Saving wild fruits from extinction

In drought-prone areas like Matabeleland, the Zambezi Valley and the Lowveld, wild fruits are a reliable source of food in times of hunger and are served as snacks between meals under normal circumstances.

Wild fruits have always been a reliable source of food during times of hunger.
Wild fruits have always been a reliable source of food during times of hunger.

Families in these areas keep a close watch as harvest time draws near and there is a scramble when the fruit ripens. The fruits have also been commercialised by traders who sell them in towns and cities.

But their existence is under threat from random felling of the fruit trees, especially in newly resettled farming areas, veld fires and recurrent droughts.

The International Institute for Research in Ethno-Botanical (INREB) has begun a three-pronged programme of domestication, processing and marketing indigenous trees and fruits in Binga and Lusulu in Matabeleland North. The programmes’s officer, Noel Mwanza, told The Zimbabwean that many families in areas like Dande, Binga, Chiredzi and Hwange depend on traditional fruit trees for one thing or another .

“Recent research has shown that wild fruits are an important source of food, cash and medicine. They are a rich source of nutrients and also provide food for wild animals,” said Mwanza.

Extracts from indigenous trees are increasingly used as substitutes for anti-retroviral drugs for people living with HIV/Aids.

Some 300 smallholder farmers in Hwange and Binga have so far been trained to grow fruit trees.

“We are encouraging people to grow indigenous fruit tree orchards at their homesteads .We have trained trainers who are teaching villagers on grafting fruit trees.

In Binga and Hwange we have taught villagers to graft indigenous trees like uxakuxaku, Umviyo and Umkhemeswane. They are growing very well “he said.

In the Zambezi valley, Mwanza said his organisation is promoting the growing ofMasawu fruit, which is now very popular at urban market places. They also plan to set up micro-processing plants to produce juices and jelly from the fruits.

Post published in: Environment

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