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International Journal of African Renaissance Studies - Multi-, Inter- and

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Traditional food crops as a source of community resilience in Zimbabwe

Soul Shava a; Rob O'Donoghue a; Marianne E. Krasny b; Cryton Zazu c
Rhodes University, South Africa b Cornell University, United States of America c Sebakwe Black Rhino
Conservation Trust, Zimbabwe

Online Publication Date: 01 June 2009

To cite this Article Shava, Soul, O'Donoghue, Rob, Krasny, Marianne E. and Zazu, Cryton(2009)'Traditional food crops as a source of
community resilience in Zimbabwe',International Journal of African Renaissance Studies - Multi-, Inter- and Transdisciplinarity,4:1,31
— 48
To link to this Article: DOI: 10.1080/18186870903101982


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Soul Shava
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Rhodes University, South Africa

Rob O’Donoghue
Rhodes University, South Africa

Marianne E. Krasny
Cornell University, United States of America

Cryton Zazu
Sebakwe Black Rhino Conservation Trust, Zimbabwe

This article draws on local narratives and observations of food sustenance practices
in relocated farming communities in Sebakwe, Zimbabwe. Local knowledge on
traditional food crops and related agricultural practices was proven to be a source
of local community resilience, enabling residents to sustain their livelihoods. Local
community agency in maintaining, cultivating and processing traditional food crops
was found to sustain their culture and livelihoods, thereby providing community
resilience in a changing environment.

.e\Zords adaptive learning; agro-biodiversity; climate change; diversity; environ-

mental vulnerability; food security; local knowledge; resettlement; resilience;
sharing; traditional food crops; Zimbabwe

ISSN (Print) 1818-6874 International Journal of African Renaissance Studies

ISSN (Online) 1753-7274 Vol. 4 (1) 2009
© University of South Africa Press pp. 31–48
DOI: 10.1080/18186870903101982

IJA5S 4(1) la\outinGG 31 13 113 A0

32 Soul Shava, Rob O’Donoghue, Marianne E. Krasny and Cryton Zazu


5esilience has Eeen Ge¿neG as the caSacit\ of a s\stem to aEsorE shocN Zhile maintaining
function ()olNe et al  5esilience Alliance ) :ith regarG to socialecological
s\stems this refers to the aEilit\ to ZithstanG the e[ternal stress anG GisturEance that
result from social Solitical anG EioSh\sical enYironmental changes (AGger )
/inNs haYe Eeen iGenti¿eG EetZeen ecological anG social s\stems reÀecting their co
GeSenGence anG coeYolution as comSle[ aGaStiYe s\stems ()olNe et al ) These
linNs incluGe relations EetZeen culture anG Eiological GiYersit\ (Eiocultural GiYersit\)
(&ocNs 6) as Zell as EetZeen urEan communities anG urEan enYironments
ecos\stems (.rasn\ anG TiGEall ) In the Sresent stuG\ Ze EroaGen this anal\sis
of linNages to the interrelationshiS EetZeen rural farming communities anG traGitional
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agroecos\stems Zithin the frameZorN of liYelihooG sustenance

Three Ne\ attriEutes of resilience are iGenti¿eG Zithin integrateG s\stems of SeoSle
anG nature (a) the aEilit\ to Eounce EacN (caSacit\ to aEsorE shocN anG still maintain
function) (E) selforganisation anG (c) the aEilit\ to EuilG anG increase caSacit\ for
learning anG aGaStation ()olNe 6 )olNe et al  *unGerson anG +olling )
The ¿rst attriEute hinges on GiYersit\ Zithin a s\stem Zhich is essential for aEsorEing
GisturEance anG regeneration ()olNe et al 4) The conceSt of resilience anG its
relateG attriEutes is useG in this stuG\ as a lens to e[Slore the liYelihooG sustenance
strategies of resettleG farming communities in SeEaNZe =imEaEZe +ere Ze e[amine
hoZ local farming communities are aEle to reorganise their social sustenance s\stems
unGer Sressures from enYironmental YulneraEilit\ so that fooG securit\ anG soYereignt\
can Ee achieYeG To emShasise the Yalue of local NnoZleGge anG eSistemologies too
often marginaliseG E\ hegemonic NnoZleGge Giscourses Ze haYe SrioritiseG local
names anG terminolog\ oYer scienti¿c terminologies


TraGitional fooG croSs haYe Eeen the funGamental sources of fooG anG nutrition for
inGigenous communities since time immemorial SroYiGing fooG securit\ for local
SeoSle +oZeYer Zith the introGuction of moGern cash croSs traGitional croSs haYe
Eeen (anG still are to a large e[tent) marginaliseG anG e[cluGeG E\ moGern conYentional
agricultural Sractices Their Yalue as fooG sources has GeclineG as the\ haYe Eeen
suSerseGeG E\ commercialiseG h\EriG fooG croS Yarieties This has Eeen accomSanieG
E\ the stigmatisation of traGitional fooGs their laEelling as µfooG for the Soor¶ anG
their characterisation as inferior croSs (AsafoAGMei 4 ShaYa  anG ) This
marginalisation of traGitional croSs in faYour of commercial croSs has Eeen e[SerienceG
Zithin farming communities in SeEaNZe TraGitional croSs are generall\ consiGereG
minor croSs +oZeYer most of the neZl\ introGuceG commercial fooG croSs are not
aGaSteG to local conGitions anG reTuire high inSuts of agrochemicals such as fertilisers
mechanisation anG Zater suSSl\ In the aGYent of aGYerse enYironmental conGitions anG
lacN of inSuts moGern cash croSs haYe left local communities in SeEaNZe YulneraEle

