Why We Do It
We’re interested in developing the commercial potential of overlooked species in Zimbabwe not just because it’s fun (though that’s a pretty good reason!), but also because we think they have a huge role to play in Zimbabwe’s future.
Non-timber forest products represent a critical resource for communities: many are drought tolerant, having evolved in and adapted to the local environment.
They are available to both productive and extremely poor households because of the minimal barriers to entry. No seeds, no pesticides and no fertilisers are required and anyone with the ability to carry a bucket can harvest them.
They favour women. Harvesting, especially of fruit from indigenous trees, is dominated largely by women. Processing of many wild products takes place at home, allowing it to fit around other domestic chores and responsibilities.
Many of these species produce nutritious, harvestable produce at different seasonal times to conventional food crops, thus carrying people through lean periods.
They add important diversity to rural people’s livelihoods and income sources. Creating different income opportunities spreads the risk and strengthens the resilience of rural people, especially in the face of changing climatic conditions.
They are plants where Zimbabwean producers have a natural advantage over other producers internationally, because we’re growing them in their native environment. While rural Zimbabwean farmers may struggle to compete with other countries in things like soy, they are substantially more competitive when it comes to local species.
Just as importantly, they often add nutritional diversity to people’s everyday diets. Raising awareness of the nutritional value of indigenous crops/ products also raises their status in source communities and encourages increased consumption. With the third fastest growing diabetes rate in Africa, thanks in large part to the dominance of white flour and processed maize meal in Zimbabwean diets, the importance of these highly nutritious, high-fibre and lower-GI foods cannot be underestimated.