THE traditional meal cook-out competition being spearheaded by First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa and her Angel of Hope Foundation bodes well for the growth of community-based tourism and fostering unity in Zimbabwe, an expert in tourism and hospitality has said.
Speaking during the competition at Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Polytechnic here yesterday, Secretary for Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Munesushe Munodawafa described the First Lady as visionary in spearheading the programme.
“Some people may not know that this programme did not start this year. It started in 2019 when the First Lady came up with the idea. Since the start of the programme, I remember it was started in the culture week which coincided with Africa Day celebrations. Sadly, last year we did not manage to hold the event owing to the lockdown caused by Covid-19.
“I want to thank the First Lady that once the time was ripe, she led us again to move with this programme. In the hospitality industry we have hotels and that is where cooking skills are taught among other things. We thank her greatly for reviving the traditional dishes,” he said.
Mr Munodawafa said community-based tourism was critical in turning around the fortunes of the tourism industry which had been affected by Covid-19 which continues to wreak havoc across the globe.
“As we have started reviving our tourism industry, we have discovered that our tourism sector here in Zimbabwe will peak through our own visits as Zimbabweans.
“Foreigners will come, but we are saying our tourism industry as Zimbabweans will start rising through our visits to each other’s provinces. After we have visited, the dishes will also come into play as people want to know the type of food consumed in different areas.”
Mr Munodawafa said there was scope for growth in community-based tourism since various areas had certain foods peculiar to them.
“Wherever we are going, we are mostly finding the spouses of chiefs participating which means they are proceeding to teach and share knowledge with family members. When the family has learnt, the knowledge will spread throughout the community.
“This also helps in our tourism industry because when people visit the country, they expect to eat food which is indigenous to Zimbabwe.
“There are some countries that have promoted their traditional dishes that it is now known that on particular dates you can spend over a week consuming their traditional food. This is called gastronomy tourism of just eating food. Some countries have gained acclaim through this,” he said.
He said Mopane worms, which are popular in Matabeleland South Province were not found in any other place in the world making it necessary to use them in promoting tourism.
“The challenge we had is that we did not hold in high regard the traditional dishes we have.
“We were no longer having due regard for our pumpkin leaves and we were holding exotic dishes in high esteem.
“We are now urging our hotels to have arms that promote traditional dishes and this will make people start buying these things from our fathers and mothers who are preparing them in communities. We want to thank Amai, our First Lady for spearheading this programme.”
Mr Munodawafa said he was gratified about the issue of preserving the various traditional foods for future consumption as this ensures that people who visit the country at various intervals will get the food like pumpkin leaves in January, July or September.
The permanent secretary’s remarks dovetailed with the First Lady’s thinking around traditional dishes.
“In tourism they are saying that type of relish that we get now, we should also see it and get it in September when there is no rainfall and I am happy that vanamai varipano nhasi have told us various ways of preserving these relishes,” she said.
The First Lady said the food and culture programme started in 2019, but had been affected by Covid-19 and emphasised that the programme had to continue to educate and teach people on the nutritious and medicinal benefits of traditional foods.
“This programme harmonises, it brings unity in our people in all the provinces. I am also happy that I am also learning some languages and new things like type of food consumed in different parts of the country,” she said.
Amai Mnangagwa said she was concerned by the loss of morals in the country and urged everyone to play a part in returning to morality.
She said she would back in the province with her Nhanga/Gota/Ixiba programme to promote morality in youths.
Her programmes are non-partisan and the First Lady said her vision was to see a united Zimbabwe.
In yesterday’s competition, Mrs Agnes Siziba from Beitbridge took the first position while Mrs Judith Mbiba from Umzingwane district came second.
Winners got a set of pots and kitchen utensils. All the contestants walked away with food hampers courtesy of Amai Mnangagwa.
One of the contestants, Aniyathu Mambo from Insiza, spoke about the need for an exchange programme and thanked the First Lady for her programme.
“We thank you for your love Amai. We are learning a lot from this programme. Many are being divorced for failing to prepare traditional dishes which are loved by most men, but through this programme we have learnt a lot and we shall also teach our younger generation,” she said.
Mrs Mambo said as Matabeleland South they also wanted to visit other provinces for exchange programmes to learn the food and culture of others. “Our request is to do domestic tourism Amai and with this programme that you started, we have faith that we will achieve it. Our culture, values and food differ from one place to the other so it is important that as a nation we embrace the cultures of others and the way they prepare, cook or preserve their food,” she said.
Mrs Snovalo Ncube of Mangwe in Plumtree spoke about unity and said the cookout programme made women come together.
“We have learnt to unite as women. We are from all the districts in this province and today we united in teaching one another different things from our districts. You brought us together through your well-thought-out programme which unites people. It is our wish that the competitions will be held annually,” she said.
Another contestant, Mrs Siziba weighed in on food preservation saying in Beitbridge they have Mukumbi and other wild fruits which they put in ash and store underground for future use. They also do the same for sweet can.
The youngest contestant, Precious Mufambanhando (20) from Umzingwane District was elated to have been part of the programme.
“Amai I have learnt a lot through this programme. I want to encourage other youths to participate in this beneficial programme. Most young children shun these traditional dishes but through learning how to prepare them we are now aware of the food’s countless benefits. I have actually gained much by being part of this programme,’ she said.
Matabeleland South Provincial Affairs Minister Abedinico Ncube was ecstatic to host the First Lady and thanked her for rolling out the educative programme.
“Amai our province is a beneficiary of the numerous programmes that are being spearheaded by you and your foundation. The cooking competition programme comes at a time when we are coming from a covid-19 induced lockdown which has dramatically changed our lives. It has forced us to re-look at our lifestyles including our eating habits. It has brought us to consciousness of the need to maintain healthy lifestyles,” he said.
He added, “Your Excellency Amai Mnangagwa, this competition is set to showcase the various types of traditional foods that we have as a country and to encourage their uptake. For a long time the medical practitioners have been recommending the uptake of organic traditional foods however this has been shunned by our society as it prefers processed and fast-foods despite their known negative effects. It is our hope that through your noble programme which involves women, it will undoubtedly change the eating habits of families.
“We all know that our women determine what is served in each and every household hence this is a befitting occasion. Your wisdom to involve the important stakeholders in promoting healthy lifestyles in our country is indeed commendable. A healthy lifestyle will indeed translate to a healthy people and healthy communities which is part of the national vision. Ladies and gentlemen I call upon you today to take this opportunity to learn about the various traditional foods in our communities.”
After taking her cook-out traditional meal competition to all the country’s provinces, the First Lady said she will handover the programme to the Ministry of Environment, climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry which will then host the finals in Harare next month.
Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Deputy Minister Ruth Mavhunga Maboyi also attended the event.