The Dynamics of African Indigenous Knowledge Systems

A Sustainable Alternative for Livelihoods in Southern Africa

by Christopher Ndlovu (Volume editor) Edward Shizha (Volume editor)
©2022 Edited Collection XII, 240 Pages
Series: Africa in the Global Space, Volume 3


This book discusses the pivotal role of African indigenous knowledge systems (AIKS) in promoting, enhancing, and sustaining livelihoods in Africa. The authors argue that AIKS are of central importance in the development of sustainable livelihoods, particularly in rural communities. In their analysis, they draw on interdisciplinary research in the fields of agriculture, cultural and indigenous studies, development studies, education, geography, political science, and sociology. The objective is to make AIKS more applicable to mainstream educational and development agendas in Africa, a pressing issue in areas where Eurocentric scientific practices are cost prohibitive.
The Dynamic of African Indigenous Knowledge Systems will be of interest to development professionals, policy makers, academics, students, and anyone interested in the field of AIKS and sustainable development in rural communities.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgements
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Introduction: The Dynamics of Indigenous Knowledges and Sustainable Livelihoods in Africa (Edward Shizha and Christopher Ndlovu)
  • Section 1. Theoretical and Conceptual Analysis and Application
  • 1. Mainstreaming and Investing in Indigenous Knowledge Epistemologies for Sustainable Livelihoods (Edward Shizha)
  • 2. Buttressing Sustainable Security Systems through African Indigenous Epistemologies (Shepherd Ndondo and Christopher Ndlovu)
  • 3. Harnessing Indigenous Conflict Resolution Processes in Building Sustainable Communities (Mandlenkosi Ndlovu)
  • 4. Participation of Diasporas in Building Sustainable Communities in Zimbabwe: Implementation of Ubuntu Philosophy (Roland Moyo, Christopher Ndlovu and Edward Shizha)
  • Section 2. Applying Indigenous Knowledge Systems to Climate Change
  • 5. The Role of African Indigenous Knowledge Systems in Sustainable Adaptation to Climate Change (Tinashe Pikirai)
  • 6. Understanding Climate Change Adaptation for Increased Productivity and Sustainability in Southern African Communities: A Review (Keith Phiri)
  • Section 3. Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Education
  • 7. Implementing Indigenous Knowledge Systems for Sustainable Learning in African Primary Schools (Emily Mangwaya and Ezron Mangwaya)
  • 8. Integration of Indigenous Mathematical Knowledge into the Mathematics Education for Sustainable Learning (Nhlanhla Mkwelie, Ntandoyenkosi Satamwe and Edward Shizha)
  • 9. Embedding Sustainability and Ubuntu Philosophy in the Learning of Learners with Disruptive Behaviours (Mlungisi Moyo)
  • 10. Language of Instruction Imbroglio in the Post-colonial School Curriculum (Zimbabwe Curriculum Framework, 2015–2020): The Obstacle to Sustainable Learning (Otildah S. Ndlovu and Nathan Moyo)
  • 11. Indigenous Knowledge Systems and the Agricultural Curriculum for Sustainable Development in Zimbabwe (Christopher Ndlovu and Mgcini Moyo)
  • Contributors

←vi | vii→


Indigenous practices in Africa were and are not just ways of working but they were and are ways of knowing and thinking. A world of mutual engagement and sustenance may be created when social interactions are promoted in African indigenous knowledge systems (AIKS) and practices. AIKS as ways of knowing connect different knowledge domains, including science and technology in creative and imaginative ways that support social and individual well-being. In the global knowledge arena, AIKS are now being regarded as invaluable national and global resources for sustainable development within the development communities. AIKS provide opportunities for designing and implementing projects arising from immediate problems affecting a community and they strengthen community knowledge and organizational structures that are pivotal to local communities’ sustainable livelihoods. These programs are guided by the principles of ownership, emancipation, cultural diversity, environmental sustainability, community centeredness, and their rootedness in everyday socio-cultural realities recognized and acknowledged by communities.

AIKS and epistemologies are a complex field, which when viewed from an educational perspective, span- several complex concepts across disciplines and cultures. For the purposes of this book AIKS will be viewed as the combination of knowledge, skills and practices embedded in cultural beliefs, practices and traditional instructions that are used by specific cultural groups in conducting their developmental activities, which should be integrated into the ways of life in the African communities for improved living standards. The subject of this book is to examine some of these AIKS initiatives and how they are applied or should be applied to influence academic achievement among learners and developmental innovations in the rural communities to contribute to the betterment of the communities. A core theme in these ←vii | viii→chapters is the potential that is embedded in the integration of AIKS in different domains of human development. Contributors agree that the neglect of the AIKS has led to the failure of most of the developmental projects that are informed and guided by western concepts and models. While acquisition of Western knowledge has been and still is invaluable to Africa, contributors observe that on its own it has been incapable of responding adequately in the face of massive rural developmental and ecological challenges. The authors point out that these two forms of knowledge should complement each other and thereby forging closer interconnectedness in these two knowledge domains. It is therefore the thesis of this book that the issue of AIKS is of prime importance. The book seeks to analyze the use of AIKS with the objective of making it more acceptable and applicable to the African communities. A significant contribution of this book would be to see the increase in the uptake of indigenous knowledge systems leading to the betterment of livelihoods in Africa, especially in the communal areas where scientific practices are cost prohibitive.

