Rural communities are being empowered to safeguard against hunger through the "Zunde Ramambokadzi" concept that encourages the growing of drought-tolerant small grains that are rich in nutritional value, thanks to First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa's initiatives.
Reports of people requiring food assistance are not new in Zimbabwe whenever there is poor rainfall.
In a bid to improve food availability, the First Lady yesterday rolled out the Zunde Ramambokadzi initiative that is anchored on small grain production.
The decision by Amai Mnangagwa to rope in chiefs' wives in her various initiatives is in recognition of their role as the first port of call each time a person visits a chief's homestead.
The inclusion of traditional leaders' wives, the First Lady said, will enable her to fulfil her vision of reaching out to the vulnerable.
She said they are community leaders who receive visitors and are told of the various purposes of such visits such as hunger and other social issues.
Chiefs' Council president Chief Fortune Charumbira's wife, Mrs Priscilla Charumbira, said they were grateful that the First Lady had recognised their role and seen it fit to work with them.
"We are thankful that the First Lady has seen it fit to work with us as people who work with the communities and attend to the needs of those affected by hunger and the poor. This is important and we welcome her vision because small grains can thrive in less rainfall areas.
"Recently, Amai also gave us goats to start projects which are doing extremely well. Out of the two goats we received per head, some people now have six. The most important thing is that she is giving us fishing rods and not the fish and this is the kind of empowerment we yearn for," she said.
Mai Tsitsi Makumbe, wife to Chief Makumbe of Manicaland, said she felt challenged to start visiting communities encouraging people to grow and consume small grains.
"We thank Amai Mnangagwa for this programme. Small grains have high nutritional value, but our youths are shunning such foods. There are many diseases today because of some of the foods we are consuming, hence our role as chiefs' wives is to teach people especially women in our communities to grow these crops and eat healthy.
"We also want to promote the spirit of giving and sharing, something that the First Lady is always teaching us," she said.
In a speech read on her behalf by Masvingo Provincial Affairs Minister Ezra Chadzamira at the launch of the programme for Masvingo and Manicaland provinces, the First Lady identified women as the natural leaders of the initiative.
"I have come to roll out this programme of Zunde Ramambokadzi which promotes the production of small grains that is different from the one administered by chiefs. The aim is to teach all women to appreciate the importance of such crops," she said.
"This programme reminds us of the yesteryear women's granary where such crops were kept in different compartments in the granaries.
"Now we are saying every woman should have a food store, which will help the household in times of need in keeping with the dictates of climate change.
"We should encourage and plead with our chiefs to help us in this project so that we also help look after the people they lead."
The First Lady said empowering the traditional leaders' wives was a step towards empowering the whole community.
She said to counter the effects of climate change that was characterised by poor rainfall, there was scope in urging communities to plant small grains that were drought-tolerant and required less fertiliser.
"These small grains just need water at the germination stage and will always reach maturity, making it easier to meet the nutritional requirements of people even in times of drought. Small grains do not require much fertiliser compared to maize, making it possible for everyone to cultivate them," she said.
Health practitioners, she said, encouraged people to eat small grain crops because of their high nutritional value.
Amai Mnangagwa said there was room for communities to raise income for the sustenance of their families through the commercial production of small grains.
She added that the programme will cascade to all the country's provinces.
Local Government and Public Works Deputy Minister Marian Chombo was full of praise for the efforts being made by Amai Mnangagwa to economically empower communities.
She urged beneficiaries of the First Lady's programmes not to disappoint.
"Through her Angel of Hope Foundation, Amai has managed to give us assistance. As Masvingo, we follow her footsteps and support her in all her programmes that she rolls out to change our lives. In this province we shall spearhead the cultivation of small grains like millet and sorghum in all districts, especially in Mwenezi and Chivi, which usually do well with these grains.
"I hope through devolution, we will get hammer mills that do value addition and have porridge and mealie-meal to sell to urban areas like Harare which have markets," she said.