IJA5S 4(1) la\outinGG 3 13 113 A0

Traditional food crops as a source of community resilience in Zimbabwe 33

to hunger anG malnutrition Gue to croS failures As Zas eYiGenceG in this stuG\ in such
instances traGitional fooG croSs haYe (re)emergeG Srominentl\ as a source of communit\
resilience to fooG insecurit\


This case stuG\ Zas unGertaNen in resettleG farming communities arounG SeEaNZe
%lacN 5hino &onserYanc\ – areas Srimaril\ GeSenGent on agriculture for their
liYelihooG sustenance As a result of the =imEaEZean goYernment¶s accelerateG lanG
resettlement Srogramme of the earl\ s these communities are a comSle[ mi[ of
cultures ethnicities traGitions anG Sractices integrating SeoSle from GiYerseGisSarate
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sociocultural anG geograShical conte[ts across the countr\ The resultant G\namics of
enYironmental (sociocultural anG EioSh\sical) change haYe GisruSteG the Sree[isting
social anG enYironmental resource staEilit\ on Zhich resiGents of these communities
Zere GeSenGent In the sociocultural sShere migration has GisturEeG the staEilit\
of suSSortiYe traGitional social institutional structures anG s\stems such as NinshiS
e[tenGeG famil\ relations as Zell as shareG cultural norms The conseTuence has Eeen
ethnic anG cultural heterogeneit\
)rom a EioSh\sical SersSectiYe the communit\ resiGents noZ ¿nG themselYes in
a relatiYel\ neZ geograShic lanGscaSe This Sresents challenges Zith regarG to the
aYailaEilit\ of anG familiarit\ Zith ecological resources that are the mainsta\ of the
liYelihooG s\stems of man\ rural communities The EioSh\sical s\stem is also unGer
stress from the human SoSulation inÀu[ anG GemanG for agricultural lanG (a shift
from its earlier use for game farming) anG ecos\stem gooGs anG serYices such as fuel
ZooG construction material fooG resources (fruits YegetaEles game meat) anG Zater
Also Zhile these communities claim to Ee heaYil\ reliant on moGern conYentional
agriculture sSeci¿call\ cash croS farming the\ are at risN The\ are YulneraEle to soil
unsuitaEilit\ erratic rainfall Satterns (characteriseG E\ Sersistent Groughts) unreliaEle
suSSlies of agricultural inSuts such as seeGs farming imSlements anG agrochemical
inSuts (fertilisers herEiciGes anG SesticiGes) anG Àuctuating marNet Srices for their
SroGuce This stuG\ looNs at local communit\ strategies to coSe Zith these stresses
from an agricultural (fooG sustainaEilit\) SersSectiYe in the SreYailing conte[ts of
enYironmental risN YulneraEilit\ anG uncertaint\


This Zas a TualitatiYe ethnograShic case stuG\ (:iersma 16) aimeG at e[amining the
liYelihooG sustenance strategies of local resettleG farming communities arounG SeEaNZe
%lacN 5hino &onserYanc\ in =imEaEZe It Zas set against a EacNgrounG of Geclining
commercial agriculture SroGuctiYit\ causeG E\ among others unSreceGenteG climatic
YariaEilit\ 2ur research focus Zas fooG croSs anG relateG ZilG fooG Slants as these are
inGicators of a rural communit\¶s aEilit\ to sustain itself Through this Ze Zere aEle to
e[Slore the changing role of the signi¿cance of traGitional fooG croSs for communit\

