DAY 9: Insights of Knowledge Systems Developed by a Community

by Simbarashe Mudhokwani, Mhondoro Ngezi, Chacha Village Zimbabwe, 8 July 2017

Muhacha Tree: used to produce jam and has fruits that feed donkeys, cattle and even humans

About the Project

This project defines Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) as “an embodiment of factual and philosophical traditions and wisdom that have been developed by community/local people and is peculiar to certain group of people. It is a type of knowledge that has been existing for years and have been preserved, some under threat of extinction and some passed through generations within defined societies and cultures”. The project is a research oriented venture that targets to document and share knowledge, document and preserve the much local wisdom and experiences for posterity and for educative and informative purposes.

Pre-event planning and mobility for the Day of Learning (DoL)

I traveled to Mhondoro Ngezi for a Day of Learning on 04 July 2017 and it was interesting to plan the Day of Learning in my village community. As it was the first time to bring such a program as the one supported by the Age of Wonderland to my rural community, a community that has grommed me to be who i am today was quite intersting and unique. The journey of going to the village was full of reminiscent, trying to think back how we used to live, what we used to do things as peasant/subsistent farmers, the foods that we used to consume which build us, which formed strengthened our immune system. Really travelling to the village brought in some questions as well, “will my community be keen to talk about their knowledge?”, “how are they going to take the project?”, Aren’t they going to politicize the Day of Learning?”. All these were questions that i had. A combination of some kind of worry, if the community refused to participate, or if my relatives will not understand that which i was trying to do with the Age of Wonderland on knowledge, and some kind of excitement of going to be stepping on the ground which i will never forget.

This DoL really happened on Saturday 08 July 2017, 6–7 days after the death and burial of one of our close childhood friends whom we used to play football back in the dust of Mhondoro Ngezi, across the villages in Chacha, Tapera, Mutizwa and Murambwa. We walked together, we talked, we shared labour together with Tendai. I am told by a relative, “We were shocked, Tendayi, just vomited blood and he died”.

Regardless of the pains, and shocks, the life continues, so is the DoL had to be done.

Sunrise in Mhondoro symbolizing a new beginning, continuity, another chance and life

Vetting of Participants and planning for the DoL started from the 5th of July 2017. There was a realization that for the DoL to be meaningful there was a need to vet and ascertain whether the community members (the elders, peasant/subsistent farmers and leaders) had specific knowledge levels which they could share with others. The vetting process was one of the strategies employed to guage whether other people could learn from them and also if those to teach will be able to also had the opportunity to learn from others as well. A total of 14 participants were then identified for participation (these included old age women, men and elders and the village head). There were also about 10 children and young people, combined together.

Goat slaughtering as the DoL was prepared for a start

FIRST SESSION:

DoL started after a goat was slaughtered around 6:20am in the morning by those with experience in skinning using knives. They were assisted by some keen young and other mature man and the instruction of what to do by the skinner (in red), was being told to the young me. One lesson that i have experienced with the indigenous knowledge is that it is imparted through seeing someone doing/demonstrating. Once a visual gets into the mind even at the tender age, it remains and is forced to grow before it becomes a skill that will be perfected as someone grows and begin to repeat the process such as goat skining.

After such, some brai started with those basic specific meat potions that are eaten by slaughterers as an escentive for slaghtering. The incentive for slaughtering an animal usually include taking and eating the first blood to come out of the throat blood also referred as “Mushiya”, in Shona Culture. Usually men instruct one another on what is supposed to be done for it to be well cooked and curb running stomarch or illness.

Preparion of Mushiya_”Troth Blood”
Preparation of Intestines

Usually there are some gender roles in the process on the preparation of these foods and women are seen more as they are the ones to prepare and cook. For the vantage of continually working in the preparation they have specific skills that men do not have in food preparation.

Cleaned intestines
Ready for consumption
Consuming time

The knowledge transfer started from the slaughtering. The start of the slaughtering meant the start of the knowledge transfer. The young girl below was shown on some basic rules of preparing the goat intestines before cooking a special diet.

Another elder giving instruction to the young girl on method of preparing a unique diet from goat interstines

SECOND SESSION:

Gathering and start of group learning by the community. After breakaways in the form of preparations for the food to be eaten by the community participants after the event and doing the learning and teaching of one another as either men only and or women only, at 10:00am everyone therefore was called to come together to start the second session.

