Muonde Trust (still under formation) will be a small Zimbabwean entity dedicated to fomenting locally-driven creativity and development in the Mazvihwa and neighbouring areas of south central Zimbabwe. It will be supported by the non-profit Friends of Muonde a project of Earth Island Institute (501c3), based in the San Francisco Bay area in California, whose role will be a combination of fund raising and external support for activities on the ground in Mazvihwa. Yes, please we welcome your contributions!
Rooted in a small rural community its potency will be in the realm of ideas and culture; its work being mixing action research, local innovation, education and training. It has no interest in the worlds of foreign aid and charity, nor the endless import of external solutions and western imaging of Africa. Instead it will build upon this community’s almost accidental thirty year tradition of tackling its complex issues through engaging in its own research that embraces and integrates traditional knowledge, indigenous innovation, quantitative science and new technologies, each only in proportion to how each truly adds value.
The Muonde Trust is founded by two leading members of this community—Mr. Abraham Mawere Ndhlovu and Dr. Billiards Mukamuri—and an Englishman, Dr. Ken Wilson, who first visited the area in 1980 as a school teacher at Dadaya, then did his doctoral work there in human ecology (1985-88), and subsequently living on and off in the area until today.
The word Muonde refers to indigenous fig trees of this semi-arid region, especially the big beautiful free-standing Ficus sur. This is a tree associated with fruits and birds and life. It is noted to particularly grow and thrive in places where there is water beneath the ground. It becomes huge and ancient and enduring. It is a tree that accommodates ancestral spirits as they move between the worlds. There are prohibitions on cutting or harming the muonde, and they are not cut down when fields are cleared for agriculture (people resisted government efforts to make them do this for many decades). Its shade is one of the most preferred for meetings, ceremonies, churches, and for resting between bouts of weeding in the hot summer sun. The muonde are honored but they are also fun. Children love to play in such figs, climbing to get the fruits, and (in some species), gathering the sap for birdlime and locally-made chewing gum. Overall, then, the muonde is thus a connecting point for community, ecology and spirituality. As Emmanuel Sigauke observed in the deliberations of our advisory committee, riffing on thoughts from Anuja Mendiratta and Brock Dolman, both of whom had visited earlier this year, “Muonde Trust was formed to keep the connection (one that already exists) between spirit, community and ecology”.
This Muonde site will increasingly share the stories of this community and the work of the Trust, both with other Zimbabweans and the world at large. Watch this space, contribute, sign up for our mailing list, and do give us your feedback.