IJA5S 4(1) la\outinGG 33 13 113 A0

34 Soul Shava, Rob O’Donoghue, Marianne E. Krasny and Cryton Zazu

)olloZing Sreliminar\ interYieZs Zith communit\ memEers in four Yillages si[

farmers selecteG on the Easis of their aYailaEilit\ anG Zillingness to SarticiSate as Zell
as their NnoZleGge of traGitional fooG Slants Zere interYieZeG InGeSth unstructureG
interYieZs Zere conGucteG in the local language (chiShona) The farmers Zere
generall\ asNeG hoZ the\ utiliseG agricultural Sractices to ensure fooG securit\ in their
homes Although the researchers haG a set of SreGetermineG toSics to aGGress (SchurinN
1) neither the seTuence of Tuestions nor the sSeci¿c ZorGing Zas uniform 2Sen
enGeG Tuestions Zere useG in orGer to aYoiG restricting SarticiSants¶ ansZers anG to
giYe resSonGents control oYer Zhat the\ ZisheG to sa\ anG hoZ the\ ZisheG to sa\ it
4uestions focuseG on fooG croSs anG liYelihooG sustenance :hile the initial focus Zas
on the t\Ses of croSs groZn E\ the local communities the role of traGitional fooG croSs
in SroYiGing fooG securit\ in the conte[t of enYironmental YulneraEilit\ emergeG as an
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imSortant theme Guring Giscussions Zith the farmers The unstructureG nature of the
interYieZs alloZeG the SarticiSating farmers to e[Sress themselYes freel\ anG at length
anG enaEleG the researchers to caSture une[SecteG insights on fooG securit\ (/e&omSte
anG 3reissle 13) – something Zhich ZoulG haYe Eeen misseG in a more structureG
Tuestioning aSSroach The interYieZs Zere maGe easier Eecause one of the researchers
Zas EaseG in the area anG Zas familiar Zith most of the SarticiSants InterYieZs Zere
suEstantiateG anG triangulateG Zith oEserYations of fooG croSs founG groZing in the
¿elGs arounG their homes


SeYeral ¿nGings anG oEserYations on the role of traGitional fooG croSs in SroYiGing fooG
securit\ emergeG from the interYieZs In this section Ze Giscuss each of these ¿nGings
Zith a Sarticular emShasis on multiSle asSects of GiYersit\ in agricultural Sractices

Self-organisation and adaptive learning

At the time of the stuG\ the SeEaNZe area haG e[SerienceG – Guring the SreceGing summer
groZing season (2ctoEer  to 0arch ) – a SerioG of Grought alternating Zith
heaY\ ÀooGing &omEineG these Zeather e[tremes among other factors contriEuteG to
loZ cash croS outSuts thereE\ negatiYel\ imSacting on fooG securit\ for the affecteG
communities These aGYerse climatic conGitions are not neZ Eut haYe Eeen e[SerienceG
in other \ears anG are liNel\ to recur in future
The local communities¶ aGaStiYe caSacit\ their aEilit\ to tolerate anG Geal Zith
change to resSonG to the SreYailing conte[ts of enYironmental risN in orGer to meet
their fooG neeGs Zas eYiGenceG through their selforganising selfGriYen agenc\ to
moEilise Srior NnoZleGge on traGitional fooG croSs /inNeG to this Zas the aEilit\ of the
local communities to SreGict Zeather changes (through the gathering anG interSretation
of information on local Zeather conGitions) anG to maNe Gecisions on croSSing Satterns
EaseG on these SreGictions (N\ong et al ) (YiGence of this Srior NnoZleGge (social
memor\ caSital) came through in interYieZ Giscussions InGiYiGual farmers maGe

IJA5S 4(1) la\outinGG 34 13 113 A0

Traditional food crops as a source of community resilience in Zimbabwe 35

reSeateG reference to the traGitional fooG croSs anG agricultural Sractices the\ Zere
e[SoseG to Zhen groZing uS in famil\ homes in their areas of origin This moEiliseG
NnoZleGge Zas then aSSlieG to reYiYeresuscitate SreYious traGitional agricultural
Sractices It Zas imSoseG onto the Sresent farming culture in Zhich the\ liYeG as an
aGGeG strateg\ in the struggle for fooG sustenance anG thereE\ SroYiGeG a Euffer to
fooG securit\ risNs This aSSlication of traGitional NnoZleGge Zas imSlementeG in
the groZing harYesting anG Srocessing of traGitional fooG croSs anG in the storage of
seeGs for future use E\ communit\ memEers These traGitional agricultural Sractices
Zere similar among farmers of Gifferent origins inGicating a conYergence of strategies
to resSonG to anG aGGress the common SroElem of fooG YulneraEilit\ 5elateG to
this conYergence of aSSroaches Zas a common collaEoratiYe culture citeG E\ man\
interYieZees to share Eoth the SroGuce anG seeGs Zithin the communit\
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The fact that the Sresent communities in SeEaNZe Zere relearning anG rel\ing
on traGitional agroecos\stems as aSSroSriate strategies to ensure fooG securit\ Zhen
encountering fooG YulneraEilit\ coulG also Ee an inGication of a histor\ of their original
communities Eeing e[SoseG to similar YulneraEilit\ in the Sast (Tengo anG %elfrage
4 *alloSin 6) In other ZorGs these communities haG learnt to resSonG to
their (Eiological Sh\sical anG social) enYironment E\ GeYeloSing these traGitional
agroecological s\stems oYer time (+olmgren anG 2Eerg 6) To coSe Zith current
conGitions of risN anG YulneraEilit\ the communities in SeEaNZe Zere GraZing on
a collectiYe social memor\ This conclusion is suSSorteG E\ eYiGence of recorGeG
SerioGic Groughts in southern Africa (iEiG) anG from Giscussions Zith the farmers This
suggestion is suSSorteG E\ N\ong et al in their oEserYations in the Sahel
/ocal SoSulations in this region through their inGigenous NnoZleGge s\stems haYe
GeYeloSeG anG imSlementeG e[tensiYe mitigation anG aGaStation strategies that haYe
enaEleG them to reGuce their YulneraEilit\ to Sast climate YariaEilit\ anG change Zhich
e[ceeG those SreGicteG E\ moGels of future climate change ( )

