Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Environmental Management ...· Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Environmental

  • View
    213

  • Download
    0

Embed Size (px)

Text of Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Environmental Management ...· Indigenous Knowledge Systems and...

International Journal of Academic Research in Progressive Education and Development January 2013, Vol. 2, No. 1

ISSN: 2226-6348

19

Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Environmental Management: A Case Study of Zaka District, Masvingo

Province, Zimbabwe

Joshua Risiro Lecturer, Department of Curriculum Studies, Great Zimbabwe University, Masvingo, Zimbabwe

Email: jrisiro@gmail.com

Doreen, T. Tshuma Lecturer, Department of Curriculum Studies, Great Zimbabwe University, Masvingo, Zimbabwe

Email: tshumadoreen@gmail.com

Alphious Basikiti Geography Student, Great Zimbabwe University, Masvingo, Zimbabwe

Email: basikitialphious@gmail.com Abstract The purpose of the study was to find out forms of Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) in practice in the Zaka District of Masvingo and how these forms of IKS can be used as an environmental management tool. A case study approach was used. The study used informant interviews, focus groups, participant observation and photographs to collect information. Purposive sampling was used to select community elders, clan elders and traditional leaders and healers who were believed to have in depth knowledge on traditional practices used in the area in the conservation of biodiversity. There are sacred places, taboos and totems that ensure conservation of natural resources in the study area. Certain trees and animals have got some taboos that save them from human exploitation. Selected clans are responsible for carrying out mukwerere (rain making) and mukuro (harvesting) ceremonies. The community is not allowed to harvest wild fruits and edible insects in the sacred places before the mukuro ceremony. Sacred wells have remained unpolluted and ensured continued supply of clean water. Mixed farming and stone ridging have been used to conserve soil. There is land degradation in areas not preserved by traditional practices and culture. A policy on IKS and integration of IKS in the school curriculum are important in resource conservation. The infusion of IKS and modern methods of resource conservation is recommended. Traditional leaders need to be empowered as custodians of natural resources in their communities. There is need to carry out more research on IKS in other areas of Zimbabwe. Keywords: Indigenous Knowledge Systems, sacred places, taboos, totems, traditional ceremonies, ancestral spirits

mailto:jrisiro@gmail.commailto:tshumadoreen@gmail.commailto:basikitialphious@gmail.com

International Journal of Academic Research in Progressive Education and Development January 2013, Vol. 2, No. 1

ISSN: 2226-6348

20

Introduction This paper argues that colonisation and colonial education in Zimbabwe disregarded indigenous knowledge systems that are important in the conservation of biodiversity within indigenous societies. The colonisers in pursuit for local resources engaged in resource exploitation without much consideration of the cultural beliefs embedded within the local communities. This has resulted in rampant destruction of forests, animals and land degradation. Ausible [1994] cited in Brosius [1997] noted a link between destruction of cultural diversity and extinction of biological diversity. As native cultures disappear there is also a loss of knowledge of a way of living in a balance with the earth. The paper argues that the restoration, respect and adherence to cultural beliefs adopted by each community such as the role of mhondoro (ancestral spirits), zviera (taboos) and totems are effective tools in the management of the environment. There is need to give due importance to indigenous knowledge systems to safeguard our environment. The recent decades have been characterised by massive destruction of biodiversity due to rapid industrialisation, urban expansion and population pressure on land. The rapid industrial expansion meant more resources such as minerals, timber and animal products. In the wetter Eastern parts of Zimbabwe stretching from Nyanga to Chimanimani, tracts of land have been cleared to give way to timber, tea and coffee plantations. The drier South East Lowveld and the Zambezi valley have not been spared for commercial activities such as growing of cotton. Commercial lumbering, mining and urbanization has destroyed natural forests and displaced some animals while others died due to lack of proper habitats. The scramble for resources by colonialists in most developing countries encroached and destroyed indigenous preserved forests and animal species. Foreign invasions disregarded existing sacred places, taboos and cultural beliefs passed from one generation to another within the communities. Environmental degradation has seen various International Conferences aimed at protecting our environment yet the destruction of biodiversity is continuing unprecedented. Many countries including Zimbabwe have ratified the Convention on Biodiversity conservation, yet the implementation is a challenge. The major challenges to these International agreements among other factors are that, not all countries are signatories to the agreements; there is lack of follow up, financial constraints and lack of political will [UNEP, 2000]. These challenges leave a gap in environmental resource management. It is believed that if Governments give special attention to indigenous ways of resource conservation it would go a long way in achieving sustainable use of resources. This paper exposes some of the Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) that have been practised immemorial by the Kalanga people of Zaka district in Masvingo in order to manage and protect their environment from land degradation. Indigenous knowledge is the local knowledge that is unique to a given culture or society. It is the basis for local decision making in agriculture, health, food education and environmental management [Warren, 1991]. It covers local, traditional, non-western beliefs, practices, and

