Challenges in Harnessing Indigenous Knowledge Systems through Creation of Employment for Rural Women in Tanzania: The Case Study of Barabaig Leather Products in Manyara Region

  • John Mtui
Keywords: Keywords, Barabaig Women, Indigenous Knowledge, Traditional Leather Products, Income and Employment, Rural Tanzania


This study examines opportunities and challenges in harnessing indigenous knowledge (IK) for employment creation and poverty reduction in rural Tanzania. The study is underpinned by literature review and descriptive analysis focusing on leather products made by Barabaig women in Hanang, Tanzania. During the study, a sample of one hundred households was selected and interviewed. Data were collected from the administered interviews that were structured like a questionnaire. The literature details the challenges IK faces, including: the threat of extinction due to lack of recording, with much focus on IK that has a direct cash benefit only and the ignored "non-cash" knowledge; considered as part of a residual, traditional, and backward way of life that is easily brushed off on the ground that it cannot be trusted; and not inclusive. The IK drive in Tanzania lacks one unifying policy. Inadequate tanning training, expensive modern tanning inputs, low quality hides and skins associated with poor animal husbandry, poor quality local inputs and tools, low quality output, and lack of markets are among the inhibiting factors faced by Barabaig women using IK to create leather products. Poor roads, inadequate supply of clean water and health services, and lack of electricity is another set of hurdles Barabaig women face. Apart from leather products, Barabaig women also produce other traditional products such as blankets, shawls, bracelets, and neck and waist ornaments. This study argues that Tanzania needs a comprehensive IK policy, and that local governments are better custodians of IK than the central government. There is a need to scale up training on tanning technology, improve animal husbandry, increase the availability of affordable chemical and non-chemical inputs, unlock marketing constraints, encourage producer associations/groups, and address rural bottlenecks such as poor roads, access to electricity, and long distance travel for water and healthcare services.




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