)olNe et al () anG )olNe (6) argue that in resilient socialecological s\stems
GisturEance has the Sotential to create oSSortunities for innoYation anG GeYeloSment In
the Sresent stuG\ these social learning Srocesses are occurring in resSonse to common
challenges that local communities are facing in maintaining their fooG resources The
moEilisation of Srior NnoZleGge anG its aSSlication in neZ conte[ts of YulneraEilit\
Gemonstrates the aEilit\ of local communities to EuilG anG enhance their caSacit\ for
learning anG aGaStation 5eÀe[iYe comSetencies – the aEilit\ to liYe Zith change anG
uncertaint\ anG to manage change – are reYealeG It aSSears that Zhen faceG Zith e[ternal
GisturEances that threaten their liYelihooG sustenance such as climateinGuceG e[tremes
local communities aGoSt a SreGominantl\ suEsistenceorienteG strateg\ This manifests in
traGitional agricultural Sractices Zhich are aEle to carr\ the communit\ through turEulent
times The communit\ is liNel\ to reYert to a more commerciall\ orienteG agriculture
liYelihooG strateg\ Zhen conGitions are more faYouraEle This strategic selfregulateG
caSacit\ to alternate EetZeen Gifferent liYelihooG aSSroaches enaEles local communit\
resilience to aGaSt to anG surYiYe climateinGuceG Yariations in their liYeG enYironment

IJA5S 4(1) la\outinGG 3 13 113 A0

36 Soul Shava, Rob O’Donoghue, Marianne E. Krasny and Cryton Zazu


TraGitional agroEioGiYersit\ that is GiYersit\ in traGitional fooG croSs Zas oEserYeG at

three leYels
‡ The GiYersit\ of croSs groZn in a single ¿elG
‡ A GiYersit\ of Yarieties Zithin a single croS anG
‡ 'iYersit\ in microenYironments selecteG for groZing Sarticular croSs

‡ Diversity of crops within a Àeld

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A characteristic feature of all the ¿elGs YisiteG Zas the GiYersit\ of croSs e[hiEiteG
Zithin each ¿elG ()igure 1) *roZing Zithin a ¿elG SreGominantl\ SlanteG Zith mai]e
Zere seYeral other soZn croSs nyovhi (sSiGer ÀoZer) mubovora (SumSNin) nyemba
(coZSeas) anG ipwa (sZeet reeG) Also Sresent Zere selfseeGing µZeeGs¶ (ZeeGs in
moGern conYentional agriculture SerceStions) such as derere renyenje (ZilG oNra)
anG musungusungu (ElacN nightshaGe) that are alloZeG to groZ Zith cultiYateG croSs
Eecause of their fooG Yalue as YegetaEles The use of ZilG fooG Slants to augment
cultiYateG staSles Sarticularl\ in times of fooG shortage has also Eeen oEserYeG as a
liYelihooG sustenance strateg\ for rural communities in Northern Nigeria (+arris anG
0uhammeG ) 3imEert (1) recorGs that man\ rural SeoSle Zho are reliant on
agroecos\stems GeliEeratel\ incorSorate ZilG resources into their liYelihooG strategies
Such a richl\ GiYerse ¿elG ()igure 1) is aEle to suSSl\ Eoth the starch staSle anG the
accomSan\ing relish to comSlete the traGitional meal *roZing Gifferent croSs enaEleG
the SroYision of EalanceG nutrition such as the suSSl\ of carEoh\Grates from cereals
Yitamins anG minerals from leaf\ YegetaEles anG Sroteins from legumes The elGerl\
farmers commenteG on hoZ their traGitional Giet maGe them stronger healthier anG gaYe
greater longeYit\ comSareG to moGern Giets
'iYersit\ Zithin a ¿elG as a sustenance strateg\ also ensureG the harYesting of
other croSs in the eYent that the main croS (mai]e) faileG thereE\ minimising risN from
e[ternal enYironmental uncertaint\ In this case croS GiYersit\ caSital aEsorEs the risN
of harYest loss Gue to unanticiSateG aGYerse climatic conGitions E\ sSreaGing it across
a Yariet\ of croSs Zith Gifferent climatic aGaStaEilities This contriEutes to creating a
roEust fooG croS s\stem that can ZithstanG a ZiGer range of enYironmental changes
Nair et al () haYe similarl\ founG croS GiYersi¿cation useG as a coSing strateg\
to accommoGate risN anG uncertainties E\ agricultural communities in .erala InGia
The sharing of such YaluaEle agricultural NnoZleGge anG Sractices is eGucationall\
releYant for the continueG sustenance of communities – Sarticularl\ among the \outh
resiGing in such conte[ts A list of traGitional croSs cultiYateG in the area is giYen in
TaEle 1 (see S 3) Among traGitional croSs iGenti¿eG are those that are inGigenous
anG those that haYe Eeen introGuceG anG groZn E\ local SeoSles oYer a length\
SerioG The latter are consiGereG traGitional croSs E\ local communities anG haYe
since Eeen incorSorateG into their culture The incorSoration of introGuceG croSs into

