Bindura Bamboo


Oxytenanthera abyssinica Bindura or lowland bamboo is an indigenous, solid stemmed bamboo. It is known for its rapid growth rate and can grow over 7m tall in tight clumps that form a thick bamboo forest over vast areas. The cultivation and use of bamboo by smallholders can be very economically and environmentally beneficial as it locks in carbon, prevents erosion and improves the soil. The plant provides a wood and energy substitute for trees addressing deforestation and presenting multiple income generating possibilities for rural communities. BIZ is setting up a seed bank and raising bamboo seedlings to scale up cultivation of bamboo as well as supporting the production of marketable goods such as bamcoal – a high quality bamboo charcoal for household and commercial use, bamboo furniture and smaller products for the home. Where it does well: Bindura bamboo is native to Africa, and found from Senegal to Ethiopia and south to Zimbabwe. Ethiopian bamboo stands possibly constitute 65-80% of the total area under Bindura bamboo in Africa. In Zimbabwe, it is found in the N, E, C and W parts of the country, locally common, along banks of watercourses, in damp places at bases of hills and on slopes of wooded hills, often on termite mounds. Planting – harvesting time – what is harvested: Bindura bamboo can be domesticated on farms. It grows with a minimum annual rainfall of 350-800 mm and 3-7 dry months. BIZ has established cultivation trials to confirm information on propagation (from seeds, seedlings/wildlings, cuttings, and rhizomes/offsets), establishment, crop management, harvesting methods and yields. Stems older than 6 years are used as fuel, those 4–6 years old as building material, and those 2–3 years old have value for [...]



Manihot esculenta / Mufarinya (Sh) / Ikhasava (N) Cassava plays a particularly important role in agriculture in developing countries, because it does well in poor soils and with low rainfall (400-500 mm). Its wide harvesting window allows it to act as a famine reserve, field stored for many months, is invaluable in managing labour schedules, and means harvesting can be delayed until market or processing conditions are more favourable. Cassava is, therefore, highly acceptable in rural areas. While cassava has had a long history in the rest of Africa, it is not a well-known crop in Zimbabwe. BIZ, in collaboration with Brightface Enterprises (Pvt) Ltd, has been trial-producing 2 cassava varieties with farmers in Chipinge since 2013. Beginning of 2015, 8 other promising varieties, sourced from Chiredzi Research Station, were planted in a demonstration plot. Growth, diseases, responses to different fertiliser applications and yields of tubers are being monitored. Where it does well: Cassava originated in South America and was introduced to Africa in the 16th century. It is now mostly grown in West Africa and the adjoining Congo basin, tropical South America and Southeast Asia. Generally, the crop requires a warm humid climate that is frost-free all year round. Maximum yields can be obtained where rainfall is fairly abundant. It can however withstand prolonged drought periods thus making it valuable in regions where annual rainfall is low or where seasonal distribution is irregular. Planting – harvesting time – What is harvested?: Cassava is propagated by stem cuttings and planted during the warmer, rainy season months. Cassava is primarily grown for its roots but all of the plant can be used. The roots are hand-harvested. The upper parts of the stems with the leaves are cut off before [...]

