security, particularly among Indigenous peoples. He describes his research with Borneo’s indigenous peoples as "a study of modes of being as a way of knowing the world."