IJA5S 4(1) la\outinGG 36 13 114 A0

Traditional food crops as a source of community resilience in Zimbabwe 37

e[isting traGitional agroEioGiYersit\ s\stems anG local cultures is an inGication of the

G\namism of local NnoZleGges (0asuNu Yan 'amme anG NeluYhalani 4 ShaYa
) that alloZs for groZth from e[ternal interactions anG for cultural eYolution In
this Za\ local communities haYe Eeen aEle to GeYeloS roEust anG resilient traGitional
agricultural s\stems

4 5

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Figure 1: Diversity within a Àeld – a maize Àeld in which cultivated (1) mapudzi (bottle gourd
– Lagenaria siceraria), (2) nyovhi (spider Áower – Cleome gynandra), (3) mbambaira (sweet
potato – Ipomea batatas), (4) self-seeding mowa (pigweed – Amarunthus hybridus) and (5)
mubvunzandadya (goosefoot – Chenopodium album), all pointed out as edible, are growing

‡ Diversity of varieties within a single crop

'uring interYieZ Giscussions the farmers noteG that Yarieties Zithin certain croSs Zere
sSeciall\ selecteG E\ inGiYiGual farmers These incluGeG earl\maturing traGitional
mai]e Yarieties such as mukadzi usaende or mukadzi dzoka (literall\ translating to µZife
Gon¶t go¶ or µZife come EacN¶) suiteG for the short rain\ seasons or Gr\ sSells as
Zell as latematuring traGitional mai]e Yarieties suiteG for the longer rain\ seasons
anG Zhite anG reG Yarieties of zviyo (¿nger millet) anG mhunga (Searl millet) *roZing
Gifferent Yarieties of the same croS is saiG to Eetter guarantee a harYest regarGless of
seasonal YariaEilit\ (short Gr\ season or long Zet season) anG to ensure Yariet\ in taste
anG Tualit\

IJA5S 4(1) la\outinGG 3 13 114 A0

38 Soul Shava, Rob O’Donoghue, Marianne E. Krasny and Cryton Zazu
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Figure 2 (top left): Rukweza

growing on dry, sandy soil
Figure 3 (top right): Mubovora
growing in a dump pit sandy soil
Figure 4 (left): Mupunga (rice)
growing in a wetland garden
Figure 5 (bottom left): Mai
Gamba exhibiting mufushwa
wemunyemba (sun-dried cowpea
Figure 6 (bottom right): Mbuya
Mpofu grinding nzungu (peanuts)
into dovi (peanut butter)

IJA5S 4(1) la\outinGG 3 13 11 A0

Traditional food crops as a source of community resilience in Zimbabwe 39

x Diversity in choice of growing sites selected for particular crops

2EserYation of Slanting sites reYealeG an inGeSth NnoZleGge of microenYironments

(soil t\Ses fertilit\ Zater) anG their agricultural caSaEilities )armers NneZ Zhich
groZing enYironment (microclimate) Zas suitaEle for sSeci¿c croSs 'roughtresistant
crops such as rukweza (¿nger millet) mapfunde (sorghum) mhunga (pearl millet) anG
nyimo (EamEara grounGnuts) Zere groZn in poor sanG\ soils ()igure ) Nutrient
GemanGing crops such as tsunga (Brassica carinata) anG mubovora (Cucurbita maxima)
Zere planteG on anthills (churu) anG oYer GisuseG Gump pits (gomba remarara) Zhere
Zaste anG ash from the Nitchen Zere GepositeG ()igure 3) :aterloYing crops such as
mupunga (rice) anG madhumbe (Colocasia esculenta) Zere reserYeG for ZetlanG areas
(matoro) ()igure 4) This specialiseG NnoZleGge of haEitat choice for Gifferent crops
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has the Eene¿t of ensuring the successful groZth anG harYesting of the particular crops

Crop processing as a means of ensuring food security

0ost crops are harYesteG processeG anG storeG for future use This alloZs the communit\
to ¿ll the fooG gap Guring perioGs of scarcit\ particularl\ in the colG anG Gr\ Zinter
season 3rocessing fooG EesiGes preparing it for immeGiate consumption incluGeG
preserYing it for later use SunGr\ing (kufusha) Zas largel\ useG for processing leaf\
YegetaEles ()igure ) such as mubovora (pumpNin leaYes) anG munyemba (coZpea
leaYes) Zhich Zere preserYeG for later use SunGr\ing is also useG for ipwa (sZeet
reeGs) Zhich are ¿rst peeleG anG then GrieG
The preserYation of some crops inYolYes elaEorate processes *rounGnuts for
e[ample are roasteG ZinnoZeG to remoYe the sNin coat pounGeG in the mortar anG
¿nall\ grounG into a paste (peanut Eutter) on the grinGing stone ()igure 6)
The preserYation of seeGs is important on man\ leYels for future planting sustaining
traGitional crops anG agricultural practices anG fostering inGepenGence from commercial
seeG sources :ith most traGitional cereals the selecteG heaGs (or coEs) of grain Zere
hung in the Nitchen Zhere smoNe from the cooNing ¿res preserYeG them from pest