Grain Amaranth


Amaranthus spp. / Mowa (Sh) / Imbuya (N) Amaranths are annual herbs. They comprise about 70 species, including 3 grain amaranths. In Zimbabwe, we know the amaranth plant for its edible leaves, but in many parts of the world it is better known for its edible grain seeds. Grain amaranth is easy to grow, easy to harvest and easy to cook. It is gluten-free and a protein powerhouse. BIZ is involved in field trials with local NGOs to study the performance of species and varieties of grain amaranth, develop cultivation practices, and set-up seed banks, and jointly with local private companies working on a popping machine and running an information campaign drawing attention to the nutritional and health benefits of amaranth. Where it does well: Grain amaranth does well under conditions ideal for maize, but can be grown in semi-arid areas where it tolerates full sun, drought, high temperatures and low soil fertility. It is therefore an excellent crop for smallholders in Zimbabwe. Planting – harvesting time: Grain amaranth is grown during the rainy season and can be intercropped with traditional field crops. It matures in 3 months. Tender leaves can be harvested at 2-3 weeks interval till the end of the season. Average yield per ha: The yield of grain amaranth is comparable to rice or maize: 500-1,200 kg/ha. Amaranth is gluten-free. It contains more magnesium, iron and fibre than other gluten-free grains; and is second only to teff in calcium content. The amount, types and digestibility of proteins in amaranth make it an excellent plant source of high quality proteins. Food scientists consider the protein content of amaranth similar to milk. It is a great source of poly-unsaturated oils. It has cholesterol and [...]



Montane African Baobab / Adansonia kilima Between November 2013 and May 2014, BIZ carried out a resource survey for baobab in communal and resettled areas of Zimbabwe, to predict the annual harvest of baobab fruit, and how much of a large-scale market could be met sustainably, without creating deficits at the local consumption level or impacting detrimentally on the tree and its environment. Until recently, only one species of baobab was thought to exist on mainland Africa, Adansonia digitata. However, the presence of a second species, Adansonia kilima, has been confirmed in Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia, Namibia and South Africa. Adansonia kilima is generally restricted to moderate elevations (650-1500m) while A. digitata prefers elevations below 800m. During the resource assessment, morphological analysis was used to confirm the presence of A. kilima in Zimbabwe also. Mature trees of A. kilima and A. digitata look similar. There are, however, some differences: Tree shape: A. kilima is usually bottle shaped, whereas A. digitata is generally broad relative to height. Flowers: Flowers of A. kilima are smaller (about half the size of A. digitata), and often found in large numbers per tree. Differences in the length and posture of the petals make it easy to distinguish from a distance the smaller, partly closed calyx and partially exposed anthers of A. kilima from the larger calyx with fully exposed anthers and effaced petals of open A. digitata flowers. Size and density of stomata in leaves: The stomata lengths of A. kilima are much smaller than those of A. digitata. Similarly, the stomatal density of A. digitata is much lower than that of A. kilima. Leaves were collected from 4 different sample sites around Zimbabwe and the size and density of the [...]



Sclerocarya birrea / Mupfura (Sh) / Umganu (N) The marula tree is indigenous to the miombo woodlands of southern Africa. Most well known for its fruits that 'drive elephants mad' when dropped to the ground and lightly fermented, marula is a much-loved tree in the veld in Africa. Marula season is a time of festivity that cannot be compared to any other time of the year. The fruit is very rich in vitamin C. The nut oil is similar in its properties to olive oil, highly nutritious and exceptionally stable, but with the additional benefit of having powerful antioxidant properties. It is highly valued as a skincare ingredient. Where it can be found: Marula is widely distributed at low and medium altitudes in open woodlands across Zimbabwe. It is especially associated with hot, dryland areas and is an excellent source of supplementary nutrition and income for rural people living in areas of limited agricultural potential. Two studies show the sustainability of harvesting marula in Zimbabwe. The National University of Science and Technology carried out a survey in Bulilima and Mangwe districts and calculated that trees yield about 76,000 tonnes of fruit per year. End of 2014, BIZ carried out a marula resource assessment in Binga, Hwange and Beitbridge districts. There are about 530,000, 510,000 and 1,760,000 marula trees in the 3 districts surveyed (excluding national parks), giving a potential yield of 150,000 tonnes of fruits per year. Using the kernel to fruit yields from Chivi, this means Bulilima and Mangwe could produce about 1,400 tonnes and Binga, Hwange and Beitbridge over 2,500 tonnes of kernels per year. To put these figures in perspective: BIZ is currently supplying about 10 tonnes of kernels to [...]