While the various chapters of this book borrow from the currently available literature on indigenous knowledge systems, they scale above descriptive analysis of the issues by interrogating some of the assumed discourses of implementing AIKS based developmental initiatives. Overall, the book is guided by a purpose-driven vision and arguments that are hands-on. This book is geared towards professionals, academic scholars, students, policy makers, researchers and the general public who are interested in the field of AIKS and development in rural communities. Sociology, political science, development studies, global studies, local government studies and interdisciplinary studies are some of the specific fields that can directly benefit from this book. Its multidisciplinary approach is of significant value to readers, as it will encompass perspectives on the multidimensionality and complexities of indigenous knowledge and sustainable community development.

←viii | ix→


This book is the brainchild of S. Mabuza who is very passionate about the betterment of rural communities in Zimbabwe and elsewhere in Africa. The book would not have been successful without the wonderful work of all the contributors who fully applied themselves in coming up with these innovative chapters. Compiling the chapters into this book, although not easy, was such an eye-opener to the potential that lies in working together under Ubuntu philosophy. Indeed, all the chapters attest to the fact that we need to rediscover our roots so that we can develop and make the lives of humanity much better. Thank you all! Great appreciation also to the publishers, Peter Lang, and their editorial team for their role in the publication of this book.←ix | x→

←x | xi→

List of Abbreviations

AGRITEXDepartment of Agricultural Technical and Extension Services
AIKSAfrican Indigenous Knowledge Systems
AREXAgricultural Research and Extension Services
ATRAfrican Traditional Religion
AUAfrican Union
CBDConvention on Biological Diversity
CEITPresidential Commission of Inquiry into Education and Training
CFPSECurriculum Framework for Primary and Secondary Education
CSOCivil Society Organizations
ECOWASEconomic Community of West African States
EIIndigenous Epistemologies
EMAConstitution and Environmental Management Act
IPCCIntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
NCERTNational Council of Educational Research and Training
NEPADNew Economic Partnership to Africa’s Development
OAUOrganization of African Unity
PF-ZAPUPatriotic Front-Zimbabwe African People’s Union
SADCSouthern African Development Community
SDGSustainable Development Goals
UNDPUnited Nations Development Programme
UNESCOUnited Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization←xi | xii→
WHOWorld Health Organization
ZANLAZimbabwe African national Liberation Army
ZANU-PFZimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front
ZIPRAZimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army

←xii | 1→

Introduction: The Dynamics of Indigenous Knowledges and Sustainable Livelihoods in Africa

Edward Shizha and Christopher Ndlovu

The development of any society depends on the construction of knowledge and its utilization. Without knowledge, people are unlikely to experience sustainable livelihoods. Sustainable livelihood comprises the capabilities, assets, and activities required for a continuous means of living (Knutsson, 2006). It is deemed sustainable when humanity can cope with and recover from stresses and shocks and maintain or enhance its capabilities, assets, and activities both now and in the future, while not undermining the resource base. According to Serrat (2017),

The sustainable livelihoods approach facilitates the identification of practical priorities for actions that are based on the views and interests of those concerned but they are not a panacea. It does not replace other tools, such as participatory development, sector-wide approaches, or integrated rural development. However, it makes the connection between people and the overall enabling environment that influences the outcomes of livelihood strategies. (p. 22)

Knowledge is the foundation of sustainable development and livelihoods, and the way knowledge is defined is very problematic and subjective because it is based on cultural and social contexts (Shizha, 2009); hence all knowledges are defined and legitimized by the users. It brings attention to the inherent potential of people in terms of their skills, social networks, access to social, cultural, physical, and natural resources, and the ability to influence their development. Whether modern or indigenous, knowledge is a social construction that is perceived from the perspective of the ‘knower(s)’, those individuals who construct bodies of ideas, attitudes, and skills that they make use of in their everyday lives. There is no body of knowledge that should dominate ←1 | 2→or colonize other bodies. Because African indigenous knowledge systems (AIKS) have been marginalized since the colonial period, it is important that African researchers promote their viability and visibility in development and highlight how knowledge contributes to social development and sustainable livelihoods in Africa.


XII, 240
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2022 (July)
Adaptive capacity climate change communities curriculum ethnomathematics indigenous knowledge systems indigenousepistemologies indigenousconflict resolutions indigenouslanguages inclusivity sustainable livelihoods Ubuntu philosophy The Dynamics of African Indigenous Knowledge Systems A Sustainable Alternative for Livelihoods in Southern Africa Edward Shizha Christopher Ndlovu
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2022. XII, 240 pp., 2 b/w ill., 1 table.

Biographical notes

Christopher Ndlovu (Volume editor) Edward Shizha (Volume editor)

Christopher Ndlovu has a PhD in Science Education from the University of KwaZulu-Natal and is currently a Senior Lecturer and Chairperson in the Department of Educational Foundations at Lupane State University in Zimbabwe. He has published 9 research papers and a book chapter. Edward Shizha has a PhD in Sociology of Education from the University of Alberta in Canada and is a Professor at Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada. He has published 12 books and several chapters and articles on indigenous knowledges and their incorporation in education in Africa.


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254 pages