“Trees Are Our Relatives”: Local Perceptions on Forestry Resources and Implications for Climate Change Mitigation

Nelson Chanza, Walter Musakwa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


The link between nature and society is vital for climate change mitigation and sustainable natural recourse management. Based on a case study of the indigenous people of Mbire in Zimbabwe, we argue that perceptions of indigenous people about forestry resources provide useful pointers toward framing climate mitigation interventions. This interest was necessitated by the growing call to address the suppression of forest-rich indigenous communities in climate change science. Accordingly, the aim of the study was to understand how indigenous people can contribute to the abatement of climate change. The study engaged 32 purposively selected elderly participants in focus group discussions; these participants had long histories of staying in the villages studied and were figures whom the locals regarded as “experts” in giving credible inferences about their environment. The participants corroboratively perceived forests and trees as their own “relatives”, who should not be harmed because of the support they continue to generously give to the people. Their construct of climate change relates to the gradual but continuing trivialization of cultural beliefs and abandonment of traditional practices, which they believe offend the spirits who have powers to influence the climate system. Although their attribution view on climate change is in contrast with that of mainstream climate scientists, we argue that their profound acknowledgement of climatic change, coupled with their scientific understanding of the intrinsic relationship between people’s wellbeing and the environment, are key entry points to design sustainable climate mitigation programs at community scales. The sustainability of such programs should not ignore local belief systems and strategies that communities use in preserving their forests.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5885
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2021


  • Climate change
  • Forests
  • Indigenous knowledge
  • Sustainability
  • Zimbabwe

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science (miscellaneous)
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Building and Construction
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Hardware and Architecture
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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