The Academy of Community and Rural Development seeks to understand the development of local communities in Africa so as to build strong, self-reliant and resilient communities.

A key strategy of the Academy is to build a ‘self-drive mindset’ within communities through alternative education for empowerment, accompanied by building learning and dialogue capacity of communities so that learning becomes a part of everyday conscious development.

The BEAT Community Learning and Development Process

The Academy has developed a Community Learning and Development Process for capacity building and empowerment of rural communities. It is a particpatory community visioning, planning and implementation exercise building capacities to self-start, self-organise, self-assess, and self-correct in implementing a collective social and economic development agenda.

Youth Development

The Academy works on developing the generation of next leaders through youth personal and collective mastery and youth career development

African Culture and Heritage, Ubuntu/Unhu Principles

The Academy promotes the idea that responsibility for African development should lie in African people, principles and values, especially the role of the extended family.

A responsible leadership cascades from the family to the community.
Central to the Academy is the need to promote dialogue at the community level.


The Academy revisits the pre-colonial dialogue structures of matare/idale/tikhundla as a basis for getting people to plan, dialogue and take collective action to deal with the problems that they face.

The contribution of The Academy of Community and Rural Development is to have African communities that are sufficiently capacitated with resources to be able to vision, plan and carry out development the way they want with minimal interventions from outsiders.

More Programmes

Knowledge Development and Management

The Academy offers sustainable learning in communities through evaluating and improving the effectiveness of knowledge management systems at local and national level in areas such as:
Alternative agricultural education and extensions approaches mainly through peer learning
Peer learning and study circles as a development tool for communities

Policy Engagement

The Academy carries out civic education for development: assessment of rural development policy and institutions; training in policy analysis; policy engagement through workshops, meetings and strategic policy advice.
The Academy also trains local government practitioners in policy processes and engaging local people in their own development.

Development Facilitation

The flagship program of the academy is Development Facilitation.
The Academy develops training materials and engages in training of disadvantaged communities, practitioners and scholars on various facets of rural development.

The Academy of Community and Rural Development emphasises that there is no substitute for learning and respects local (African) ways of doing things.

The Academy of Community and Rural Development adopts a bottom-up people driven community development approach for rural socio-economic development, providing lessons and training for real authentic and community-led development where individuals, families and extended families are placed as central in providing leadership to community development.


African Leadership and Governance

The Academy promotes action-oriented and people-centred leadership for socio-economic transformation in the spirit of being African.
The Academy offers capacity development programs for traditional and local leadership.
Training in community based natural resources management is also offered.

Community Health and Well-Being

The Academy conducts awareness and training programs on: HIV/AIDS; Abuse; challenges and opportunities of living with the aged and with orphans; and, family dispute resolution
The Academy carries out research on gender and peace-building specifically women/girls and the disarmament, demobilisation and re-integration process.

Paraprofessional Programmes

The Academy promotes psychomotor skills development for local communities’ development

The Centre for Rural Development

The Centre for Rural Development (CRD) is a not for profit trust that was founded in 2005 to contribute through research and capacity development to solve pressing problems in rural areas. The CRD has dedicated its efforts to better understand the relationship between development and rural life. The Centre derives its core business from pushing a learning and knowledge agenda anchored on providing people and organisations with options for community development. The flagship of the CRD is the Community Learning and Innovative Programme (CLIP) being implemented at local level in Chimanimani in Manicaland and Bulilima and Mangwe districts in Matebeleland South province.  The centre has also engaged with communities in Mazowe and Shamva districts in Mashonaland Central Province.

The goal of the centre is to promote rural development through research, policy development, networking and collaboration at national, regional and international level. The centre engages in research and knowledge development. Its initial thrust was in working with the University of Zimbabwe and National University of Science and Technology (NUST) and Africa University (AU) researchers and associates as part of taking social science to the disadvantaged rural communities, whilst also contributing to mentorship and training. The CRD has been an effective platform through which knowledge is developed and managed for teaching and training. Special research networks, local and international research fellows working in the area of rural development are hosted by the centre as a basis for incrementing the work of the university. In addition the CRD was founded on the basis of rebuilding the competences of the university practitioners to use social systems investments to inform policy and national planning processes based on deep knowledge and theoretical understanding of rural development. To this end the CRD is involved in policy analysis and education/training as part of community mindset change.

The work at the local and national level in Zimbabwe has revealed that approaches that address the multifarious problems faced by disadvantaged people are urgently needed. The CRD has thus been working directly with disadvantaged families, women and youth through identifying the economic, social and institutional elements of rural development as well as the ways that these elements are interrelated. 

