Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

Indigenous Knowledge Systems: A Haven for Sustainable Economic Growth in Zimbabwe

Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

Indigenous Knowledge Systems: A Haven for Sustainable Economic Growth in Zimbabwe

Article excerpt


African Indigenous Knowledge Systems have not been spared from the onslaught meted out to African cultures at the advent of colonialism and its attendant handmaiden, Christianity. As a result, indigenous ways of knowing (ruziyo rechivantu) have been pushed to the periphery. This was done through denigrating indigenous knowledge systems as merely superstition (Ntuli 2002, Nhemachena 2015), unscientific and rudimentary. Regrettably, African people believed these lies and wantonly abandoned their ruziyo rechivantu for other people's way of knowing. Humwe/ mukote (known in other Shona dialects as nhimbe) was one of such a knowledge that suffered unprecedented attack. Lack of nhimbe's recognition at national level in Zimbabwe as a community- based development mechanism (Sithole 2014) is evident that indigenous knowledge systems were and are still not being taken seriously.

Recent studies (Odora-Hoppers 2002, Ntuli 2002, Agrawal 2002, Mawere 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, Mapara 2009, Nhemachena 2015) have illustrated that indigenous knowledge systems are on a resurgent path. Communities in African societies are reverting to their indigenous ways of knowing to solve some existential challenges such as persistent droughts (Mawere and AwuahNyamekye 2015), environmental degradation (Tatira 2015) and health matters (Mayekiso and Mawere 2015, Awuah-Nyamekye 2015). This resurgence has resulted in a lot of interest in indigenous knowledge systems, one among many in this regard. The current exercise focuses on humwe as a community-based development mechanism and progresses by conceptualising indigenous knowledge systems, reviewing literature, discussing research methodology, discusses findings and ends by way of conclusion and recommendations.

Statement of the Problem, Intentions and Key Questions

It has been noted that nhimbe (humwe/mukote Ndau dialect) has been in practice since the 1800s or earlier and is regarded generally as a type of work party (Anderson 2002, Kajese 1987, Kapasula 2010, Leedy 2010, Shutt 2002). Despite this long period of existence, much is known beyond this materialistic aspect (Sithole 2014). The wider importance of nhimbe to selfdefinition, socialisation and reproduction of community relationships (social capital) is largely ignored in the available literature. In addition, nhimbe has not been adequately documented leading to little understanding of the practice and the fear is that if this essential indigenous knowledge system continues undocumented, it (and many others IKSs) may become extinct. The elderly, who are the custodians of such knowledge (ruziyo rechivantu), are passing on and that means loss of such knowledge systems. It is against this backdrop, the economic and social contribution of mukote to community life in specific Zimbabwe rural communities was explored

This work intends to explore and understand humwe among the Ndau people; examine the socioeconomic benefits of humwe, and to assess the potential of humwe as a community-based development mechanism. Thus, the key questions are: what is humwe/mukote/ nhimbe; what are the economic and social benefits of the humwe practice in the communities studied, and what are the potential future benefits of humwe for community-based development in Zimbabwe?

Indigenous knowledge Systems: A Definition

The term indigenous knowledge system is in itself a contested concept (Mawere 2015, Altieri 1995, Melchias 2001, Odora Hoppers 2002, Mapara 2009). For the purposes of this paper, there is need to define who indigenous people(s) are in order to put the concept of indigenous knowledge systems into its proper context. Melchias (2001:35) understands indigenous people(s) as culturally distinct ethnic groups with a different identity from the national society, draw existence from local resources and are politically non-dominant.

Almost in the same vein, the World Bank (1991), as cited by Eyong (2007:121) adds a development perspective by stating that indigenous peoples are social groups with a social and cultural identity distinct from the dominant society. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.