n Indilinga African Journal of Indigenous Knowledge Systems - Demographic characteristics associated with consumption of geophagic clays among ethnic groups in the Free State and Limpopo provinces

Volume 9, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1683-0296



The deliberate consumption of soil/clay (geophagia) has been going on for centuries and cuts across socio-economic, ethnic, religious and racial divides. In countries with diverse ethnic origins, race and economic standing like South Africa; variations in the practice with these different groups are not yet documented. This study therefore considered two hundred and twenty one (221) geophagic women aged 17-60 years from Free State and Limpopo Provinces, South Africa. They were interviewed in an endeavour to understand their demographic characteristics and to appreciate variations in the practice of geophagia in the different ethnic groups in these regions. Semi structured questionnaires were administered to the women requesting information on their demographic characteristics as well as the reasons behind their geophagic habits. The results obtained from the survey indicated a huge diversity in ethnicity of the ladies though most of them were either Sotho or Pedis. Majority of the geophagic women were unemployed and had spent at least 12 years in formal education. The frequency of soil consumption was highest among the Pedi women than in geophagic women from other ethnic groups. The main reasons advanced to justify geophagia by these geophagic women varied, but craving, standard practice and pregnancy was the most common. Frequency of craving was highest among the Sotho women compared to the Pedi, Zulu, and Tswana women. The women interviewed ingested soil, which varied in colour from red to white to yellow. Findings indicated variations in geophagic habits with the different ethnic groups and point to indigenous practices associated with the consumption of geophagic clays within these groups.

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