Table1: Some traditional food crops and plants in Sebakwe and their uses

LoFalnaPe EnJlisKnaPe %otaniFal )oodt\Se 3reSaration

chiBage, chiBarwe Maize Zea mays** Grain cereal Dry seed ground
into mealie meal
or pounded into
samp and eaten
with a relish.
Green mealies
roasted or

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40 Soul Shava, Rob O’Donoghue, Marianne E. Krasny and Cryton Zazu

muBovora, Pumpkin, Cucurbita Leafy Leaves, Áowers

munhanga marrow, squash pepo** and vegetable, and young
C. maxima** fruit, edible (mangare)
seed cooked
in cream
(ruwomba) or
mixed with
peanut butter.
Ripe fruit
cooked as a
Seed roasted as
a meal.
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muChakupuka, Indian or Brassica Leafy Leaves cooked

ndakupuka Chinese juncea** vegetable on their own
mustard or mixed with
meat. Leaves
also sun-dried
for later use.
Chembere Rape Brassica Leafy Leaves cooked
dzagumana napus** vegetable on their own
or mixed with
meat. Leaves
also sun-dried
for later use.
Derere renyenje Corchorus Leafy Leaves cooked
tridens*, vegetable with hundi
C. trilocularis* (made from
sieving water
through burnt
ground husks of
Ànger millet)
or soda into a
slimy relish.
Derere Sesamum Leafy Leaves cooked
resamwenda/e angistifolium* vegetable; with hundi or
seed soda into a
slimy relish.
Derere rechipudzi Okra Abelmoschus Fruit Young fruit
esculentus** cooked with
hundi or soda
into a slimy

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Traditional food crops as a source of community resilience in Zimbabwe 41

iPwa Sweet cane Sorghum Edible stem Sweet stem

bicolor*** chewed. Stem
also peeled,
sun-dried and
stored for later
muGaka Cucumis Leafy Young leaves
metuliferus*** vegetable, cooked as a
fruit relish. Spiky
fruit eaten raw.
maPfunde Sorghum Sorghum Grain cereal Seed ground
bicolor*** into powder
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and cooked into

sadza (thick
eaten with a
Also fermented
and made into
hwawa (beer)
and mahewu.
maPudzi Calabash, Lagenaria Leafy Young leaves
gourd, bottle siceraria*** vegetable, cooked and
gourd fruit, seed eaten as a
relish. Ripe
fruit cooked as
a meal. Seeds
roasted as a
Mbambaira, Sweet potato Ipomea Edible tubers Tubers either
maDima batatas eaten raw or
Mhunga Pearl millet Penisetum Grain cereal Seed ground
americanum*** into powder
and cooked into
sadza (thick
eaten with a
Also fermented
and made into
hwawa (beer)
and mahewu.

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42 Soul Shava, Rob O’Donoghue, Marianne E. Krasny and Cryton Zazu

Mowa Pigweed Amaranthus Leafy Young leaves

hybridus* vegetable cooked as a
muBvunzandadya, Goosefoot, fat Chenopodium Leafy Young leaves
muTyangetyange hen album* vegetable cooked as a
muPunga Rice Oryza Grain cereal Seed parboiled,
glaberrima*** ground into
powder and
cooked into
sadza, eaten
with a relish.
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Seed also
pounded and
cooked with
peanut butter
as a meal.
muNwiwa, muVise, Water melon Citrullus Fruit, seed Ripe fruit eaten
MuShamba lanatus*** raw. Seed used
to make edible
oil or pounded
into balls and
taken as a
muSungusungu Solanum
muTsemwatsemwa, Cleome Leafy Leaves cooked
muSemwasemwa monophylla* Vegetable as a relish.
Mhuu, kanzota Black jack Bidens pilosa* Leaves cooked
as a relish.
muNyemba, Cowpea Vigna Leafy Leaves cooked
Nyemba unguiculata*** vegetable, as a relish.
edible seed Leaves sun-
dried and
stored for later
use. Seeds
cooked as a
Nyimo Roundnut, Voandzeia Edible seed Seed cooked as
bamabara subterrana*** a meal.

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Traditional food crops as a source of community resilience in Zimbabwe 43

Nyovhi, nyevhe, Spider Áower Cleome Leafy Leaves cooked

rune/i gynandra*** vegetable as vegetable on
their own, with
peanut butter
or meat. Leaves
also sun-dried
for later use.
Nzungu Groundnuts, Arachis Edible seed Seed eaten
peanuts, hypogea* raw, roasted or
monkey nuts cooked. Seed
also roasted
and ground into
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peanut butter.
Rukweza, zviyo, Finger millet, Eluisine Cereal Seed ground
njera rapoko coracana*** into powder
and cooked into
sadza (thick
eaten with a
relish. Also
and made into
hwawa (beer)
and mahewu.
ruNinga sesame Sesamum Edible seed Seeds ground
indicum* and made into
a cherished
butter (dovi
Tsunga Brassica Leafy Leaves cooked
carinata*** vegetable as vegetable on
their own, with
peanut butter
or with meat.
Leaves also
sun-dried for
later use. Plant
cherished for its
slightly bitter/
pungent taste.

