Customary and Traditional Practices That Can Be Adapted and Useful in Coping with Covid-19 Research Paper

Excerpt from Research Paper :

Customary and Traditional Practices that can be Adapted and Useful in Coping with Covid

South Africa

Traditional Healers and Medicine

Traditional medicines are substances used in the traditional health practice for the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of illness as well as the promotion of well-being in most rural African societies. They include a diverse range of plant and animal products that are either self-administered by the patient or administered by traditional healers and believed to treat a wide range of conditions including mental disorders, tuberculosis, and diabetes. For instance, the leaf of the Aloe Ferox plant has been shown to have anti-diabetic properties, the Ubulawu, a traditional medicine drawn from the stem of Helinus integrifolius and root of the Sillene bellidioides is used to cleanse the body and soul, while the Cryptocarya bark mixed with crocodile fat is used in the treatment of chest pains (Mmamosheledi & Sibanda, 2018).

Traditional healers are responsible for the administration of traditional medicine in South Africa and include traditional birth attendants, traditional surgeons, herbalists (iNyanga) and diviners (iSangoma) (Mmamosheledi & Sibanda, 2018). Traditional healing is interwoven with religious beliefs and cultural practices and is, therefore, believed to be holistic, involving both the mind and soul (Mmamosheledi & Sibanda, 2018). South Africans link traditional healing practices with spirituality and believe that traditional healers are capable of communicating with ancestors and an individual’s departed blood-relatives, who are believed to mediate between the living and God and who serve as the custodians of the destinies of living generations (Mmamosheledi & Sibanda, 2018).

For instance, diviners in the South African belief system are considered spirituality experts capable of defining and diagnosing the origin and reason of illness with the help of the patient’s ancestors (Mmamosheledi & Sibanda, 2018). The strong beliefs that traditional healers enjoy some form of spiritual connection with ancestors and God that could intervene in illness makes traditional healers the first treatment option for most patients, although patients also prefer them because they are more affordable. In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, traditional healers could help reduce the strain on the formal healthcare system by administering or guiding patients to self-medicate using traditional medicines such as Umckaloabo used in the treatment of chest pains and bronchitis symptoms (Mmamosheledi & Sibanda, 2013). Traditional healers and medicinal options are more affordable and readily available to rural populations than formal options such as Aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and would effectively help patients with mild symptoms manage the same at home.

Subsistence Farming and Food Security

Farming is one of the primary economic activities in South Africa. Traditionally, farmers practiced subsistence, organic farming, with households in rural areas mostly producing their own food and those in urban areas relying largely on market purchases. Recent years have, however, seen a shift towards market food purchases in both rural and urban households (Baiphethi & Jacobs, 2009). The disruption of food chains as a result of lockdowns and other measures geared at curbing the spread of Covid affects the availability of food substances in the market, increasing the risk of food insecurity, particularly among the urban dwellers who mostly rely on market food purchases. Moreover, it is estimated that food expenditures account for between 60 and 80 percent of total household income in an average Sub-Saharan African household (Baiphethi & Jacobs, 2009). The decline of food produce in the market as a result of disrupted food chains pushes food prices up, imposing a further strain on the urban poor who are already experiencing falling incomes as a direct effect of the pandemic.

In this regard, a return to the traditional subsistence farming would help increase food security for households, minimizing reliance on market food purchases (Baiphethi & Jacobs, 2009). Several actions have been taken to encourage local communities to shift back to subsistence farming. One such initiative is the partnership between organizations such as the Spire Wine Farm and Sustainability Institute, which seeks to train locals in Lynedoch area on how to use eco-friendly techniques to grow their on nutritious and fresh produce for consumption (Pretorious, 2020). Such moves towards increased subsistence farming help to increase the subsistence production of food items that have been shown to boost immunity and hence, minimize the risk of Covid-19. Further, by growing their own food produce, households increase their access to a balanced diet, which also increases their ability to manage the disease.

Informal Trade and Savings Cooperatives

Formal trade and savings cooperatives in South Africa are underdeveloped, particularly in rural areas where education levels are low and infrastructure poorly developed (Finmark Trust, 2013). Informal institutions that allow indigenous rural farmers without regular income streams to save and invest include informal saving groups, rotating savings and credit associations (ROSCA), and accumulating savings and credit associations (ASCAS) (Finmark Trust, 2013). They provide effective avenues for alternative investment when incomes are falling during crises, helping them to better cope in times of crises (Finmark Trust, 2013).


