First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa yesterday urged chiefs' wives to lead in embracing the cultivation of traditional grains to enhance food security while mitigating against drought.
The First Lady said this after meeting wives of chiefs from Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South and Midlands who were accompanied their husbands at a Bulawayo hotel.
She said while chiefs have their Isiphala seNkosi/Zunde Ramambo, their wives should also be empowered to transform lives of the vulnerable in their communities through the Isiphala samakhosikazi ezinduna/Zunde Ramambokadzi.
Amai Mnangagwa donated seeds for traditional crops as a way of promoting their cultivation.
"Because of climate change, we are seeing ourselves in the promotion of the traditional grains," she said.
"The unexpected variation in the climate is responsible for the successive droughts and disruptions in the expected rainfall patterns.
"We have experienced the challenges of climate change, so we are looking at proposals of solutions to the problem. This has prompted me to come to you chiefs' wives because of the duties you have in your communities and the impact you have on other women in your communities.
"We are saying today this is now our work to start growing these traditional grains in our homesteads as chiefs' wives."
Amai Mnangagwa said embracing the traditional grains would result in improved food security.
"Traditional grains such as millet and sorghum require less rainfall and hence play a pivotal role for present and future human use due to prevailing conditions," she said.
"Grains such as millet have a health benefit like reducing blood pressure, heart diseases and other diseases affecting human life.
"Through this initiative, we also want to encourage change in the eating habits so that we boost more consumption of our traditional grain. We need chiefs' wives to demonstrate by leading in the eating of these traditional grains at family level."
Amai Mnangagwa said there was need for a campaign to encourage the consumption of traditional foods as younger generations seemed to be shunning them.
She said with traditional foods in chiefs' wives' silos, there would be no excuse for the vulnerable in communities to go hungry.
She said her office would also be facilitating competitions on traditional foods to encourage their acceptability in homes and even for tourists.
"This will see our visitors who come to Zimbabwe being interested in our places of interests as well as traditional foods," said Amai Mnangagwa.
"So, the ball is now in your court. I have also brought with me vegetable seeds. I would not tell you how to use them, but I guess the vegetable seeds will compel you to do something."
Speaking on behalf of chiefs' wives, Chief Shana's wife Regina, praised the First Lady for the empowering project.
She said traditional foods were in the past a key component of a family's meal hence the First Lady's programme would see communities rededicating themselves to their cultivation.
"We grew up eating meals from traditional foods, maize meal was just, but a luxury to us," she said.
"This is a challenge for us to start cultivating traditional foods to improve our food security and we are happy to take the challenge."
The event was attended by Bulawayo Metropolitan Minister of State Judith Ncube and Matabeleland South Minister of State Abednego Ncube.
Matabeleland North Minister of State Richard Moyo and Midlands Minister of State Larry Mavima sent representatives.
Meanwhile, the First Lady commissioned 100 Pepsi vending push carts for women in Bulawayo South constituency courtesy of Industry and Commerce Deputy Minister Raj Modi.
The event, which was held at Sizinda suburb grounds, saw Amai Mnangagwa also donating food hampers to the elderly under the banner of her Angel of Hope Foundation.
She said Pepsi was empowering the nation.
"Empowering women in any form is vital to building a future we want," she said.
"Women empowerment increases the capacity of individuals and groups to make choices and transform their choices into desired actions and outcome.
"It is the 'can do factor' shifting away from 'I can't to I can". When women are given the resources to successfully lead their own projects work towards their goals and drive their career, we call that development. Pespi has brought development to our women."
One of the beneficiaries under the Pepsi programme, Ms Getrude Mambeu said the vending booth would see her being able provide her family through selling Pepsi products.
Deputy Minister Modi, who is the legislator for the area, said in partnership with Pepsi, he was empowering women as they were always victims of abuse in communities.
"Most of them do not have any financial freedom," he said.
"Therefore, it is better to give them the fishing rod instead of giving them the fish. That is what we are doing today, giving them the push cart and free ice and the product at wholesale price, which they can sell at a reasonable price to the public."