Use traditional methods to fight global warming: UN group

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Centuries-old techniques to prevent desertification, energy wastage and other problems should be enlisted in the fight against global warming, a new UN-backed group said Wednesday.

Traditional water management methods from the Sahara and Ethiopia and Iraq's Babylon area could be used alongside newer technologies such as solar power, the group said at its launch in Florence, central Italy.

"Traditional knowledge and its innovative use is the basis for sustainable technology, and essential for the development of a new model of human progress," said Pietro Laureano, founding president of the UN-backed International Traditional Knowledge Institute (ITKI).

"With climate change, we are obliged to come back to systems that save energy, that don't need much capital," Laureano, an anthropologist, landscape architect and consultant to UNESCO on desertification, told AFP by telephone.

Laureano said he had studied techniques such as rainwater capture systems, rooftop gardens and underground tunnels that keep water in the subsoil, but that they risk extinction with the advent of intensive agriculture.

"The deep trenches used for example in Lalibela, northern Ethiopia, were abandoned, and now (it) has no water," he said.

"Now they depend on technology and industrial systems," he said, adding that the fact the traditional methods are labour intensive is "not a problem - there's unemployment."

Laureano said the group still backed "appropriate" new technology such as solar power, adding: "What is appropriate today will be the traditions of tomorrow."

ITKI, to be based in Bagno a Ripoli east of Florence, was set up under the authority of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

Its remit is "safeguarding and validating traditional knowledge" with the primary goal of combatting global warming, but also encouraging the protection of cultural heritage such as folklore, music and symbolism, Laureano said.

The institute will also "work with indigenous peoples... to protect their rights and not allow corporations to make patents on their knowledge," he said.