Harnessing Indigenous knowledge Systems to mitigate and adapt to climate change in Matabeleland North: The Case for Rain making Ceremonies.

3 weeks ago
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By Thandeka Matebesi

In Zimbabwe most places receive rains in December, January and February, and the rainfall has been inadequate for agricultural purposes particularly in the last year.

This decline in rainfall has been attributed to climate change resulting from both natural and human induced factors.

Various initiatives have been pursued in different communities ranging from planting drought resistant crops such as the Quinoa crop which is a flowering plant with edible brown/ white seeds, to initiating rain making ceremonies.

Tsholotsho Ward 13 Councillor Soka Ngwenya said following the three-year dry spell which extended to last year, communities have shifted to drought resistant crops such as sorghum and cowpeas .

“In the past three years we have not received adequate rainfall for agricultural purposes this has promoted communities to plant indigenous crops such as sorghum and cowpeas where there is a guarantee of better yields compared to high breed crops such as maize”, said Ngwenya.

At the end of September this year Chief Mathupula of Sipepa area in Tsholotsho Matabeleland North instructed headmen to advise community members from Ward 5 and 6 that on the 1st of October 2020 they should not engage in any work of any kind.

Chief Mathupula made a decree to the effect that the community should spend the day picking up bones of cattle and donkeys that had died the previous year as a result of the drought as a ritual to seek good rains from ancestors.

One of the headmen in the area, Mr Smile Love Anzula who spoke to Community Podium said he believes in taking part in the ceremony because good rains can only be sought from God and that the process has always yielded results.

“We seek good rains from God because we believe that he is the one who owns and gives everything. The rain making ceremony is a way of cleansing the environment of all the dirt and it is also a sign of commitment to God and communing with Him.

We go around picking bones of dead animals, clearing the environment of all dirt. Just as the Israelites were committed to speaking to God about their issues. They would rid themselves of all uncleanliness before appearing in God’s presence. The rain making ceremonies are also like that. We have seen results from the ceremonies especially this year because the rains came early in October, ” he said.

A young lady, Nozithelo Moyo said when she was growing up in Tsholotsho she used to witness the rain making ceremony and she still recalls its effectiveness.

“When I was growing up there used to be dances done to seek good rains on a special selected day, and everyone would be informed about it.

There were also specific people such as traditional leaders who were expected to attend the ceremonies.

We would go to a dam in a nearby village and spend the day dancing, singing and doing several other rituals. There was a lady who would be leading the activities.

In my  view, the process would yield results because after a short while the rains would come. This process was done every year because it was always successful”, said Moyo.

Moyo however, said people have slowly moved from such ways and have become more focused on Christianity which they believe does not accommodate such practices.

“My thinking is that at times people see these traditional ways as incompatible with their Christian values and thus perceive them in negative light. Ultimately, the rains have also become scarce as fewer people observe the practices of old in seeking good rains”, said Moyo.

She said that there was need for communities to readopt practices such as rain making ceremonies as they have been tried and tested.

“Communities in dry areas, particularly in Tsholotsho, where I come from, people are facing the threat of food insecurity because of low or no rainfall. We should go back to ‘ukucelaizulu’ (asking for rain), seeing that it was producing good results.

If there is a way such as this, of ensuring that there are good rains we need to adopt it as there is no harm in it”, she said.

A young man from Bulawayo, Nigel Ndlovu said: “I feel like people have abandoned the former ways. People used to pray for  good rains and harvests but that is rarely happening these days. There is too much westernisation where most of the young people are not familiar with most traditional processes which were practiced by our forefathers”, said Ndlovu.

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