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AZTREC
Association of Zimbabwean@
‚s‚’aditional Environmental Conservationists

About AZTREC
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Summary of AZTREC activities

is by the people for the people and with the people . The  organization is therefore cognizant of the peoplefs methods of doing things, where the fundamental aspect of the work is its being participatory and people directed. Since its formation the organization has been implementing community based natural resources management projects using local knowledge, culture and cosmovision. The organization has  therefore  been accredited to fully implement the United Nations Convention to Combat  Desertification (UNCCD).
This is in line with, Article 17.1c which talks about supporting research activities that, protect, integrate, enhance and validate traditional and local knowledge, know how and practices, ensuring, subject to their respective national legislation and/or policies that the owners of the knowledge will directly benefit on an equitable bases and on mutually agreed terms from any commercial utilization of it or from any technological development derived from that knowledge AND

Article 18.2  which states that ,The parties shall according to their respective capabilities, and subject to their  respective national legislation and/or policies, protect, promote and use in particular relevant traditional and local technology, knowledge , know how and practices and to that end they undertake to,

a)   make inventories of such knowledge, know how and practices and their potential uses with the participation of local populations, and disseminate such information, where appropriate incorporation with relevant inter governmental and non governmental organizations;

b) ensure that such technology, knowledge, know how and practices are adequately protected and that local populations benefit directly, on an equitable basis and as mutually agreed from any commercial utilization of them or from any technological development derived therefrom;

c)   encourage and actively support the improvement and dissemination of such technology, know how and practices or of the  development of new technology based on them; and

d)   facilitate, as appropriate the adaptation of such technology, knowledge, know how and practices to  wide use and integrate them with modern technology as appropriate.  

The summary of activities are explained hereunder;

Indigenous  people  have  been  crop producers  even  before  colonization.  While  they  applaud  the pioneer  of  conventional  agriculture  for  improving  yields due  to the  use of  artificial fertilizers,  they  feel  that  this  has  destroyed  their land.  Fertilizers  do not maintain or  enrich  the  structure  of  the  soil

It  is  addictive, you have  to  buy  fertilizer  each  season  and  it  promotes laziness  because  farmers  will not work  to  enrich  the  soil.  The   hybrid  seeds  are  addictive,  you  have  to  buy  each  year  and  it  has  suddenly  became  beyond  reach of  the  poor  indigenous  people. Many  of  the  high  value  traditional open  pollinated  seed  varieties  are  being   lost.

It  is  important  to note that  in  each  village  there  are  farmer  innovators both men  and  women. These have  continued  to carry  out  their  own  experiments  and  innovations  by  themselves  over  the  years.  Some  have  managed  to maintain their  traditional  seeds  which  they  are  growing  with  varying  degree  of  success.

The programme component is supporting farmer innovators to research, test and document their case studies. The case studies include the use of organic manure to improve soil fertility, water harvesting techniques, indigenous seed propagation and storage. The project has been on going Charumbira, Zimuto, Mupata and Nerupiri communities . 


The  wetlands  referred  to  in  the  case  of  AZTREC programme are  the  vleis,  springs,  and  pools. These  are  common  sources  of  water within the communities the organization is working with.  Their  recharge  and  rehabilitation  is  dependent  on one  hand, on  the  availability  of rain  water  and   on  the  other  hand  by  following  the  traditional  norms  specific  to  these  areas. It  is  believed  that  the  spiritual  world  finds  shelter  in  water. The application of artificial fertilizers and pesticides upland is not allowed and can pollute the water down steam in the wetlands. It  is  thus a taboo to disregard  the  norms  of  a  wetland  as  this  is   believed  to  chase  away  the  mermaids  resulting  in  the  drying  up of  the  wetlands  and  hence  affecting  fish  and  other  aquatic  life. The  (nzuzu) mermaids  stay  in  the  water  and  ensures  sustenance  of  the  aquatic  life. It is therefore that the water tables in the wetlands are usually maintained high. It is a proven belief that when this culturally important spirit is present water will not be a problem. The spiritual world, through a spirit medium would communicate with water loving spirits about what needs to be done to recharge the ecosystem. This communication process is carried out during a ritual ceremony specifically organized for that purpose. A special type of spirit medium, nyusa  facilitates the rehabilitation process. The nyusa spirit medium is usually a man or a woman who is possessed by the spirit of  the nzuzu.   For this reason it will be  very easy to determine the cultural procedures needed to revive or resuscitate the wetlands.