* wild plants (weeds) that are allowed to grow together with cultivated crops because of their value as
** introduced crops that are considered traditional crops by local communities
*** native/indigenous cultivated crops

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44 Soul Shava, Rob O’Donoghue, Marianne E. Krasny and Cryton Zazu

Threats to community traditional food security systems

The sustenance of local communit\ liYelihooG through traGitional agriculture is

GepenGent on tZo Ne\ factors the agricultural resources (cultural capital ie the
aYailaEilit\ of anG access to traGitional agroEioGiYersit\) anG the relateG NnoZleGge
anG practices (collectiYe social memor\) of local communities that enaEle these
communities to utilise the aYailaEle agricultural resources for their sustenance
5esilience therefore emerges from the interpla\ EetZeen local communit\ NnoZleGge
anG practices anG the agroEiological resources at the communit\¶s Gisposal The
YulneraEilit\ of local communities results from a Gisruption of either or Eoth of these
aspects Zhich suEseTuentl\ eroGes the capacit\ of local communities to aGapt anG
responG to enYironmental change
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In this stuG\ seYeral factors Eoth internal anG e[ternal Zere iGenti¿eG E\ the
farmers as threats to local fooG soYereignt\ that is the capacit\ of local communities to
proGuce nutritionall\ anG culturall\ appropriate fooG anG to control anG maintain local
fooGproGucing resources anG s\stems for their oZn sustenance
‡ The commercialisation of traGitional crop proGuce anG seeGs
‡ 5eliance on moGern commercial seeG Yarieties
‡ /imiteG transgenerational NnoZleGge transfer interactions

x The commercialisation of traditional crop produce and seeds

)armer participants in this stuG\ e[presseG concern aEout the creeping commercial
isation of all agricultural proGuce particularl\ traGitional fooG crops )or some selling
traGitional fooG crops such as YegetaEles liNe mubovora anG nyovhi anG fruits liNe
magaka Zas in the past unthinNaEle )armers recounteG that traGitionall\ a hungr\
passerE\ ZoulG not Ee preYenteG from entering a ¿elG anG helping him or herself to
ipwa magaka anG other ripe proGuce that coulG Ee eaten raZ so as long as the person
GiG so onl\ to satisf\ their immeGiate hunger A similar sentiment Zas e[presseG Zith
regarG to the sharing of seeGs It Zas saiG to Ee common practice in the past that a
person Zith seeGs ZoulG freel\ share these Zith their neighEours in anticipation of
the neighEour reciprocating if the neeG Zere to arise This culture of sharing Zas a
strateg\ that enaEleG fooG anG seeG GistriEution Zithin the communit\ thereE\ fostering
resilience through maintaining traGitional crop EioGiYersit\ anG oYerall fooG securit\
Sharing of proGuce anG seeG Zithin the communities Zas ZitnesseG Guring the stuG\
Selling traGitional crop proGuce threatens communit\ fooG securit\ anG soYereignt\
E\ replacing the traGitional Earter econom\ Zith a moGern cashorienteG econom\ The
latter negatiYel\ impacts on the traGitional s\stems of GistriEuting fooG proGuce anG seeGs
3imEert () argues that raGical monopolies such as commercial entities replace the
nonmarNetaEle use Yalues of crops for e[ample Zith commoGities (commercial seeGs)
E\ appropriating the components that enaEle people to cope on their oZn (the sharing of
seeGs anG relateG NnoZleGge) thereE\ unGermining local fooG soYereignt\

IJA5S 4(1) la\outinGG 44 13 11 A0

Traditional food crops as a source of community resilience in Zimbabwe 45

x Reliance on commercial seed varieties

5elateG to the commercialisation of proGuce most of the olGer farmers consiGereG the
current practice – of moGern agriculture Eeing reliant on seeG companies to proYiGe
seeGs each \ear – a threat to fooG securit\ anG soYereignt\ (anG thereE\ communit\
resilience) Eecause it usurpeG the communities¶ selfreliance anG increaseG their
GepenGence on e[ternal agents The\ further maintaineG that a farmer Zas neYer sure
of the success of the commercial crop Yarieties Zithout control oYer the selection of
seeGs In aGGition the farmer haG to ¿rst pa\ for the seeGs in orGer to Ee aEle to groZ
them TraGitional crop Yarieties on the other hanG Zere commenGeG for their role in
ensuring selfreliance Zith regarG to access to anG control oYer seeG suppl\ TraGitional
seeG proGuction anG selection processes Zere consiGereG more reliaEle in terms of
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guaranteeing a successful harYest as local seeG Yarieties Zere NnoZn to Ee aGapteG to

local conGitions
TraGitionall\ seeGs Zere reciprocall\ e[changeG among farmers 5elateG to this
t\pe of traGing Zas the communal practice of pooling laEour anG sharing NnoZleGge on
the propagation anG processing of traGitional crops ShiYa captures the signi¿cance of
this s\stem
SeeG is the ultimate s\mEol of fooG securit\  )ree e[change among framers goes
Ee\onG mere e[change of seeGs it inYolYes e[changes of iGeas anG NnoZleGge of
culture anG heritage It is an accumulation of traGition of NnoZleGge of hoZ to ZorN
the seeG ( )

