Indigenous knowledge and resilience to floods in Muzarabani, Zimbabwe

Emmanuel Mavhura, Bernard Manyena, Andrew Collins, Desmond Manatsa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Citations (Scopus)


The connection between indigenous knowledge systems and disaster resilience derives from both theory and practice highlighting potential contributions of indigenous knowledge to building resilient communities. Using data from interviews and focus group discussions, this paper explores people’s indigenous survival strategies and variations in people’s ability to cope with floods in two flood-prone villages of Muzarabani district, Zimbabwe. The findings reveal that indigenous knowledge systems played a significant role in reducing the impact of floods in Muzarabani district. However, the extent to which indigenous knowledge enhanced resilience to floods was influenced by geophysical locations, exposure to flooding and socio-economic abilities. Communities in an area with low flooding and with a strong socio-economic base such as education and income were more likely to cope with flood impacts compared to those communities in areas with high and sudden flooding and weak socio-economic base. The paper shows how indigenous knowledge systems are an indispensable component of disaster resilience building. This is because indigenous knowledge systems can, (i) be transferred and adapted to other communities; (ii) encourage participation and empowerment of affected communities, (iii) improve intervention adaptation to local contexts, and (iv) are often beyond formal education about environmental hazards.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)38-48
JournalInternational Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2013


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