United Methodist Committee on Relief

Binga Food Story: One Plateful at a Time

*Sibongile Mutonhori 

One of UMCOR’s interventions under the UNDP*-funded Zambezi Valley Alliance for Building Community Resilience Project is promoting the production, preservation, and consumption of traditional seeds and foods in Binga, Kariba, and Mbire Districts in Zimbabwe. Following a three-day coaching clinic on women’s empowerment, nutrition, and food preparation that’s part of the project, 49-year-old Mary Dube of Tinde Ward 18 in the Binga District in Zimbabwe decided to participate in the ward-level food fairs held in December 2016. 

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Some of the traditional seeds and foods on display at the Binga District Food Fair

Abwe, Mary entered the competition and won first prize. She was awarded a set of farmer’s safety wear, 10 enamel soup plates, and 200 grams of okra seed. Motivated by other women and inspired to do even better, Mary proceeded to compete with 25 other women at the district-level food fair and emerged victorious, walking away with a mouldboard plough.

“I grew up in the rural areas where we ate these foods on a daily basis, so I learned to prepare them at a young age,” Mary told Misodzi, the UMCOR agronomist she spoke with. Her winning dishes were comprised of sadza made from sorghum meal, cowpeas with ground nuts and tomatoes, and peanut butter-coated dried goat meat as lunch and mealie rice with peanuts and round nuts, tea, and maheu (a traditional drink made from sorghum) as a breakfast meal. At the district fair, Mary had to be more innovative in terms of nutrition and locally available foods, so she prepared dried fish, umxhanxa (a boiled mixture of maize samp and wild melon), and boiled eggs.

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Mary Dube (left) exhibiting at the Tinde Zone Food Fair

“The training facilitated by UMCOR was a true eye-opener on food preparation and nutrition, and that is the reason I was able to adequately explain the nutritional content of foods prepared at both food fairs,” Mary said. “Sadza made from small grains is rich in carbohydrates that give energy for work and play. The peanut butter relish is good for children, as it is full of protein that prevents kwashiorkor [protein malnutrition] and is also excellent for increasing milk production for pregnant and lactating mothers. Protein dishes such as cowpeas aid good fetus development. Maheu drink flavored with tamarind provides energy and is helpful in alleviating a wide array of ailments.”

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Mary Dube (right) is congratulated by Sibongile Mutonhori (left), UMCOR Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, and Ms. N. Ncube (center), Agricultural Extension Services for Tinde Zone

Mary is now the chairperson of her local community women’s club and encourages others to prepare foods that are healthy and locally available to save money. Since the food fairs, Mary has received requests from numerous fellow participants and guests at the food fair to provide detailed recipes of her award-winning relishes. 

“I have realized that as a woman I have great potential to make a mark toward positive development in my community,” Mary said. “I could be making baby steps, but by sharing this information with others, I am changing lives one plateful at a time!” Mary has also been engaged by UMCOR under the same project as a lead farmer and is actively participating in sorghum, sesame, and cowpeas seed multiplication.

*United Nations Development Project

*Sibongile Mutonhori is UMCOR National M&E Officer