Harnessing Zimbabwe’s indigenous knowledge for a changing climate

This collection of indigenous knowledge systems for climate change adaptation from across Zimbabwe provides a deep insight into existing and often times undervalued strategies and practices that rural populations develop to adjust to a changing climate. In this sense, it augments academic literature by a crucial and potentially far more adaptive and innovative component in the pursuit of knowledge creation on the issue of climate change management.

Important research has been done on indigenous knowledge in Zimbabwe over the years. The has focussed on people’s experiences and practices in diverse spheres of life. The majority of research has been done by academics, both local and foreign. Since the knowledge is collected for academic interrogation, most published works are arguments for and/or against acceptance or dismissal of indigenous knowledge as an important component of modern life and innovation. For that reason, the analyses of data tend to have very little in terms of knowledge documentation and sharing.

This book is about knowledge gathering and sharing by all and has taken a different approach in terms of data collection and presentation. First, people in communities across the country were involved as both the sources and collectors of information. ‘Ordinary’ members of respective communities gathered data from people in their localities who were considered knowledgeable about different kinds of topics. Second, the collected information was shared on public media, which makes it available to more people, specialists and nonspecialists. Third, data presentation is documentary in the sense that the book has huge chunks dedicated to interview responses where people are explaining different kinds of phenomena as well as tables providing names and descriptions of different kinds of traditional food, wildlife and processes.

Besides making the information easily shareable, this presentation makes it easy for people to relate to their current or once-lived experiences. The book invigorates indigenous Zimbabwean knowledge in a way that keeps it alive and easy to preserve.

The book shows that people in different communities still remember information about traditional dishes and their processing, methods of preserving food, wild fruits, farming practices, weather forecasting methods, herbal medicines, environmental management, governance, community living, etc. Responses from knowledge custodians show that communities were self-sustained, innovative and responsive to change. They also lived as responsible citizens of their communities as is seen in the way they developed a balanced relationship between themselves and their local environment. However, very little of these have been kept alive as they are no longer widely practised except in a few rural areas.