x Limited transgenerational knowledge transfer

(lGerl\ farmers Zere concerneG that their NnoZleGge of traGitional fooG crops anG relateG
agricultural practices Zas Eeing lost as it Zas not reaching the \outh Transformations
in learning processes anG agricultural s\stems anG the effects of moGernisation Zere
iGenti¿eG as some of the factors impacting negatiYel\ on traGitional methoGs of
transgenerational NnoZleGge transfer This hingeG on the Giminishing role of elGers as
eGucators NnoZleGge holGers anG referral points in the communit\ (.i=erEo et al
1) The stigmatisation of traGitional fooG crops Zas also iGenti¿eG as a contriEuting
factor 0an\ of the \outh in the communities stuGieG Zere saiG to shun traGitional Gishes
anG from our oEserYations Zere not founG to Ee groZing traGitional crops The lacN
of effectiYe mechanisms for the transmission of NnoZleGge aEout traGitional fooG crops
anG sNills relateG to traGitional agricultural practices to the \outh therefore threateneG
the sustenance of fooG soYereignt\ Zithin these communities It GisrupteG the continuit\
of estaElisheG localinternal resilience s\stems of ensuring fooG sustainaEilit\ There
is a neeG to conserYe the accumulateG collectiYe social memor\ on traGitional agro
ecological NnoZleGge anG practices Zithin e[isting communities

IJA5S 4(1) la\outinGG 4 13 11 A0

46 Soul Shava, Rob O’Donoghue, Marianne E. Krasny and Cryton Zazu


/ocal communities in SeEaNZe rel\ on multiple s\stems for their liYelihooG sustenance
These incluGe a comEination of moGern cash crop farming anG traGitional agricultural
practices Zith the former Eeing Gominant +oZeYer in a conte[t of risN uncertaint\ anG
YulneraEilit\ causeG E\ climateinGuceG changes anG a lacN of aGeTuate agrochemical
inputs anG infrastructural support traGitional NnoZleGge reemerges anG traGitional
agroEioGiYersit\ anG agricultural practices Eecome prominent as a YaluaEle liYelihooG
strateg\ that proffers communities the capacit\ to manage responG aGapt to anG
ZithstanG enYironmental change anG thereE\ sustain their fooG resources
In this stuG\ fooG insecurit\ or YulneraEilit\ resulting from climateinGuceG
YariaEilit\ (Grought anG ÀooGing) Zas oEserYeG to haYe a positiYe inÀuence on local
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NnoZleGge traGitional agroEioGiYersit\ anG traGitional agricultural practices it createG

an enaEling enYironment for their reemergence TraGitional fooG crops anG relateG
agricultural practices haYe Eeen utiliseG E\ inGigenous people oYer man\ generations
anG here the\ proYiGe a source of communit\ resilience E\ maintaining fooG soYereignt\
meeting the neeGs of fooG anG nutrition for rural householGs 'espite the GiYerse origins
of the farmers in the stuGieG communities the similarit\ in the crop GiYersit\ e[hiEiteG
reYealeG common cultural linNs oYer EroaGer conte[ts In the present heterogeneous
communities this ma\ haYe Eeen augmenteG E\ the reYiYal of a culture of sharing
proGuce seeGs anG relateG NnoZleGge as Zas oEserYeG Guring the stuG\ perioG Such
social learning processes anG local agenc\ that foster resilience shoulG Ee articulateG
promoteG anG recogniseG
+oZeYer traGitional crop EioGiYersit\ anG agricultural practices are unGer threat
from their continueG marginalisation E\ moGern agricultural s\stems the Gisruption
of cultural practices through the moGernisation of local communities anG limiteG
transgenerational NnoZleGge anG sNills transfer There is a neeG to GeYelop conte[tuall\
releYant eGucational processes Zhich iGentif\ anG EuilG on local coping strategies
(local NnoZleGge anG e[pertise) toZarGs achieYing resilient local communities Zith the
aGaptiYe capacit\ to manage enYironmental change


This research Zas maGe possiEle through funGing from the %orlaug /eaGership
(nhancement in Agriculture 3rogramme (/(A3) through the 8niteG States Agenc\
for International 'eYelopment (8SAI') :e are grateful to the SeEaNZe %lacN 5hino
&onserYation Trust anG the communities arounG the SeEaNZe %lacN 5hino &onserYanc\
that participateG in this stuG\ anG alloZeG us to share this NnoZleGge in particular 0rs
S 0EerengZa 0rs S 0pofu 0rs *amEa 0rs ' NGhloYu anG 0rs 0uro]Yi

IJA5S 4(1) la\outinGG 46 13 11 A0

Traditional food crops as a source of community resilience in Zimbabwe 47

AGger :N  Social anG ecological resilience Are the\ relateG" Progress in Human
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IJA5S 4(1) la\outinGG 4 13 11 A0

48 Soul Shava, Rob O’Donoghue, Marianne E. Krasny and Cryton Zazu

  5esearch on inGigenous NnoZleGge anG its application A case of ZilG fooG plants
in =imEaEZe Southern African Journal of Environmental Education  3– 6
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