The Sunday Mail
Tendai Rupapa in Manicaland
ENVIRONMENTAL Ambassador First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa has bemoaned the wanton cutting down of trees and increasing incidence of veld fires in Manicaland, saying this was causing soil erosion and destroying the natural habitat for wild animals and other creatures.
She made the remarks yesterday at a traditional cookout competition in Makoni District, where she had been invited as guest of honour.
“The areas I have passed through have been turned into semi deserts; rave gwenga and all the indigenous trees have been destroyed.
“The land is now bare, let’s not do this Manicaland. Let’s preserve our forests. Let’s preserve our environment. This contributes to climate change and when it rains, we will be washed away. The trees and forests you are burning are essential. Trees are lives and we must preserve them,” she said.
So passionate about the environment is the First Lady that she has always led from the front in tree-planting initiatives and other environment conservation programmes.
An official from the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Tourism and Hospitality Industry in Manicaland, Mr Never Bonde, said Manicaland used to be a forestry hub, but this was no longer the case.
He thanked the First Lady for speaking out against deforestation.
“Deforestation has reached a critical level here in Manicaland largely because of tobacco farmers. Brick moulders are also many here. We urge them to participate in tree planting so that they replace the ones they would have used. Trees are essential for life and many human activities rely on the use of trees. We are happy that the First Lady saw what many people here are not seeing. As Manicaland, let’s immediately put her wise counsel into action,” he said.
Makoni District hosted a thrilling traditional meal cookout competition, where winners scooped various prizes as part of a drive to promote traditional dishes, which have high nutritional value and medicinal properties.
The prizes included a set of sofas, pots, gas stove and tank.
The traditional-themed competition, during which various traditional dishes were prepared, was inspired by the First Lady, who has been on a nationwide campaign to promote indigenous foods to ensure people eat healthy foods.
The First Lady, who is the country’s health ambassador, was a guest of honour at the event to witness the success of the programme she started.
She graced the event following an invitation by Mrs Redempter Gwasira, the wife to Chief Makoni.
She said she was grateful to the First Lady for accepting the community’s invitation.
“I am grateful for this day where the First Lady has come to our district. As chiefs’ wives countrywide, we are her ambassadors in the communities we live in. We are now taking her national traditional cookout competition to our districts and wards so that her vision cascades to all households. Amai brought us back to our culture through the traditional cookout competition. We invited her over to see what we are doing at district level. Traditional food is healthy and medicinal, and we promise to keep her vision alive,” she said.
Her sentiments were shared by Mrs Tsitsi Chengeta Makumbe, wife to Chief Makumbe, who also thanked the First Lady for her vision, saying as chief’s wives they also wanted the whole nation to know and embrace traditional food, which is readily available and nutritious.
Village head Mrs Rhoda Kusotera could not hide her joy for being visited by the First Lady and taking part in the cooking competition.
“I want to thank the First Lady who led us and started such a programme of taking us back to the olden days of what we ate with our parents. Back then, our bodies were resistant to certain diseases because of the traditional food and herbs we consumed. These days most people favour takeaways and other exotic dishes over our nutritious food. These exotic dishes are responsible for the increase in diseases. I am 72-years-old but most people think I am 52-years-old because of the kind of food we grew up eating. If I stand side by side together with someone who is 50, you will find that I am stronger; and even if you give them a hoe to work in the fields, they will not match my pace. I am thankful to the First Lady for what she has done, and still doing, for our nation, Zimbabwe. As village heads, we joined forces with the chiefs’ wives and took the programme to wards and district level so that they appreciate that we have gone back to our traditional way of life. Today we have invited the First Lady to come and see the stage her programme has reached,” she said.
Participants in yesterday’s competition were drawn from all the wards in the district and showcased many ways through which the dishes can be packaged to make them appealing.
Amongst her dishes, Mrs Joyce Chihwai prepared a traditional pizza.
She made the dough from pounded cassava, while the toppings comprised tomatoes, onions, mushroom, butter beans and madora.
She also prepared rupiza wraps whose pastry was also made from cassava powder.
The filling had chicken breast mixed with rupiza.
Mrs Agnes Chimukuyu made herbal coffee using roasted and pounded soya beans mixed with Makoni tea and three leaves.
Other participants prepared yams’ chips served with road runner, karongonda pie, rice fritters, pumpkin chips, groundnuts fritters, locust kebab, millet sadza, sadza from cassava, mazondo, madora, mandere, birds, okra, road runner and fish.
Juices were prepared from a root called bombwe, which is found in rocky areas and soaked in water.
The juice helps keep diseases at bay and boost one’s appetite.
There was also maheu, Makoni tea and zumbani tea.
Snacks included corn chips made from flour and eggs, roasted pumpkin seeds, roasted groundnuts, banana chips and tsenza.
In the competition, Mrs Chihwai came out tops and was given a set of sofas, while Mrs Blessing Gowe, who came second, won a gas stove and a tank.
Mrs Takesure Mwapenya, who came third, walked away with a set of pots.
Mrs Chihwayi was on cloud nine after being named winner.
She danced and ululated, thanking the First Lady.
“I never thought I would win a set of sofas in my entire life. I thank our First Lady Amai Mnangagwa for her vision. I would also like to thank Amai Chief Makoni, who is one of the First Lady’s ambassadors, for pushing Amai’s vision forward. She fulfilled the task she had been sent by our First Lady. I urge other women to take part in such competitions that benefit the nation. Traditional foods are highly nutritious and its time we fully embrace our locally available food as a country,” she said joyfully.
In her address, the First Lady praised the people of Manicaland for carrying forward with her programme for the benefit of all residents.
“Here in Manicaland you have unique dishes that cannot be found in other provinces,and I am grateful to you, through Chief Makoni’s wife, for inviting me here. I have seen that you have the zeal to make this programme gain ground in the people. I took this cookout competition to 10 provinces, but you have invited me here today in Makoni District. I want to thank all who took part in the competition. To me as a mother you are winners.
“Many think that preparing traditional food is now backward, but this is not so. We are Zimbabweans with our own culture and foods, let’s embrace where we came from. Food that was consumed in the olden days helps prevent diseases and what is wrong with promoting good health. Yes, we visit hospitals where we are given medicines so that we heal fast. Let us consume traditional foods so that they combine with the medicines given by health practitioners. I was gratified to see various types of dried vegetables. I encourage you to dry vegetables during the rainy season for future use. In the dry season, you will have something to cook for the children. To all chiefs’ wives countrywide, let us continue encouraging traditional dishes in our communities,” she said.
On Covid-19, the mother of the nation said: “As the health ambassador, I encourage you to respect the protocols to remain healthy. Let us also embrace vaccination and not listen to those who peddle falsehoods against vaccination.”
She encouraged people with non-communicable diseases to continuously take their medication so as to remain healthy.
Manicaland Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Nokuthula Matsikenyere said the fruits of the First Lady’s interventions were there for everyone to see.
“We are witnessing the results of your efforts Amai; a sign that you did not labour in vain. As Manicaland, we will see to it that all the programmes you initiated will go down to all the districts and wards. Each of our districts is endowed with their unique traditional foods. Thank you Amai for accepting our invitation as Manicaland,” she said.
Participants and the elderly who were present were given food hampers and toiletries by the First Lady.