“Mupo, or the universe, is the oxygen, if we cut down the trees we can’t breathe the fresh air. Even the grasses can die, and our animals can not find where they can graze. If we cut down the trees, even we are going to die. Mupo is our life” – Vha Venda, elder farmer from Tshidzivhe
Dzomo la Mupo work to preserve and revive cultural diversity in South Africa. Based in Thohoyandou in the Limpopo region, the organisation works to strengthen local communities in ecological governance by reviving indigenous seed, facilitating and encouraging intergenerational learning, and rebuilding confidence in the value of indigenous knowledge systems. The protection of sacred sites plays a vital role in indigenous living and hence it is core to the work of Dzomo la Mupo.
The organisation was founded in 2007 by Mphatheleni Makaulule in response to concerns she heard through discussions with elders about how they can bring about necessary cultural and ecological revival. She was driven by her own concern that cultural values are being eroded and indigenous forests are facing mass destruction, which is causing discernable disorder within Mupo.
They also join forces with other organisations with similar interests in the local region, for example the organisation ‘Mudzi wa vhurereli ha Vhavenda’, Vhangona cultural movement, Ndima community services and Vhembe traditional healers associations.
Our mission is for all people in South Africa to be proud of their cultural heritage, to experience religious freedom and nutritional food sovereignty, and to protect and restore the critical ecosystems of their territory in the way that the ancestors were doing long ago. Dzomo la Mupo is determined to protect Mupo.
DZOMO LA MUPO
Dzomo la Mupo emerged from many community ecological dialogues, and the DLM approach is community participatory led by the needs and understanding of the communities focusing on impact of environmental destruction and erosion of indigenous knowledge values. All programmes are characterised by the integrated and holistic manner for the protection of nature in all its forms. It is the determination, from its name Dzomo la Mupo, meaning the voice of mother earth, to establish the voice of mother earth in all areas of its work.
Through dialogues, DLM becomes potent to the understanding that nature and community of human beings, all life systems of the planet earth are linked and interdependent. DLM works towards enhancing community indigenous knowledge to assess and respond to the environmental challenges and livelihood improvements for the sake of environmental protection deeper than just conservation.
DLM works in Limpopo in Vhembe district with rural communities, women, elders, school children, youths and custodians of the sacred natural sites.
The DLM stronghold participants and ecological knowledge holders are women, called vhomakhadzi. We work to strengthen the confidence of women’s voice and their roles in ecology. DLM also pay full attention to the custodians of the sacred natural forests as they are the indigenous community groups.
Dzomo la Mupo (meaning ‘the voice of Mupo’) is a group of community members and sacred site custodians (many who are Makhadzis) who come together to stand up against threats to their sacred sites. Working together they are defending their rights as well as reviving the value of the makhadzi and the sacred finger millet.
Dzomo la Mupo has been a central driving body in the legal fight for protecting sacred sites. Members of the committee took those responsible for the destruction at the Phiphidi waterfall to court and were successful in gaining a court interdict against them in July 2010 and again in February 2011 (for more information about this see our news page).
The committee was launched at a general meeting in February 2009, and 12 official principals (The 12 Principles) were adopted. Since then the group has served as an instrument, enabling members of several Venda clans to have a strong unified voice that represents all communities. Through Dzomo la Mupo makhadzis have been empowered to speak out about their concerns and have had the courage to confront their fears for the future.
The main activities of Dzomo la Mupo include; teaching the people of Vhembe district about the facts and values of indigenous forests, trees, sacred sites, indigenous seeds and food, and Mupo, and ensuring that children are included. The committee also encourages the planting of millet for use in the rituals, and assists custodian clans to map and document their sacred sites.
Anyone can become a member of Dzomo la Mupo, it does not discriminate. All members of Dzomo la Mupo, are only required to adhere to The 12 Principles that will ensure sacred sites are protected and the environment is preserved for our grandchildren and into the future. There is also a membership form which all members are required to fill in and a small membership fee. To join please contact the office and organise to sign the Dzomo la Mupo pledge.