Indigenous Knowledge Management Practices in Indigenous Organizations in South Africa and Tanzania

Indigenous Knowledge Management Practices in Indigenous Organizations in South Africa and Tanzania

Edda Tandi Lwoga (Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, Tanzania), Patrick Ngulube (University of South Africa, South Africa) and Christine Stilwell (University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0838-0.ch010


Traditional communities have a highly developed knowledge system. They struggle, however, to lobby for critical issues as this knowledge is not documented. The chapter addresses this problem by seeking a suitable knowledge creation model for South African and Tanzanian indigenous organizations. It draws on fieldwork and reviews the literature and organizational websites. It applies Myer's seven C's model (2014) to determine how knowledge management may assist organizations in addressing challenges effectively. The findings demonstrate that Myers's model (2014) has been successful in part in explaining the knowledge management practices of indigenous organizations in these two countries. It is also difficult for indigenous organizations to motivate people to share knowledge because indigenous knowledge is individualized and used as a source of power, status and income in the communities. It is therefore important to promote integration of indigenous knowledge with other knowledge systems for socio-economic growth, and advocating change in institutional structures.
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This section presents broad definitions of terms that are central to the topic.

Knowledge Systems

The indigenous knowledge system, and the external knowledge, or scientific knowledge system are two widely acknowledged knowledge systems (Munyua & Stilwell, 2013). Aikenhead and Ogawa (2007) used a cultural base to distinguish three systems:

  • 1.

    The largely oral, indigenous ways;

  • 2.

    The neo-indigenous ways of knowing which predominate in Asia, are based on the region’s culture and history, and are documented; and

  • 3.

    The Eurocentric way of knowing. This chapter focuses on the indigenous knowledge system and to some extent on the external knowledge system.

External knowledge, referred to as scientific, western, or global knowledge is generated through research and educational networks. It may be explicit and recorded in publications or may be tacit and stored in the heads of scientists or professionals (Wiig, 1999). It is open in the sense of being accessible, systematic, and objective; and grows by building on earlier accomplishments (Agrawal, 2004).

Local knowledge is also recognized as scientific (Guthiga, 2010). Munyua and Stilwell (2013) summarise differences between local knowledge and external knowledge:

  • 1.

    They stem from different epistemological backgrounds;

  • 2.

    Their histories differ;

  • 3.

    They show variations in characteristics and subject matter;

  • 4.

    Traditional knowledge focuses more on the local environment (Agrawal, 2004), and

  • 5.

    Natural conditions shape the development of local knowledge, whereas change in external knowledge occurs through human intervention (Saway, 2004). In addition, external knowledge is global as opposed to local knowledge, which is more confined in scope (Mercer, Kelman, Taranis, & Suchet-Pearson, 2010).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Knowledge Management: “The process of capturing, distributing, and effectively using knowledge” ( Koenig, 2012 ).

Tacit Knowledge: “Information or knowledge that one would have extreme difficulty operationally setting out in tangible form” ( Koenig, 2012 ).

Indigenous Knowledge: Unique, traditional, local knowledge that exists within and is developed around the specific conditions of people indigenous to a particular geographic area in a particular period (Grenier, 1998 AU77: The in-text citation "Grenier, 1998" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ).

Indigenous Organizations: Institutions that are at local-level and have a community base, for example, social groups such as women’s groups, ethnic associations, and traditional religious groups ( Blunt & Warren, 1996 ).

Explicit Knowledge: “Information or knowledge that is set out in tangible form” ( Koenig, 2012 ).

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