Introductions were given and a brief background to the project and the concept behind gathering and coming together. It was pointed out that regardless of staying together in one community, there is a need to come together and share knowledge for the benefit of fighting food insecurity, guard against effects of climate change, fight diseases such as cancers through keeping/preserving and eating organic and healthy foods. The needy for taking care of animals since humans have the responsibility to ensure that their animals live healthy. It was pointed out that the 100 Days of Learning is a learning platform created to ensure that knowledge is shared and exchanged. It was pointed out that the rural communities such as Chacha and the nation as a whole are faced with great demands for money which is causing stress for people considering its scarcity to find. Therefore, the local people have to develop coping mechanisms out of teaching one another of ways and technics they can use in order to survive.

After the 3 minute brief background/introductions, rules of teaching were then set straight. That each one to stand in front of the people will have to present for a period between 3–5 minutes. They were suppossed to share their local knowledge, their wisdom, or experience and were not supposed to give knowledge from schools or formalised institutions. This was clearly appreciated and the first participant came forward. A combination of photos and video were used to capture as they teach and share their knowledge.

Mrs Chacha: Teaching on Foods Preservation

№1 Mrs Chacha the teacher, gave her lesson on ways and process that should be followed when one wants to do drying processes of traditional foods such as “Munyemba” known as cowpeas leaves and maizecobs dried grain “Mumhare”. She gave her presentation with some examples on the ways, does and don'ts and what to watch out for in the drying of these foods. The advantages of the drying processes were given that the process help in fighting hunger especially in the coming of the dry season were relish will be a problem because water will dry up and gardening will be very hard to rely on and as such many women will suffer by looking for relish for the family as they are the most and front people who run around looking for the relish. She gave her lesson to other women and taught them of the need to seriously look into the area of food preseravation.

Mr Elliot Chacha: Teaching on producing organic feed for traditional chickens “Roadrunner”

№2 Mr Chacha. He was so audible and gave his lesson on what to do when one wants to keep traditional chickens since their day old. He taught that chickens require to stay in a warm area and they can be feed with some worms/margots that can be produced by making use of organic manure (for cattle or chickens) by making sure that these are fermented over a period of 21 days. A combination of closed old trunks or containers were advised that they can be used. Manure has been said it will be placed in these old trunks and add water which will quicken fermentation that will cause growth of these worms.

On treatment of other ailments, alovera was mentioned as the best to treat breathing problems for the chickens. The thick leaves are cut and placed in water or that the syrup of it will be squizzed out of the alovera and have some aditions of water that will be given to chickens to drink.

Alovera, that can be used to treat sick-checkens
Mrs Musarapasi: Teaching on small grain (Sorghum) and ways of planting it and preparing indigenous meal using it

№3 Mrs Musarapasi, gave her lesson on knowledge o Sorghum planting and its value. She was very eloquent and talked from experience. Due to intermarriages, Mrs Musarapasi is from Nkayi were Sorghum is the main crop planted there and Mhondoro really is not knowledgable about the plant. She therefore gave a candid teaching on the ways of planting it up to the harvesting. She shared her knowledge that Sorghum does not require a lot of water or to be worked on. She also taught that from her knowledge, Sorghum is planted around October and demands less efforts like weeding before harvesting. She pointed out that her uncle is now 98 years old and one reason she believes why her uncle reached that age is because of eating the Sorghum meal which is rich and nutritious.

Munyaradzi: Teaching on goats

№4 Munyaradzi, gave a teaching of his understanding and knowledge on goat keeping. He shared his knowledge pointing out that goats need to eat a variety of tree leaves and species and that they require time to move around. In the context of the one which would have just given birth, the owner has to inspect its breast by checking if the milk is flowing through the tit-veins of the goat. One could use his hands by milking for the first time for the milk to go on the ground in order to avoid the mother from failing to give the kid enough milk. Alternatively, one may use the combination of a chicken feather by dipping it into oil and pierce it bit by bit until such a time when the veins open to give the kid some milk. This was taught as a simple way to avoid unnecessary deaths of small goat kids.

Mrs Chacha, grandmother giving her lesson on “Millet”_Zviyo

№5 Giving her lesson on planting and preparation of Millet. The grandmother reflected a great understanding on ways, methods and process and experiences in the planting and processing of Millet, well known as “Zviyo” in Shona Language. She taught the younger generation that, Millet is planted well before the coming of the rains around September/October. As the rain come down, it will find the seed in the ground and after its fall, the crop will germinate. The crop is said to require strict monitoring and weeding. By so doing it help to ensure that it is clean and is not competing for nutrients with other weeds. The advantages mentioned that are associated with this kind of crop is that, it is rich in nutrients and is not corrupted by grain weevils like the maize crop. It can stay for over a long period of time, (more than 50–100 years). The grandmother pointed out that it can be used to prepare meals such as Sadza, it can also be used for brewing beer, it can be used for also brewing traditional drink (known as Maheu). Upon completing her teaching she set down.

