Harnessing African science and technology…tackling impact of climate change


OUR immediate threat is food insecurity on the back of a poor agricultural season.
Rainfall has been very low and extremely erratic.
Government has drawn some comfort from the large stocks of Command Agriculture maize from last season.
The question we should ask ourselves as Zimbabweans is: What is our long-term strategy for dealing with recurrent low-rainfall seasons?
Since we have survived this climate for centuries, how have we dealt with the phenomenon of poor rainfall?
What lessons did our forefathers learn over centuries?
In this publication, we have presented several articles on how African communities have sought divine intervention to increase rainfall amounts in dry years.
Many who have grown up in rural areas have had the experience of attending these ceremonies.
Do rain-asking ceremonies work?
Can we put them on our regular calendars?
We know that in traditional societies, rain-asking ceremonies are held every year whether there is a drought or not. But over the decades since colonisation, many Africans have been induced to shun these traditional ceremonies.
As we have embraced our colonisers’ culture and religion, we have substituted our African customs and practices for foreign unproven practices.
The truth, however, is that over thousands and thousands of years, we Africans have amassed enormous knowledge and experience that has allowed or enabled us to survive even the harshest climatic challenges.
We have devised ways of coping and adapting to climate change. The choice of small grain crops is a clear indicator of adaptation.
Small grain crops that include finger millet (rukweza/uphoko), pearl millet (mhunga/inyawuti), sorghum (mapfunde/amabele), cowpea (nyemba/indumba) and sesame (runinga) are all drought-tolerant crops.
These are the crops that our African people were growing in the pre-colonial period.
Apart from drought tolerance, many of these small grain crops are much less susceptible to post harvest losses that may be caused by various pests like weevils.
They also store for long periods such that when stockpiled they provide food security over extended periods of time.
My argument is that, we have robust technologies that we can and should deploy to ameliorate the adverse impacts of climate change-induced food insecurity.
As a nation, we need to develop long-term strategies for dealing with threats to our social and economic development. Common sense says we should start from the known to the unknown.
Our academic experts must conduct extensive and focussed research to identify and document the indigenous technologies and practices that have stood the test of time.
We must build on those to develop robust strategies for coping with drought and other phenomena.
Let me wind back to the indigenous technologies. The Western churches hold prayer meetings to ask for rain. Those must continue.
The African traditional ceremonies for asking for rain must also be formalised through the traditional structures of our societies.
Rain-asking ceremonies must not be backyard affairs conducted behind scenes with people fearing to be seen by the public. We must, as Africans, embrace all the technologies and practices that enhance rainfall events.
We have many spirit mediums, masvikiro, mhondoro and other mystics who are capable of communicating with Musikavanhu, God the Creator.
All these traditional religious and cultural practices must be recognised and promoted.
At the appropriate time on the agriculture calendar, the various entities must undertake whatever relevant ceremonies are required to ask for rains.
We fought and defeated colonialism in its physical manifestation of settler-colonial Government structures used to exploit our fertile lands and our natural resources.
We must mobilise ourselves to also fight to free our minds from a colonial mentality that despises things African.
We must actively fight a colonial legacy that has left us literally hating ourselves and our own heritage and culture.
This must be a deliberate effort on our part as Africans.
The religious freedom that we have extended to Western churches must also be extended to African cultural and religious activities, especially those that enhance our response to natural phenomena such as climate change.
We have a bigger task to exorcise the ghost of Western colonialism which says: Black African is inferior, white European is superior!
Instead we must inculcate in our black population, through a transformed education system, an independent self-respecting Afro-centric personality.
Through a Government Ministry responsible for promotion and preservation of African heritage/religions/culture, we must legislate for the establishment of or support for traditional entities that allow us to exploit our African tangible and intangible cultural assets.
We must promote all practices that positively enhance our African identities.
We must stop ‘apologising’ to the rest of the world for being who we are, proud sons and daughters of Africa.
How do we go about creating an enabling environment for African cultures to flourish and contribute positively to economic and social development?
The first step is to remove, from our statutes, all colonial legislation that sought to suppress African cultural beliefs and practices.
One such piece of legislation is the Anti-Witchcraft Act.
In its broad thrust, it denies that witchcraft exists.
It punishes all who accuse witches of harming others through witchcraft acts. Because the white settlers had no clue on the operational modalities of witchcraft, and also feared that Africans would use it to fight against the white invaders, they banished it.
But the truth is that witchcraft exists, even among Europeans, Asians and other races across the globe.
Some readers will be aware of the famous or is it notorious ‘Witches of Salem’ a city in North Carolina in the US.
As part of the colonising regime, and to break the African spiritual and cultural independence, all things African were labelled ‘primitive, evil, backward and ungodly’.
Africans were taught to hate themselves and their own cultural and religious beliefs and practices. This was a deliberate strategy to break the African spirit.
The ‘elimination by substitution’ strategy was used very effectively.
The colonial education system and the Western Christian churches were deployed for this purpose.
The education system excluded African history while school textbooks emphasized Western culture and traditions, playing down or failing even to mention ‘the ways of the African’.
The new school curriculum is expected to infuse African values and traditions in a way that should move our education from being Euro-centric to being Afro-centric.
Our children must be taught to value and respect our African-ness as opposed to ridiculing our cultures and traditions.
Our argument is that we should deploy all our African ‘technologies’ when faced with a drought situation as that of now.
This should be a public initiative fully supported by the various arms of Government, including traditional leaders.
The current impending drought is a good case in point.
Rain-asking ceremonies should be conducted all over, following local traditions. Our prayers to Musikavanhu through our ancestors should be intensified.
We are our own liberators!


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