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Tides of change: exploring the knowledge system of a rural community's transition from subsistence farming, to landlessness, and to communal farm ownership.

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This study was conducted to explore the knowledge system of a rural community in their life transitions from subsistence farming, to forced removals, and later to ownership of a communal farm. In Limpopo Province, South Africa, impoverished rural people, whose livelihoods have largely depended on subsistence agriculture constitute large sections of the population. Calais, a rural village in Limpopo was selected for the study. The village is characterized by high levels of illiteracy among the elderly people. Based on a phenomenological research design, a purposive sampling was utilised as a representative sample of the study to inquire what knowledge they possessed, how such knowledge was created; how it has been adapted, applied, and disseminated in their daily efforts of making a living. Learning among illiterate, rural communities is mainly informal, experiential, orally transmitted and generally undocumented but forms a basis for coping, adaptation, and decision-making of communities in food security, health and management of natural resources, amongst other activities. Whereas the rural, poor people of Calais community's subsistence farming lifestyle was affected by the forced removals, the study found that they possess indigenous, 'ready-to-use' knowledge and skills, which have been adapted to assist them in their struggle for survival and in achieving control of their own lives. The study also found that decision-making in this community is characterized by social inequality based on gender and social status. It was also discovered that the traditional leadership structure lacks the necessary skills, expertise and infrastructure for effective management and ownership of a community-owned, commercial farm. The study concluded that indigenous knowledge is a valid knowledge system that should be utilised alongside other knowledge systems. At the same time, this community's indigenous farming knowledge cannot be romanticised as a static, unchanging body of knowledge but that it should be viewed as complementary to other ways of knowing and of sustaining life in changing socio-economic settings.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.