Embedding the developmental approach in social work education and practice to overcome poverty: The case of Southern Africa


  • Tatenda Goodman Nhapi Erasmus Mundus MA Advanced Development in Social Work- a joint Programme between the University of Lincoln (England); Aalborg University (Denmark); Technical University of Lisbon (Portugal); University of Paris Ouest Nantere La Defense (France); Warsaw University (Poland) http://orcid.org/0000-0002-7560-9799
  • Jotham Dhemba University of Eswatini




Elderly, poverty, youth, social protection, developmental social work.


The article examines the extent to which social work education and practice in Eswatini, Lesotho and Zimbabwe has embedded the developmental approach to address the problem of poverty and to bring about socio-economic transformation in these countries. This is particularly significant as social work has gained traction internationally as a problem-solving profession. However, it is argued that that there is a lack of clarity conceptually about how the developmental approach should be operationalised in order to deal with the social problems afflicting African countries in general and Southern Africa in particular. Furthermore the chapter examines challenges in the implementation of the developmental approach in economically fragile contexts such as Eswatini, Lesotho and Zimbabwe. The gaps and constraints in mainstreaming developmental social work are also examined in the context of poverty, globalisation and impacts of natural disasters. Challenges experienced by frontline social workers in mobilising communities through the application of a repertoire of developmental social work approaches have also received attention. The article is based on personal experiences of the authors in teaching and practicing social work in the three countries and this is complemented by reviews and analysis of research studies and policy documents and reports on the mitigation of poverty and the developmental approach. Importantly, the article also offers pathways on the embedment of the developmental approach in social work education and practice to promote the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) especially the goal relating to the eradication poverty. 

Author Biographies

Tatenda Goodman Nhapi, Erasmus Mundus MA Advanced Development in Social Work- a joint Programme between the University of Lincoln (England); Aalborg University (Denmark); Technical University of Lisbon (Portugal); University of Paris Ouest Nantere La Defense (France); Warsaw University (Poland)

Tatenda is a Qualified Social Worker who has tested post qualifying experience in Child Protection, Children in Care, Children in Need, Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children, Social and Community Development Work. He holds a Bachelors’ degree in Social Work (University of Zimbabwe) and Graduate, Erasmus Mundus MA Advanced Development in Social Work.

Jotham Dhemba, University of Eswatini

Jotham Dhemba is currently Senior Lecturer in Social Work at the University of Eswatini, formerly University of Swaziland. He was previously Senior Lecturer and Head of the Department Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work at the National University of Lesotho (NUL) in Lesotho. Prior to joining NUL he was Senior Lecturer and Deputy Director at the School of Social Work, University of Zimbabwe.


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