Africa’s Dilemmas in Climate Change Communication: Universalistic Science Versus Indigenous Technical Knowledge

  • Innocent ChirisaEmail author
  • Abraham Matamanda
  • John Mutambwa
Part of the Climate Change Management book series (CCM)


This paper is based on a study that advances the argument that Africa’s approach to understanding climate change dynamics is compromised by the fact that instead of complementing each other universalistic science and indigenous technical knowledge (ITK) seem to be pulling into diametrical opposite directions. The aim of the paper then is to identify the fissure in communication that arise from these different perspectives and how best the two worldviews may be merged so as to craft the most sustainable solutions for climate change adaptation, mitigation and communication. The paper engages literature review on ITK and universal science and uses case studies from across the region to demonstrate this in the thesis of the paper. Interviews have also been conducted with key informants who include environmentalists and traditional leaders. The problem with gathering information on ITK knowledge is that most of the information is undocumented and in most cases is known by a few people usually the elderly. The results indicate that universalistic science has a tendency to ask for collective action based on regional and global trends to climate change while indigenous technical knowledge begins with an observation that ‘something is wrong somewhere’ but it is the responsibility of the individual to make sure they do the right thing in a bid to achieve environmental harmony. In the latter, there is reference to Spiritism and Nature because the “spirits are angry”. To some extent these beliefs by ITK seem to be well placed with the only problem being that much of the information remains enclosed and unknown to many. Communicating ITK then becomes the way to go considering the potential impacts of such initiatives in the realm of climate change. Yet, in universalistic science such claims are hogwash and absurd. In most cases, in Africa the division is also explained by the generation gap between the youthful and elderly as well as between religious inclinations that different people adhere to. This paper will useful to policy makers, academics and community members so that they all get to accept and appreciate the utility of ITK in climate change communication.


Climate change communication Indigenous technical knowledge Universalistic science 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Innocent Chirisa
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Abraham Matamanda
    • 2
  • John Mutambwa
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Rural and Urban PlanningUniversity of ZimbabweHarareZimbabwe
  2. 2.University of Free StateBloemfonteinSouth Africa

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