Ziziphus mauritiana / Masau (Sh) The masau is a tropical fruit tree species. Though not indigenous, it has widely naturalised in southern Africa and is found throughout Zimbabwe. The fruits are rich in vitamin C and can be made into fruit powder, fruit slices, juice and jam for the local market. They are well-known as the basis for a traditional distilled alcoholic beverage called kachasu. Where it does well: Masau is a hardy tree that copes with extreme temperatures and thrives under rather dry conditions. It is found throughout Zimbabwe, but only fruits in the lower lying areas. It is especially associated with the lower Zambezi valley, where it is an important supplement to rural incomes and nutritional status. What is harvested - Harvesting time: The fruits are collected during the dry season from May to August. Average yield: Trees yield 80 to 100 kg of fresh fruit/year when the trees are in their prime bearing age of 10–20 years. The fruits are rich in vitamin C and contain useful quantities of calcium, iron and phosphorus. The fruit is eaten raw, but also as candied fruit, fruit in syrup, fruit leather, jam and juice. It is also used as the basis for a locally-distilled alcoholic beverage, kachasu. Ripe fruits are preserved by sun-drying and a powder is prepared for out-of-season purposes. The local, informal trade of masau is mostly at urban fruit and vegetable markets. It is formally traded as a jam. The potential on the local market is in the jam, fruit slices, juice, and fruit powder and as a basis for an alcoholic beverage. Current trials in Zimbabwe are focusing on a range of potential beverage applications.

Resurrection Bush


Myrothamnus flabellifolia / Mupfandichimuka (Sh) / Umafavuke (N) Resurrection bush is a woody shrub with tough branches. For most of the year it looks like an upright bundle of red-brownish sticks, no more than 30-50cm high. It is called resurrection bush for the speed with which apparently dead leaves revive when the rains come. Tea is made from its leaves and twigs, traditionally to treat among other ailments: colds, kidney problems, asthma, backaches and headaches. Where it can be found: The resurrection bush is very widespread in Zimbabwe. It is found only in shallow soil over rock, crevices and rocky hillsides where few other plants survive, in full sun, usually between 900-1,200m. The plant can also be cultivated. A Swiss-South African private company has been working on its propagation for over 12 years. BIZ is working closely with them so future trials can be run in Zimbabwe also. What is harvested - Harvesting time: Collection is done between May and September, after the rains. Harvesting can also be done during short dry spells during the wet season, when the plant has dehydrated. For tea producers, the smaller twigs and dry leaves are collected. For extract production and ornamental use, longer (20cm), dry, leafy sticks are picked. Average yield per collector: Where abundant, 20-30 kg can be collected for the tea market in a day. Although a farmer can only harvest about 10 kg of good quality sticks per day, prices paid for these are much higher. A study comparing resurrection bush tea to rooibos tea found that resurrection bush tea has antioxidant properties comparable to rooibos. Resurrection bush tea is a rich source of phenolic compounds which act as antioxidants and strong inhibitors of the [...]

Fever Tea Tree


Lippia javanica / Zumbani (Sh) / Umsuzwane (N) When crushed, the leaves of the Fever Tea tree, locally known as Zumbani, give off a strong lemon-like smell. It is said to be one of the most aromatic of Zimbabwe's indigenous shrubs. Where it can be found: The Fever Tea tree is widely distributed throughout Zimbabwe, in all Natural Regions. It is known to colonise disturbed areas, making it a pioneer plant. It is very hardy and can grow under difficult circumstances, requiring little maintenance. It prefers sunny areas. It can easily be cultivated, from seed or cuttings, by small-scale farming families. What is harvested - Harvesting time: Smallholder farmers harvest the leaves during a very short harvesting period, from March to May. Average yield per collector: An individual can produce up to 200 kg of dry leaf material/year. The plant possesses analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-pyretic and anti-bacterial activities. Zumbani is caffeine-free and contains some amounts of vital minerals such as copper, zinc and iron. It contains flavonoids and phenolic compounds which are water-soluble. These compounds possess antioxidant qualities, which are quite significantly higher than in rooibos tea. Zumbani tea is exceptionally low in tannin (much lower than rooibos). The dried leaves are made into a herbal tea, to treat coughs, colds, bronchial problems and to bring down fever, to treat dysentery and diarrhoea, rashes and headaches. The leaves can also repel insects in wardrobes and cupboards, much like lavender. Current formal local demand for dried leaves is small. The opportunity for Zumbani lies in its promotion as a (ice) tea, as herbal teas are fast gaining popularity. Estimated potential demand is around 100 tonnes/year on the local market and 1,000 tonnes/year on the export [...]

