Zimbabwe’s growing Traditional and Organic Food Movement

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Since the 1980’s there has been a steady evolution of organisations and groups in Zimbabwe which have become linked, through environmental and health concerns, catalysing a movement to promote the sustainable production and processing of traditional and organic foods. Meanwhile a market has been steadily growing for traditional products, previously only available in rural areas or at selected stalls in Mbare Musika, which are now prominent on supermarket shelves.

An association to support Zimbabwean organic producers and promoters (ZOPPA) has developed local and international certification standards. Trade associations for natural products (Phytotrade Africa) and research organisations (BioInnovation Zimbabwe) investigating the potential of underutilised crops have been established as well as a citizen’s action group (Foodmatters) raising awareness about some negative aspects of genetically modified organisms in Zimbabwe. Farmers markets have also started up to cater to the tastes of concerned middle class consumers. Traditional restaurants have mushroomed throughout major urban areas attracting customers who previously shunned these foods because of their low status due to lack of knowledge on their nutritional and health value. New health concerns seem to be a major thrust for these developments but also a revitalisation of pride in traditional products and environmental concerns.

Several promotional public events have been organised including food fairs held across the country. Two years ago, a group of like-minded Zimbabweans from government and civic society joined forces to organise a national festival celebrating traditional and organic foods. The event proved to be a huge success and was held again last year with even greater participation from producers, processors retailers and promoters.  The Traditional and Organic Food Festival has now become an annual event and is attended by Zimbabweans and international visitors from all walks of life. The event is aimed at showcasing products and putting producers, processors and retailers directly in touch with consumers. A wide range of products are promoted including wild-harvested fruits, indigenous and locally grown crops, organic produce, value-added processed food and cosmetics. Visitors to the festival can also enjoy presentations and cooking demonstrations as well as a wide range of food sold in restaurant stalls. This year’s festival will be held in September.

In order to support the organisations of the food festival and expand the traditional and organic food movement, The Zimbabwe Traditional and Organic Food Forum has been established to raise awareness, educate farmers and consumers, facilitate marketing and commercialisation of traditional and organic products and organise celebrations. This marks a new era of health-wise Zimbabweans who are aware of the true value of their traditional natural products.

For more information on the Food Forum contact John Wilson on spiritvaults@yahoo.co.uk.

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Anna Brazier

Anna Brazier is the editor of Naturally Zimbabwean. She was born in Zambia but has lived most of her life in Zimbabwe. She has a BSc in Ecology and an MSc in Sustainable Development and works as a consultant promoting sustainable agriculture, nutrition, traditional foods and community resilience in Africa and beyond. She lives in Harare with her husband and three children.