Universiteit Leiden

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Leiden Ethnosystems and Development Programme (LEAD)


The Leiden Ethnosystems and Development Programme (LEAD) of the Faculty of Science of Leiden University has been involved since 1987 in several Projects and Programmes in policy-based Training & Research, as well as in International Exhibitions, in Sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia and the Mediterranean Region.


In addition to its academic endeavour to document, study and analyse indigenous systems of knowledge, belief and practice as the ‘cultural dimension of development’ in the subfields of ethnomedicine, ethnobotany; ethno-pharmacology, ethno-agriculture, ethno-ecology, indigenous bio-cultural diversity management and conservation, integrated microfinance management and culturally appropriate higher education management, the LEAD Programme also seeks to further develop a specific IKS-oriented complementary qualitative and quantitative research methodology, based on the special design and implementation of the ‘Leiden Ethnosystems Approach’. The related advanced analytical model encompasses a stepwise bivariate, multivariate and multiple regression analysis of independent, intervening and dependent variables, focused on the understanding, explanation and prediction of participants’ behaviour in the dynamic transcultural setting of local-global systems interaction in the research areas. In addition to the provision of a contribution to the theoretical and methodological development of applied ethnoscience, LEAD also seeks to contribute to the new paradigm of ‘development from the bottom’ by formulating evidence-based recommendations for alternative strategies ’from the bottom’ for policy planning and implementation of integrated local-global systems with a view to attain truly sustainable community development in the various sectors in the research areas and beyond. In 1990, LEAD received the official recognition and logo of UNESCO as an important research programme of the Decade for Culture and Development.


The LEAD Mission encompasses the 7 principles of the integrated LEAD Approach:

  1. execution of training & research in ethnoscience and its subfields as the counterpart of science within the context of development;
  2. provision of advanced theoretical, methodological and practical contributions to the multidisciplinary field of ethnoscience;
  3. integration of traditional and modern knowledge systems in sectors of the society;
  4. promotion of local peoples’ participation to attain sustainable community development;
  5. formulation of evidence-based strategies for ‘development from below’;
  6. functionalisation of indigenous institutions in integrated policy planning;
  7. recognition and protection of indigenous peoples’ property and resource rights.


The vision of LEAD is that the execution of multidisciplinary ethnoscience research & training in the field of Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Development in various sectors of the society with the aim to document, understand and explain participants’ behaviour in the dynamic transcultural setting of local-global systems’ interaction will contribute to the achievement of sustainable community development for the improvement of health and well-being of the population and the conservation of bio-cultural diversity in the research area and beyond.

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