Mopane Worms


Caterpillars of the Mopane Emperor Moth (Gonimbrasia belina) / Madora (Sh) / Macimbi (N) Insects are often considered a nuisance and pests to crops and animals, but they can provide food at low (environmental) costs and generate income and be part of fighting poverty in rural areas. Edible insects and caterpillars constitute one of the cheapest sources of animal protein. Mopane worms, the larvae/caterpillars of the mopane emperor moth, are widely consumed in Southern Africa, a staple in rural areas and a delicacy in cities. They are collected from the wild and partly traded. Using small scale cultivation methods, families and villages could be provided with a source of cheap and sustainable food, and extra income. Where they can be found: Mopane worms feed on the leaves of the mopane tree (Colophospermum mopane). In Southern Africa, mopane tree areas stretch from northern parts of South Africa (Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces) into Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and northern Namibia. Although mopane worms feed mainly on the mopane tree, they are not limited to this diet, and can feed on many other trees that are indigenous to the same regions as the mopane tree, including the leaves of the mango tree. Thus the mopane worm is scattered over a fairly large area. In Zimbabwe, mopane worms are mainly found in the southern districts (Chivi, Mwenezi, Mberengwa, Beitbridge, Chiredzi and Gwanda). What is harvested - Harvesting time: Mopane worm outbreaks are seasonal. There is usually one main harvest per year, during the early months of the rainy season (November to January) but a smaller second harvest occurs in April-May following good rains. Population numbers vary from year to year based on the availability of rainfall and presence of host tree leaves. [...]

Mongongo Nut or Manketti Tree


(Schinziophyton rautanenii) / Mungongoma (Sh) / Umgoma or Umganuompobola (N) Mongongo trees have been used by Kalahari peoples for centuries. The wood makes excellent fishing floats, canoes, toys and musical instruments. The fruits are consumed especially during times of drought. The nutritious nut is pounded; the oil is extracted and used in cooking. The oil is also used as a body rub that protects the skin and hair from the harsh desert environment. Mongongo kernels are increasingly valued more widely for their outstanding nutritional content; the oil is known to be stable and it is a prized cosmetic ingredient. Where it can be found: The tree is widely distributed in Southern Africa. It prefers hot temperatures and little rain. In its ‘core’ area (northern Namibia, northern Botswana, south western Zambia and western Zimbabwe), it can be found in large stands, several hundred meters wide and stretching for several kilometres, across the well-drained Kalahari sands. Other belts are found in eastern Malawi, and in eastern Mozambique. What is harvested - Harvesting time: Fruit picking starts at the end of the rainy season (April-May) but is often delayed due to the danger of confronting competing animals (elephants and others), and the high grass that makes access difficult. Therefore, harvest normally begins in June (after the passing of bush fires) until the end of the dry season. A single tree yields as many as 900 fruits per year. In some years the fruits are so abundant that they lie knee deep on the ground. The pulp is removed and the nuts dried for a few months. There are no insects known to attack the nut in storage and so it is easily conserved, either [...]

Wild Melons


Citrullus lanatus / Mashamba (Sh) / Amajodo (N) Bush melons are the biological ancestor of the watermelon, now found all over the world, but which originated in the Kalahari region of Southern Africa. The fruits differ in shape (from small and round in the wild, to larger and more oblong-shaped under cultivation) and colours. The flesh can be white, yellow, green, orange or red, with a high water content, diverse also in texture and taste. The seeds again vary in seed coat pattern and colour. Two major forms occur: C. lanatus var. lanatus, the sweet watermelons, and C. lanatus var. citroides, the cow-melons which, although non-bitter, are not sweet. Citrullus lanatus var. citroides is often cultivated but a diversity of feral forms exist. By contrast, C. lanatus var. lanatus is only known from cultivation and has emerged as a result of a domestication process involving selection for reddish colour and sweetness. BIZ is busy recording the wild melon varieties and landraces available in Zimbabwe, each with distinct local names, morphological characteristics and traditional uses, their main source areas and current volumes, and collecting samples to determine whether their seed oil is commercially usable. BIZ would like to establish if the fatty acid profiles of the oils that come from different varieties fit within the Kalahari Melon Seed oil specifications. If they do, this implies we can produce KMS oil from varieties currently available in Zimbabwe. If there are differences, perhaps they result in new and different oils of commercial interest. Where they can be found: Bush melons are highly adapted to surviving drought and high light stress conditions. They are therefore adapted to desert habitats and found all over Southern Africa, most closely associated with [...]

Bambara Nuts


Vignea subterranea / Nyimo bean (Sh) / Indlubu (N) Bambara nuts come from West Africa. They are now widely grown throughout tropical Africa, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Central and South America and some parts of Northern Australia, although its cultivation outside the African continent is rare. Nyimo beans are important for smallholders and their households because the nuts are an important source of food security. Unlike many other crops, they are not prone to total harvest failure in low and uncertain rainfall regions. Where it does well: Nyimo beans are widely distributed in the semi-arid zone of sub-Saharan Africa. In Zimbabwe, it is the third most important food legume after cowpea and groundnut. It is drought resistant, can tolerate high temperatures and is suitable for marginal soils where other leguminous crops cannot be grown. It makes very little demand on the soil and can grow without application of fertilisers. Planting – harvesting time – what is harvested: Harvesting nyimo beans is similar to harvesting groundnuts. The pods break off very easily and up to half of the pods can remain in the soil, thus hand collection is preferable. The plant is hand lifted and pulled exposing the nuts which grow beneath the ground. The nuts are then pulled off the plant. Harvesting small plots is often done over a period of time. Average yield per ha: The per-hectare yield is generally 300-600kg of dried seed. Bambara nuts contain about 65% carbohydrate, 18% protein and 6.5% fat thus making them a complete food. The seeds are much richer than groundnuts in essential amino and fatty acids. The nuts can be eaten fresh, roasted and salted, boiled, or dried and stored. In addition to that, the nuts [...]

