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 [...]

Mongongo nuts, though tough, are worth cracking!


In Silobela village, Kwekwe district, central Zimbabwe, mongongo kernels are the new cash crop for communities. More than 150 individuals now sell kernels to Bio-Innovation Zimbabwe. Thembelani Sibanda, 39, from Mpinda Community, was facing serious economic hardships, having to rely on her husband’s erratic income from firewood sales for the family’s needs. Mongongo fruits are well known in her area. In addition to making cooking oil from the nuts, Thembelani is also experienced at turning the pulp from the fruit into a tasty beer or porridge during times of drought. She is amazed at how much money can also be made from the accessible and abundant fruits! From her first batch of shelled nuts, Thembelani made USD 267 which covered school fees for her 5 children and paid for a bicycle for her youngest son who has to cycle 7km to and from school daily. As the crops failed this year again due to lack of rains, Thembelani’s mongongo earnings also provided enough money to buy 6 bags of grain for the family. Thembelani proudly notes that since she now contributes to the family’s income, her husband accepts her decisions.

Unexpected rewards from wild melons in Silobela


Silobela is an agricultural village in Kwekwe district. That part of the district falls in Agricultural Region 4. Due to dwindling amounts of rainfall in the past decade, crop outputs have worsened further and the people have adopted gold panning as a common income generating activity. Despite the diminishing rains, wild trees, such as the Manketti tree and the Wild Plum, still fruit very well. Melons, both cultivated and wild, also grow well. Elizabeth is a 68-year-old widow taking care of a family of 9 in Mpinda ward. She used to sell garden vegetables in her neighbourhood. However, the income would only allow her to pay for milling of a bag of maize for her family. Melons are a common, abundant crop in Silobela, such that no one sells them to anyone. Farmers eat them and feed their livestock on them. Amazingly, they grow and fruit well when there is less rain. Selling wild melon seed was something new to everyone in the village. Elizabeth sold 35kgs of melon seed to BIZ after a training a few months earlier. With the money she paid for clearing of more land to plant more melons in the next season, bought grain to supplement her food reserves for the family, paid school fees and bought clothes for her grandchildren. She is planning to sell many more seeds after the next rainy season so that she can buy grain for food instead of trying to farm it which always fails because the rains haven’t been good in the past few years.

A new market for Resurrection bush for Chivi collectors


“I bought 3 goats as an investment” Jesca lives in Ward 16 in Chivi. The area has been receiving less and less rain over the years. Farmers have resorted to planting small grains, although some still customarily stick to growing maize which has been dwindling in productivity over the years. “I joined the Natural Resources Production Cooperative 6 years ago to make money to look after my 7 children and 4 grandchildren since my husband is not employed. Through the cooperative, I sell vegetables from my garden, marula kernels, Zumbani leaves and resurrection bush tea.” “Resurrection bush is the most rewarding. I spend less time on it because the production is straightforward. And this last time, the price went up 5 times! (BIZ was contacted by a South-African-Swiss company looking for 1 tonne of resurrection bush plant material for use as ornamentals and for extract production.) I managed to sell 500kgs. With some of the money, I bought 3 she-goats as an investment. I will let them reproduce to sell the kids and pay for the secondary school education of my grandchildren. My grandchildren are almost of the same age so they will need school fees, uniforms and books at the same time, so goat selling will be a great business to enable me to cover the expenses.” “I thank BIZ for finding this new market for us. I am a grateful businesswoman who is keen to learn more business ideas around our local natural resources and also to keep these resources for future generations.”

Organic grain amaranth production came to the rescue of the Mbofanas


The Mbofana family of Pawandiwa village, Nyamhanza B ward 18, Mutoko district, is a very large family comprising of 11 members. The family is headed by Agnes Mbofana who is a widow aged 67 with 4 children and 6 grandchildren. They own 4 hectares of land. CADS trained farmers including Mbofana family members on organic farming and conservation agriculture, where farmers practise minimum soil disturbance, permanent soil cover, crop rotation and high crop management standards. Mrs. Mbofana had this to say about her organic grain amaranth production: “Before the season started we had no inputs at all, in fact we had no money to even buy seed or fertilisers. In the rural areas it’s very difficult to get money.  The organic farming programme came to our rescue. We used only compost, which is inexpensive. There is no use of inorganic fertilisers at all.” “Because of the time and dedication we as a family put into our farming we managed to grow 0.2 ha of grain amaranth, 1.5 ha of maize, 0.5 ha of groundnuts and 0.3 ha of cowpeas. Of all the crops, grain amaranth did best. “Our yield could have been even better if it was not for the long dry spells and then incessant rains which caused leaching of nutrients. We managed to sell 160kg of amaranth grain. With the money I bought building materials for my 2-roomed house which is now under construction. Grain amaranth organic farming has rewarded me with a better house. With the hope that the coming seasons will be good, we will be able to fend for ourselves. We are a good example of how a project can uplift the standards of life of rural people. We urge [...]

Marula makes a real difference


Chivi and Mwenezi lie in south-central Zimbabwe. It is a semi-arid area; annual rainfall is low (around 500-600 mm) and erratic, and soils are poor and prone to erosion. Although considered unsuitable for dry land cropping, smallholder farmers grow drought-tolerant varieties of maize, sorghum, pearl and finger millet, and some cash crops such as cotton, groundnuts and round nuts. Often harvests are inadequate. The key to food security is the capacity of households to earn enough cash to purchase food throughout the year. The opportunities for employment are varied. They include local casual work, seasonal farm work for better-off households, farm work on plantations and estates, and temporary or permanent jobs in the mines in the area, or towns within Zimbabwe and South Africa. A number of rivers provide irrigation, gold panning and some fishing opportunities. Nonetheless, this is an area of chronic poverty and food insecurity. There is an abundance of marula trees in Chivi and Mwenezi though! Marula grows in the driest, remotest and least agriculturally productive areas of Zimbabwe. Wherever it grows, it is venerated and preserved by local people for the abundance and reliable harvest of its edible fruits. BIZ has been partnering with local women in Chivi and Mwenezi since 2012, helping them add value to the fruits and find markets for their products. They receive training on how to collect marula fruit, decorticate the nut, extract marula oil, and produce marula nut butter. Vongai (39) from ward 16 in Chivi district joined the project at the start. She explains: “I wake up early to pick freshly fallen fruit, probably all from 1 tree. Once home, I remove the yellow skin and squeeze the juice into a [...]