How many of us in Zimbabwe look forward to lunches of sadza and beef stew, white bread and sweet tea, or better yet a coke, to satisfy our afternoon hunger pangs? As appetising as these foods might seem, from a dietary and health perspective, they are leading the nation rapidly towards disaster. We are facing an epidemic of lifestyle-related diseases including diabetes, hypertension and obesity.
On Saturday 1 October, Harare residents must get to the Traditional and Organic Food and Seed Festival at Botanical Gardens to learn how to avoid this, at an interesting, fun and family-oriented event.
Now entering its fourth year, the festival is organised by the Zimbabwe Traditional and Organic Food Forum – a loose network of mostly NGOs, but also farmer groups, private businesses, government departments, universities, and anyone with an interest in traditional and organic foods and how their consumption can be increased.
Caroline Jacquet from local NGO Bio-Innovation Zimbabwe (BIZ) is project managing the festival. “We are targeting urban dwellers with this event, knowing that they are the trendsetters. We want to demonstrate how these foods can be prepared, not only in the old ways, but in more exciting, chic, contemporary ways, in salads and pastries for example,” says Jacquet. She says that BIZ/the Food Forum want to get these foods into the mainstream.
As per previous years, the festival will feature stalls offering a diverse selection of fresh, dried and processed traditional and organic produce and products, and breakfasts, lunches and snacks at the food court that all incorporate healthy and delicious local ingredients.
“This year we are starting early, with an ‘Afro Fit’ session by the African Dance and Wellness group who will run a fitness class at 7am using African music and dance. The food court will then offer breakfasts including the traditional small grain porridges. But look out for the English-style breakfasts too, except using wild mushrooms, leafy greens instead of spinach, and cowpeas instead of baked beans,” says Jacquet.
This year again there will be free transport, directly from the CBD to the venue, to make sure that people from all areas and backgrounds can make it. “Adults have to pay a discount rate of $1 to enter the Botanic Gardens on that day, but after that, entry to the festival is free,” says Jacquet. Children are excluded from any fees whatsoever, and will love the kids’ zone, which has a host of activities, both fun and learning. There will also be live music throughout the day.
The festival, which has grown bigger and better each time round, brings together the entire traditional and organic food chain – producers, processers, and the end consumer, with a view to sharing views and knowledge to make the foods more appealing and accessible. “We want consumers to learn what is available, and to share their experiences of what they have already tried. A huge aspect of this is also for producers to learn what consumers look for when buying food. Our recent survey revealed that cost, availability, and how to prepare them are the main factors affecting the traditional foods market, though there is in fact an appetite for them amongst consumers,” says Jacquet.
“A very critical role that the festival plays is as a networking and information sharing opportunity for farmers and processors in improving their produce. A farmer with good techniques in ridding her small grains of grit and chaff for example, will share her expertise to the benefit of all. The different farmer groups will have their seeds available to buy or trade, presenting other farmers and growers with the opportunity to access numerous different varieties and strains that have been developed over the years,” adds Jacquet.
All told, there will be no better place to be on 1 October. Get to the Botanic Gardens, get some exercise, get some food, get entertained, and get informed on how to live a healthier life by eating well.
Buses on the day will leave frequently from Construction House on Park Street; Bata on Mbuya Nehanda; and Namibia Ivecos next to 4th Street bus terminus.
Get in touch or find out more via www.facebook.com/TOFFZim
Image: Attendees at last year’s festival taking a look at the food and seed on offer.