Devil’s Claw


Harpagophytum zeyheri / procumbens / Inkunzane enkulu (N) Devil’s claw got its name from the peculiar appearance of its hooked fruit.The plant's large tuberous roots are used medicinally to reduce pain and fever, and to stimulate digestion. Early colonisers brought devil's claw to Europe where it’s been used to treat arthritis and rheumatism. Where it can be found: Devil’s claw is found in the western parts of Zimbabwe, predominantly on Kalahari sands, but also other sandy areas, in dry open woodland. Highest densities can be found in areas degraded due to overgrazing/trampling where there is little competition from other vegetation. Harpagophytum zeyheri has a wider distribution than Harpagophytum procumbens; current ecological surveys being carried out show the presence of H. zeyheri in Hwange, Tsholotsho, Lupane, Matobo and Beitbridge districts; H. procumbens has so far only been found in Beitbridge district. In collaboration with the Department of Forest Resources and Wildlife Management at the National University of Science and Technology in Bulawayo, appropriate cultivation methods (such as planting seedlings with harvesters in areas where devil’s claw already grows) are being trialed, to reduce pressure on wild populations, increase the resource base and to rehabilitate areas in which unsustainable harvesting has taken place. What is harvested - Harvesting time: The secondary storage tubers of the plant are harvested from March to October, but harvesting usually starts in June, once the rains have ceased and crops have been harvested from the fields. Tubers are sliced and dried. Average yield per collector: To produce 1 kg of dried material, a harvester must dig up 5-10 plants and harvest 4-5 kg of tubers. In 2013, 250 farmers in Hwange district produced 3 tonnes of organically certified dried devil’s claw; [...]

Sweet Thorn


Acacia karroo / Muunga (Sh) / Isinga (N) The Sweet Thorn is a species of Acacia, native to southern Africa. The tree gets its common name from the gum which is exuded from wounds in the bark. This pleasant tasting, very water-soluble gum has commercial value as a substitute for Gum Arabic. Where it can be found: The Sweet Thorn is widespread in Zimbabwe, though most prolific in the south-west of the country. It can be found in NR 1 to 5, above 1,000m. It is a fast-growing, adaptable pioneer, able to establish itself without shade, shelter or protection from grass fires. It grows to its greatest size when rainfall of 800-900mm is received but can grow and even thrive in very dry conditions. The tree is easy to grow also, making it suitable for smallholder production. What is harvested - Harvesting time: The gum must be collected between August-October. Average yield per collector: One person can bleed up to 100 trees per day. Each tree yields an average of 300g of gum/season. The gum is very soluble in water and forms solutions over a wide range of concentrations without becoming highly viscous. It is a substitute for Gum Arabic, which is widely used as a stabiliser, emulsifier and thickening agent in the confectionary and meat processing industry, as an ingredient in lotions and creams, and by pharmaceutical companies. Preliminary production trials and subsequent marketing efforts established that the gum is lower quality and value than Gum Arabic, but still marketable. Locally, the gum can be used by the food and paper industry. Historically, limited amounts of A. karroo gum have been marketed in Zimbabwe as Gum Arabic, although the decline in local food manufacturing [...]