Wetlands  are  supposed  to  be  protected  either  from  brushwood  or  other  forms  of fencing  to exclude  cattle  which normally compact  the  wetlands  resulting  in  the  drying  up of  the  resources. In the ten years  that AZTREC  has been active, eleven vleis and springs that had completely dried up have been resuscitated. Thirty-nine five hectare wetlands (on average) are under management with full support of traditional institutions. This has been achieved by showing what is lost when vleis, springs and mermaids are absent.  The  indigenous  people value  the  vleis, springs  and  pools  as  these  provide  water  for  human  consumption, livestock  and  for irrigation  purposes. For  the  people  water  is  life. 


2.2.3 Woodlands and Mountains ecosystems

The woodlands and mountains ecosystems are considered the most crucial components of AZTRECfs conservation endeavors for this is the habitat of the spiritual world. The traditional leaders that constitute the organizationfs policy making body have each re-identified sacred woodlands in which their ancestors were buried. The belief is that people must identify themselves with the socio- cultural values and myths imbedded in bio diversity management before they take the preservation and rehabilitation of the denuded environment seriously.

The  indigenous  belief  is  that  there  should  be  careful harvesting and management of what  the  woodland  and forests  provide.  People should  not  cut  fresh  wood  before  getting  permission  from  the  chief  and  explaining  the  purpose  for cutting  down  a  fresh  tree.

While  there  are  ordinary  woodlands  and  forests  there  are  also sacred  woodlands. Nobody is  allowed  to  cut  trees  from  these woodlands.  In  these  woodlands  different tree  species  have  different  uses  and  ritual  purposes.  Some  tree  species such as muchakata and mubvumira  provide  shade  to  the  spiritual  world .Under  the muchakata tree rain making ceremonies are performed. Each  year  before  the  onset  of  rains  a  rainmaking  ritual  is  performed  where  traditional  beer  is  brewed . Only  the  elderly  who  have  surpassed  the stage  of  being  intimate  to  their  wives  or  husbands are legible to prepare the traditional  beer . They  drink  the  traditional beer  while  singing  and  dancing.  This  is  to  appease  the  spirits  of  the  dead  who  in turn  will  ensure that  there  is  good  rain  for  the  season. Under  the mubvumira tree from time immemorial, food could be requested from the spiritual world.  While  others  are  evergreen  others  are  deciduous, the  different stages  of  loosing  leaves,  sprinting  and   shooting  of  new  leaves  gives  signs  to  the  farmers  as to  the  onset  of  the  rains, when  to  plant  and  when  to  carry  out  certain  ceremonies.

The woodlands  and  forests  are  a  habitat  for a diversity  of  wildlife.  The  diversity  of  woodland  life,  trees,  wildlife  and  rivers  that  run  through  the  woodlands  and  how  people  should  recognize  this  heritage  explains  the  values  that  are  given  to  woodlands.  It  explains  the  very  careful  conservation  approach  that  the  indigenous  people attach  to woodland.


These are channels and passages  underneath  the  mountains  designated for  the  various  purposes.  It  is  known  that  these   passages  link  the  different  mountains  and  hills. These  are   naturally partitioned  into  areas  for  livestock kraals, granaries,  living compartments and   rituals.  It  should  be   noted  that  long  time  back  people  used  to  stay   in  these  passages  before  settled  in  the   plain  as  is  the  case  today.  It  is  the   duty   of  spirits  via  spirit  mediums to  educate  the   chiefs  and  elders  of  how  to  maintain  these  sacred  passages, what  rules  should  be  observed  and  which  natural  species  should  be  or  not  be  killed  within  these  places  and  what  needs  to  be  done  when  appeasing  the  spiritual  world._


In  each  chieftainship there  is  a  sacred  hill  or  mountain  whose  caves  provide  burial places  for  the  members  of  the  chieftainship.  If  the   chief  dies  his  body  is  carefully  drained  off  fluids  until it  dries. This  process  takes  not  less  than  a  week.  The  body  is  later  laid  to  rest  in  the  sacred  cave (mapa).  The  death  and burial  place  was  only  known  by  the  spirit  mediums,  members  of  the  clan  and  village  elders.  Despite  the  burial  of  the  chiefs  the  caves  are  used  for  rituals  that  are  crucial  for the   survival of  the  people of  that  area.

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