Wild or Sour Plum


Ximenia spp. / Munhengeni, Mutsvanzva (Sh) / Umthunduluka, Uholotshane (N) Ximenias are drought-resistant, thorny shrubs or small trees. In Zimbabwe, there are 2 species: Ximenia americana, the species that is currently commercialised and X. caffra, the fruit of which is commonly eaten. The oil of this species could prove to be commercially interesting as well, but is different to the oil of X. americana. Where they can be found: Although both ximenias are widespread across Zimbabwe - found at low altitudes in woodlands, grassy savannahs and rocky outcrops -, species distribution and abundance vary between regions and locations. The highest concentrations of X. caffra are found in the north-west and east of the country; the highest numbers of X. americana are found in Hwange district. When growing in the same location, X. caffra is common on rocky hillsides while X. americana prefers flat catchment areas and termite mounds. Propagating ximenia trees would increase harvesting volumes and reduce the present harvesting effort of collecting fruits from distant trees that need to be visited regularly throughout the fruiting season. Propagation can also counteract bad harvesting years, which make supply unreliable and are currently a threat to the commercialisation of the resource. What is harvested - Harvesting time: The fruits resemble plums and vary in colour from yellow to bright orange and dark red-brown. X. caffra fruits in November-March during the rains; X. americana produces fruit all year round. The pulp contains a stone with an oil-rich seed. Decortication can take place later in the year, after cultivated crops have been harvested and people have more time. Average yield per tree: The trees produce 15-17kg of fresh fruit per year. Ximenia fruits are rich in vitamin [...]



Moringa oleifera, Moringa (Sh), uMoringa (N) Moringa oleifera is a multipurpose tree native to India. It is well known for its wide adaptability and ease of establishment and widely grown because of the rich nutritional content of its leaves, flowers and seed. BIZ is conducting cultivation trials with smallholders to determine the optimal planting density for commercial leaf production. Where it can be found: Moringa is cultivated worldwide in the (sub)tropics of Asia and Africa. Though it grows best in well-drained sandy or loamy soils, it tolerates a wide range of soil and rainfall conditions. In Zimbabwe it is a suitable crop for dry land areas, found mostly in Natural Regions 4 and 5. Planting – harvesting time – what is harvested: Moringa grows quickly from seeds or cuttings. It can reach a height of 4m within the first year. Initial trials show that farmers prefer a 10cm x 20cm density planting (compared to 10x10, 10x40 or 10x50): the trees produce a good leaf yield after pruning the top part of the plants as there is enough space between plants to give them a shrubby shape. Leaves, flowers and pods can be harvested twice or even all year round. To continue harvesting throughout the year, occasional watering is needed. Leaf harvesting can be done as early as 3 months after planting, when the top part of the plants is pruned. Average yield per ha: High-density monocropping gives the highest leaf yield per unit area. Fresh leaf yield can be 6 tonnes/ha per year according to literature. The harvest differs strongly between the dry and rainy seasons. Trees produce up to 3 tonnes of seed/ha. BIZ will learn more about yields in the drier parts [...]



Stevia rebaudiana Stevia is a small (60-75cm) green plant native to South America. Its leaves can be 30 times sweeter than sugar. Environmentally speaking, 1 hectare of stevia is equivalent to 60-90 hectares of sugarcane in terms of sweetening power. So the use of stevia promotes the smart use of land and water. Due to its natural origins, great taste and health benefits, stevia is used worldwide as a sugar substitute and/or complement in foods and beverages. Stevia propagation trials with the Crop Science Department at the University of Zimbabwe are underway. During the 2015-16 rainy season, BIZ and the Bulawayo Projects Centre will trial-grow and process stevia with small-scale farmers in irrigation schemes in Matabeleland South. Where it does well: Wild plants occur on acid soils that are constantly moist, often near the edge of marshes or streams where the soil is sandy. About 60 years ago, stevia was taken from its natural environment to be propagated in Japan. Today, it is cultivated in East Asia (China, Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Malaysia) and can also be found in Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Israel. The plant is a tender perennial, meaning it survives mild winters. It prefers a lightly textured (sandy loam or loam), well-drained soil to which organic matter has been added. As the plant cannot tolerate drought, frequent irrigation is required. In hot, sunny climates it will do best in semi-shade. Planting – harvesting time – what is harvested: Stevia seed is known for its low germination rate even with optimal seed. A much simpler way is the vegetative propagation from cuttings. Tissue culture is also a solution for mass propagation of stevia. The first harvesting can be done 4-5 [...]