Mr Musarapasi: Teaching on keeping of cattle, their health and feed (Holding blackjack)

№6 Mr Musarapasi teaching on cattle, their health and feed using local resources. He was very straight in sharing his knowlegde. He knows that leaves of the black jack are used to treat sores on cattle. The leaves are squizzed to produce some juice which is applied on the sore of an animal to chase away the flies which cause the breeding of germs that cause continuous rotting of the sores. After the black jack is used, another indigenous plant called “”Chigunguru” is therefore burnt to produce ash which is used and applied to the sores of an animal. This is said to be a very effective plant with its healing properties to animals.

Chigunguru plant being held on hand
The plant in its Natural habitant

Mr Musarapasi also go on to teach that humans in this particular period have to pick feeds from the trees such as “cactus and mutukutu” which can be used for feeding animals at a later stage around October when the ground is dry.

Cactus fruits used used as animal feed
Cactus tree fruits used as animal feed
Maize Cob Shells gatherd and kept as stock feed.

The teacher gave a good presentation that the stock feed should be kept through collecting and putting them in piles in order to keep it for the animals in preparation of the dry season which is usually triggered after the winter season which destroys the grass and grazing lands for the animals. He taught that by keeping these types of feeds, its a way of protecting against the deaths of animals which is a source of wealth for them.

Mr Mpofu: Teaching on ways of Preserving Sweet Potatoes

№7 Mr Mpofu teaching and sharing knowledge of preserving sweet potatoes. He was straight to the point. His sharing of knowledge had to be done after a 15 minute break to allow for recess. The break acted as a platform to ask one another and to show what they meant. Some of them promised to demonstrate to one another what they meant from the teachings.

On Sweet Potatoes, Mr Mpofu, indicated that sweet potatoes require to be harvested and ensure that all the sweet potatoes are not being cut by the holes. After that, the sweet-potatoes should be left to dry for three days such that the milk from these tubers dry up. A one meter whole is then dug down depending with the amount of Sweet Potatoes. After that, the whole should be left to dry of the moisture and ash is then placed under and followed by putting the Sweet Potatoes in this whole. Ash is springled on top again before closing the whole. He knows that the ash preserves the Sweet Potatoes from being demaged by some insects or mices. The top of the whole can be closed by a zinc and grass to avoid winter moisture from getting inside. This technic is said to allow the Sweet Potatoes to be preserved for almost 3 months and people can find something to eat over that period, post the harvesting of the sweet-potatoes.

Mrs Tamayi: Teaching on cowpeas “Nyemba in Shona”

№8 She taught and share her knowledge on planting and other uses of Cowpeas. A very in-sighting teaching. She taught to other participants that regardless of having corrupted seed of cowpeas, if that plant is put in the ground, it will still germinate. Usually many think that any corrupted seed can not germinate but cowpeas can still germinate. Her presentation gave so many alternatives of the uses of cowpeas. Its leaves can be used as relish, its produce can be used as green and even dried up. It can also be used as porridge, or as relish. It could be planted in dry season and doesnt take time to mature. Cowpeas is also said to be a very nutritious meal for children called “Rupiza”, which in many communities people no longer understand and know how to prepare it.

Mrs Mudhokwani: Self teaching traditional ways of grinding

№9. Self teaching traditional way of grinding Sorghum in order to produce its meali-meal. She has not really taught others but had to take the opportunity of using a traditional grinding mill “Guyo” in Shona by trying out to grind the Sorghum as a way of appreciating the cultural/traditional ways of grinding. It was not for long but just getting the chance to interact with this traditional technology make her appreciate it through fun.

Following the teaching and listening through knowledge exchange

№10 Children enjoying a photoshoot after listening to their eleders and parents teach one another. It was so encouraging to be with the children as this is a way that the project saw it necessary to engage them. The childhood development and transfer of knowledge and even memories are build from such ages and the project was so motivated by their level of participation as well.

Children following an older-one in the traditional gaming knowledge

THIRD SESSION:

DoL round off: The DoL was concluded by the Vote of Thanks by the Village Head-Ms Tapera. She thanked and appreciated of the value of the project. She promised also on behalf of her village which she lead to put the learned local knowledge into practice and respect it. The participants had an opportunity to eat traditional food after the close of the DoL. Some of the children was for the first time eat that traditional meal. After which the programme then ended.

Those that had no opportunity to present, promised to make use of what they learnt. At 11:28am the participants departed.

The Age of Wonderland supported this project with both financial and technical input. The stipend went a long way for planning and logistics while the skype and phone calls from The Netherlands and the Hivos regional office smoothened the planning. The project coordinators from The Netherlands and the Hivos Southern region office were so supportive and open for communication.