Traditional Food Promotion Gains Momentum in Zimbabwe

– The campaign has two goals, to bring attention to Zimbabwe’s traditional foods, seeds, and cuisines and influence political decision-making on diets, experts said.

A Zimbabwean Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) is collaborating with other groups and stakeholders to promote traditional foods, which are thought to be nutritious among other benefits. Tafadzwa Muranganwa a freelance journalist living in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare writes.

The My Food is African campaign is being implemented in Zimbabwe by Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM) under the auspices of the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA).

Bertha Nherera, the organizer of the campaign in Zimbabwe, explained the campaign’s goal, which is to promote traditional meals and cuisines, at a recent news conference in the capital.

“The campaign has two goals. One is bringing attention to Zimbabwe’s traditional foods, seeds, and cuisines. The other objective is to influence political decision-making on diets and farming systems in Zimbabwe.

“Traditionally, our diet was nutritious and diverse. Over the past few years, however, particularly after the colonisation of Zimbabwe, most people have ditched the African cuisines, diets, and dishes that made up our traditional food systems in favour of processed, and in some cases, foreign cuisines, diets, and dishes.

This dramatic shift in diet is mainly a result of the dominance of the Green Revolution agenda and a lack of recognition of the value of indigenous traditional food in Zimbabwe’s agriculture and food systems,” pointed out Bertha Nherera, who is also an agroecokogy expert and indigenous foods manufacturer.

PELUM director Mrs. Gertrude Pswarayi-Jabson also highlighted how the uptake of indigenous foods can help tackle climate change and build resilience amongst communities in cases of disaster.

“So once we encourage the eating of traditional foods, it goes a long way in helping communities adapt to climate change since these indigenous foods are naturally found at home and in forests.

“For example, if there are reports that the mopani worms are diminishing, this highlights the need for communities where these are found to preserve the mopani tree, which is the main source of food for the worms,” opined the PELUM boss.

Director of Knowledge Transfer Africa, Charles Dhewa, says traditional diets are essential in building resilience in the event of shocks.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, indigenous foods became more reliable for most communities,” Dhewa said.

He, however, bemoaned the high cost of indigenous foods as a result of policy issues.

“Traditional foods are pricey, mostly because of policy issues. The other thing is that our markets are not properly organised. We need to see how best we can develop mass markets for indigenous food systems,” added Dhewa.

His organization took a baseline survey on the consumption of indigenous foods, which noted that there is stigma associated with eating traditional diets and cuisines.

“What we established during our baseline survey is that there is stigma around purchasing traditional foods.

“Most believe that once one starts to eat indigenous foods, it points to being unwell, and this is something that needs to be demystified,” revealed Clever Mukove, business development manager at Knowledge Transfer Africa.

The PELUM-led campaign is targeting a number of actions to promote traditional foods, including reviewing the Procurement Regulations.

“Reviewing of Procurement Regulations that are implemented by the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (PRAZ), so that government institutions such as hospitals and boarding schools can be able to buy traditional food directly from both small-scale and large-scale farmers, thereby making the food affordable and accessible,”.

Further, the campaign aims to include schools and hospitals.

“Colleges, boarding schools, and hospitals review these diets and menus to include traditional foods so that they make them more diverse and nutritious; that schools form clubs for cooking and demonstration of traditional foods; encourage certain days of the week where children bring traditional food in their lunch boxes and homemade juices in their juice bottles; and have cooking competitions at each school.
“The Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZIMVAC) form should be reviewed to incorporate more traditional foods,”

Zimbabwe is among the 13 African countries that are pushing the My Food is African campaign. Some of the countries include Zambia, Malawi, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania.

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