The key activities of the CRD are in:

  • Knowledge development and sharing: through its rural research programme, the CRD has a comprehensive research agenda based on knowledge co-creation. It works with rural communities through providing a platform for harnessing, broadening and sharing of knowledge and experiences for the benefit of rural development.
  • Development facilitation:   
  • Policy engagement: use of rural development interventions and experiences as a basis for policy engagement;
  • Training and capacity building: design and carry out relevant training programmes and students on rural development issues. This also involves supporting disadvantaged young people in the districts were the CRD directly engages in as well as through mentorship of students at various universities;
  • Rural development management information systems: manage information on rural development through the use of Information Communication Technologies based on internet and a resource centre.

    Knowledge co-creation at CLIP sites

    Building the learning capabilities of the communities is the first and important part of capacity development in the Zimbabwe CLIP sites. A capable people have better chances of progressing or learning because people with skills at the local level are the real knowledge workers. Learning opportunities is being provided to all in the community as learning is at the conscious level. Everyone in the community has to be catered for in the training based on their learning capabilities.


The Community Learning Innovative Programme (CLIP) in Zimbabwe does not seek to replace local institutions but to have them do more work on the basis of the same objectives and mandate they have. However, the model emphasises that action and more work will need to be done at all levels, especially the local communities. The idea is to rebuild the ward and village structures to ensure that there is dialogue on many issues that confront the village heads. For instance, addressing issues on the role of extended families, poverty, orphans, etc as part of the leader’s governance will require to be backed by capacity building on dialogue.

Within the development facilitation, the programme seeks further intervention at the community level, whilst also engaging government to buy into the model for community socio-economic transformation. The programme seeks to invest in strengthening village structures that have a proper dare/idale structure with village treasurer, secretary, and departments with paraprofessionals. The programme is currently riding on the Village Development Committees and Village Assembly that are assumed to have some kind of such structures. The dare/idale is a rallying point of village development and dialogue. The dialogue (matare) must have real substance for the people so that they are proud to identify with them. The aim is to make the people proud that they are going to sit at the dare/idale and discuss real community issues not just issues in response to outside interventions by donors, NGOs and government.

Changing family structures in rural Zimbabwe

Changes in the structure of African families still reflect the enduring tensions between traditional and modern values and structures. Although there have been widespread accounts of families abandoning key traditional practices in favour of modern ones, the major trend remains the creation of systems of marriage and family organization that draw on both traditional and modern norms.



The family of today is not more or less perfect than that of the old: it is different, because the circumstances are different. It is more complex, because the environment in which exists is more complex.
Most families have not completely assumed values of a modern generation family but borrow extensively from the global culture, including the use of technology, religion and culture, urbanisation, HIV and AIDS. Similarly, the political economy governing family participation in development should capture these changes and build on opportunities offered by globalisation. Therefore, values, beliefs and customs for the African traditional family are slowly withering away, and that its moral, disciplinary and organisational functions have been taken over by institutions. Globalisation forces have seen the African traditional family moving towards modernity. There have been gradual transformations of African marriage and family organizations away from corporate kinship and extended families toward nuclear households. This shift stems, in part, from the breakdown of collective, kinship-oriented systems of production and reproduction. These changes present numerous challenges and opportunities for the African traditional family.

The extended families research programme theme is in response realization of the importance of the extended family institution in the economic and social status of rural Zimbabweans.  It aims to find ways of harnessing this form of social capital in development programming. 

Culture, the issue of orphanage and rural development

Cultural industries have long been ignored as a major livelihood activity in rural Zimbabwe.  CRD’s intervention has sought to highlight the many contributions of this activity in a conceptual document it produced.  The role of cultural activities as an income generating activity and as a means of communication within the community and between the community and outside for knowledge exchange and policy engagement is important. The strategies CRD has used to develop cultural activities include promotion of cultural groups – through sponsoring participation at Harare International Festival of Arts, hiring groups to perform at centre community meetings – and capacity building of groups through youth leadership training activities. 
CRD has also used local cultural ceremonies to engage local traditional leadership in policy dialogue.


Widespread variations in technology, education, politics, religion and culture and macro-economic issues, among others, cannot conceal the common opportunities and challenges that have affected African families in the last few decades. The family as a unit of production, consumption, reproduction, and accumulation has been profoundly impacted upon by factors largely characterised by the economic downturns. These downturns have helped in shaping the context in which families make decisions (Shimkin et al., 1978; Barnes 1993). Hence, it is critical to examine socio-political and economic contexts for academics to understand changes in African family structures and behaviour.

read more