The traditional wedding ceremony varies across communities. However, in the basic traditional setting, weddings only took place between members of different clans, which implies that the individuals had to have different clan names, although men were allowed to marry women from the same clan as their maternal grandmother (Siyabona Africa, 2020). For the two weeks preceding the wedding, the bride is secluded in a specially-constructed structure in her parents’ compound in a move designed to shield her from the eyes of men (Siyabona Africa, 2020). She stays in solitary seclusion for the entire period, with only a maiden designated to attend to her needs having direct access to her (Siyabona Africa, 2020). On the day of the wedding, she emerges from seclusion covered by an umbrella and completely wrapped in a blanket, which she adorns in addition to her marriage blanket (Siyabona Africa, 2020). At the end of the ceremony, the couple moves away from the bride’s village to settle in an…

[…… parts of this paper are missing, click here to view or download the entire document ]

…used in patients with HIV/AIDS, although their effectiveness is unsupported (Mahomoodally, 2013). However, common traditional medicinal components such as the gum of the A. Senegal have been shown to be effective in the treatment of bronchitis, respiratory tract infections, typhoid, leprosy, gonorrhea, and bronchitis (Mahomoodally, 2013). These traditional medicines and healers provide avenues for alternative treatment, particularly because most of the older people in the rural areas are known to self-medicate and can self-treat in the case of pain or mild Covid symptoms (Gbagbo & Nkrumah, 2020; Okoro et al., 2014; Gurib-Fakim et al., 2010).

Subsistence Farming and Food Security

Subsistence farming is a key economic activity in rural Swaziland, and a key contributor to food security. Urban households largely depend on market food purchases, with demand fluctuating whenever food chains are affected by crises. However, the tradition in Swaziland as in most African countries emphasizes community parenting as way of bringing up healthy communities (Asiseh, Owusu & Quiacoe, 2017). Children and adolescents learn by observing their elders act – strategies that influence households to engage in small-scale subsistence agricultural production thus provide crucial avenues for promoting subsistence farming across generations and ensure food security in times of crises.

Informal Trade and Saving Cooperatives

Formal trade and savings cooperatives in Swaziland are underdeveloped, particularly in rural areas where education levels are low and infrastructure poorly developed (Simelane & Odhiambo, 2018). Formal institutions such as banks may not effectively serve the needs of indigenous populations in rural Swaziland (Simelane & Odhiambo, 2018). Informal institutions that allow indigenous Swazi farmers without regular income streams to save and invest - including informal saving groups, rotating savings and credit associations (ROSCA), and accumulating savings and credit associations (ASCAS) - provide effective avenues for alternative investment when incomes are falling during crises, helping them to better cope when disrupted food chains make it impossible for them to effectively transport their food produce to the urban areas (Simelane & Odhiambo, 2018).


Seclusion of the bride for several days as she is educated on how to maintain a successful marriage is a common feature of traditional weddings in Swaziland, locally referred to as Umtsimba. Further, as is the case in South Africa, the bride is covered in a blanket at the time of their presentation on the wedding day, and goes on to live with her husband away from her clan as men are not allowed to marry from their paternal clans. Both of these elements help to minimize contact, and hence the risk of exposure to the virus.

Caring Models

Swaziland is based on the Ubuntu humanist thought, which advocates for brotherliness and communal living (Martin et al., 2011). In the sense of brotherliness, members are expected to be each other’s keeper such that taking care of the aged, the sick, and the vulnerable is a shared responsibility for the extended family and the community by extension. Communities are taught to demonstrate the values of Ubuntu, which call…

Sources Used in Documents:


Asiseh, F., Owusu, A., & Quaicoe, O. (2017). An analysis of family dynamics on high school adolescent risky behaviors in Ghana. Journal of Child & Adolescent Substance Abuse, 26(5), 425-431.

Apata, T. G., Foloyan, A., Apata, O. M., & Akinlua, J. (2011). The Economic Role of Nigeria’s Subsistence Agriculture in the Transition Process: Implications for Rural Development. 85th Annual Conference of the Agriculture Economic Society Warwick University.

Baipethi, M. N., & Jacobs, P. (2009). The Contribution of Subsistence Farming to Food Security in South Africa. Center for Poverty Employment and Growth.

Brager, G., Specht, H., Torczyner, J. L., &Torczyner, J. (1987). Community organizing. Columbia University Press.

Finmark Trust (2016). Understanding Financial Cooperatives: South Africa, Malawi & Swaziland. Finmark Trust.

Gbagbo, F. Y., & Nkrumah, J. (2020). Self-medication among pregnant women in two

municipalities in the Central Region of Ghana. Health Care for Women International, 1-16.

Ghebregiorgis, F., &Karsten, L. (2006). Human resource management practices in Eritrea: challenges and prospects. Employee Relations, 28(2), 144-163.

Cite This Research Paper:

"Customary And Traditional Practices That Can Be Adapted And Useful In Coping With Covid-19" (2020, August 19) Retrieved January 24, 2021, from

"Customary And Traditional Practices That Can Be Adapted And Useful In Coping With Covid-19" 19 August 2020. Web.24 January. 2021. <>

"Customary And Traditional Practices That Can Be Adapted And Useful In Coping With Covid-19", 19 August 2020, Accessed.24 January. 2021,