International Journal of Academic Research in Progressive Education and Development January 2013, Vol. 2, No. 1

ISSN: 2226-6348

21

customs and usually refers to informal forms of knowledge [Horsthemke, 2004].It is the knowledge of people of a particular geographical area that has survived for a long period of time [Langil, 1999; Mapara, 2009]. According to Kalawole [2001] and Stone [2007] indigenous knowledge refers to what indigenous people know and do, and what they have known and done for generations, practices that have evolved through trial and error and proved flexible enough to cope with change. In many cases traditional knowledge has been orally passed for generations from one person to another and this can be expressed through stories, songs art and even laws. Leach and Mearns (1994; 32) suggest that indigenous knowledge is frequently charged with being methodically wide.unproven populist or politically naive; and that it generates findings that are too complicated to be of practical use to policy makers. Often western science and indigenous knowledge are seen as two different, competing knowledge systems, characterized by a binary divide. Western science is seen as being open, systematic and objective, dependent very much on being a detached centre of rationality and intelligence, whereas indigenous knowledge is seen as being closed, parochial, unintellectual, primitive and emotional (Mitchel, 1995; Herbert, 2000). Western knowledge therefore is seen as the whole notion of modernity, and IKS is regarded as part of a residual, traditional and backward way of life. However Davies (1994) and Kallard (2000) argue that indigenous knowledge has an advantage over western science in the context of poor communities, in that information is tested in the context of survival, and hence it is not just true or false in a dispassionate way (as western science might conclude), but is either more or less effective in providing the means of survival, a conclusion more meaningful in the context of everyday existence. Indigenous knowledge therefore becomes something very much driven by the pragmatic, utilitarian and everyday demands of life. The indigenous knowledge is thus dynamic and creative and experimental, constantly incorporating outside influences and inside innovations to meet new conditions. Indigenous knowledge can be called by various names such as indigenous knowledge of knowing [Mapara, 2009], traditional knowledge, rural knowledge as well as ethno science [Altieri,1995] Indigenous knowledge is therefore generated by a particular society within a geographical area and transmitted from one generation to another in order to provide solutions to the existing problems of that time. The introduction of Western education and Missionary activities watered down the value and respect given to indigenous education and cultural beliefs. Some of the cultural beliefs were regarded as primitive and superstitious. Nyati [2001] argues that indigenous people ended up believing that their IKS were inferior, pagan and evil. Devlin and Zettel [1999] aver that colonisation has resulted in most traditional practices being discarded. Eyong, Mufuaya and Foyi [2004] argue that IKS has suffered for decades from strategies of disinformation from western colonial education and religion. Prior to colonisation and import of western education indigenous people had education grounded in their culture, taboos, totems and respect for ancestral spirits. These would be passed from generation to another through story telling often done at night at padare (courtyard). These cultural beliefs respected and practised by indigenous people were on their own the custodians and legislators of environmental management. The fear for the unknown was good enough for one not to temper with sacred

International Journal of Academic Research in Progr