LATEST: Hardworking First Lady Amai Auxillia Mnangagwa appointed ambassador

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WILDLIFE conservation requires team work as it calls for serious attention, commitment and dedication, First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa said on Monday night while accepting her new role as the country’s Wildlife Ambassador accorded to her by the Ministry of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry.

Dr Mnangagwa who is also the country’s Patron for Environment and Tourism, said she was committed to do her best for the country working with other relevant stakeholders to ensure that they expand, bolster and strengthen wildlife based tourism which gives birth to a chain of benefits to the nation.

Amai Mnangagwa was accorded her new role at an event where she also launched her traditional cuisines cookbook to enhance the uptake of indigenous dishes in a first of its kind achievement by a sitting First Lady.

Titled “Cooking with Amai: Zimbabwean Traditional Cuisine Cookbook” the book consists of mouth-watering recipes that were compiled from all the country’s 10 provinces when the First Lady held traditional meal cookout competitions across the country.

Traditional dishes which the mother of the nation has been promoting countrywide have high nutritional value and medicinal properties.

Already, Rainbow Towers has started to prepare some of the dishes in the menu book in appreciation of Amai’s work.

On their menu they now also have Amai’s menu in honour of the First Lady.

For their desserts, they included sweet potato strudel, baobab mousse, nhopi and hodzeko cheesecake.

“I am both excited and humbled to be part of this event for a double celebration of the launch of the traditional cuisines cookbook as well as celebrate our joint efforts in wildlife conservation in Zimbabwe. This is a unique event which I hope will spur us to more action on both the issues we are gathered here to celebrate.

“Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to speak briefly about the two events we are celebrating today, separately. With regards to the Traditional Foods programme, my vision is basically to promote the consumption of our local cuisines which have been known to be healthier for human consumption than the super refined foods that most families consume today. I am pleased that as we traversed from one corner of the country the team from Chinhoyi University of Technology, that was part of the programme, took time to record the recipes for each of the meals that were prepared. This culminated in the book “Cooking with Amai: Zimbabwean Traditional Cuisine Cookbook”. The book is therefore a lasting reminder of the exciting journey that led to the collection of these diverse traditional recipes from the ten provinces of Zimbabwe. Thank you Chinhoyi University of Technology!” she said.

The compilation of the recipe book, the First Lady said, reflected the knowledge and experiences of men and women from all walks of life including the young, elderly, chiefs’ wives, and academics who either assisted in coming up with such well-researched rich history and culture, or those who participated in the competitions as well.

“I note, with satisfaction, that most of the local traditional ingredients are organic and have been known to have therapeutic properties, which are desirable in this era of healthy eating. Medical practitioners and nutritionists in Zimbabwe recommend some of these dishes for healthy eating and nutritional purposes. No wonder why our elders did not suffer from many of these diseases related to the consumption of processed foods, as compared to nowadays. It was largely due to consumption of our organic foods,” she said.

The aim of the cookbook, Dr Mnangagwa said, was to revive the interest in preparation and consumption of traditional foods found in Zimbabwe to people of all age groups at home and abroad.

Traditional knowledge, she said, had been transformed into real taste and aroma on plates, which brought life to Zimbabwe’s heritage by practically preserving products.

“The recipes in this book are easy to make. Due to modernisation and innovations the authentic traditional context in this book refers specifically to the food, that is, ingredients and final product. The traditional methods include cooking methods which may differ from region to region.

“The book ‘Cooking with Amai’ unleashes a plethora of traditional dishes to be prepared in homes and hotel restaurants, restaurants offering traditional cuisine, airlines, schools, Tourism and Hospitality Training Institutions, among others. Furthermore, this book is the beginning of an adventurous journey with our traditional foods as we acknowledge the world of new traditional dishes through global culinary infusions.

“Let our culinary skills speak louder to the whole global village that we are able, we can care, we deliver and that culinary tourism is fast growing, thus tourism without food is an incomplete adventure. Food is also a way of defining us as a people, therefore to know us is to know our cuisine as well. Chidyai chikafu chinovaka muviri zvinoita kuti hutano hwedu huyenderere mberi,” she said.

With regards to the request by the Ministry of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry, the First Lady said it was with profound pleasure, dignity and honour that she accepted to assume the role of Zimbabwe Wildlife Ambassador.

“I have thoroughly considered the expectations that go with the role and commit to do my best for my country in this regard. I note that the spatial extent of areas under wildlife management is over 27 percent of Zimbabwe. This includes gazetted Protected Area under Parks and Wildlife Management, which constitutes 13 percent, with the rest falling under gazetted Forestry Areas, private properties, conservancies, communal and CAMPFIRE areas. This is a clear indication that wildlife conservation in our country calls for serious attention, commitment and dedication.

“I commend team work from the Ministry of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry, other related Ministries, Zimbabwe Parks and wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks), conservation partners and stakeholders for the good work you are doing in this sector. In accepting this role I will work with you to ensure that we expand, bolster and strengthen wildlife based tourism which gives birth to a chain of benefits to the Nation such as jobs, food, foreign currency, education, raw materials for the beneficiation industry among others. We have a burning desire to expand, strengthen, engage and re-engage with the regional and international community,” she said.

Amai Mnangagwa said she was informed that through the existing six Transfrontier conservation areas (TFCAs) and international and regional conventions the country subscribed to the work already in progress.

“Diplomacy and lobbying with the international community to reclaim our position therefore become key and should there be need I will assist to the extent that I can.

“Our thrust will be to ensure that wildlife management in Zimbabwe, from communal to private conservancies contribute towards the achievement of Vision 2030: towards a prosperous and empowered Upper Middle Class Economy, which is enshrined in the National Sustainable Development 1 (NSD1) from 2020 – 2025. His Excellency the President’s mantra “Nyika inovakwa nevene vayo” is very relevant to this cause.

“I have no doubt in my mind that this role comes with a myriad of challenges, including tackling illegal wildlife harvesting, veld fires, encroachment, spreading of invasive alien species. I pledge to unravel opportunities which are sleeping giants in the very challenges.”

Dr Mnangagwa said she was indebted to the general populace of Zimbabwe to serve them in the efforts to preserve, conserve and manage wildlife resources and heritage of Zimbabwe.

“My appointment mirrors a lot on my capability to handle the wildlife issues in Zimbabwe together with my team. I stand ready to play my part in wildlife consideration, tackling human-wildlife conflict and generally making a positive contribution to this sector.

Finally I wish to thank the Ministry and all other players in the sector for bestowing such an honour on me,” she said.

Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Mangaliso Ndlovu said he was gratified by the launch of the inaugural cookout book and the acceptance of the new role by the First Lady.

“This event is itself a culmination of solid efforts to leave an indelible mark on our intangible national heritage and a firm commitment to preserve our rich culture through promoting our national culinary. I am aware it all began with cookout competitions that have just gone through their second year running now which are aimed at promoting a healthy lifestyle for all Zimbabwean citizens through encouraging consumption of local foods while promoting the inclusion of all diverse traditional dishes into the hospitality sector,” he said.

He said through traditional dishes, tourists would get the insights into the country’s culture which they want.

“Your excellency I am deeply humbled by your visionary leadership that has guided us this far to preserve these recipes in a written format. These recipes were drawn from all the 10 provinces and they play an ambassadorial role in marketing Zimbabwe in its entirety together with our wonderful people and culture and everything that sets us apart from the rest of the world. It is critical as we position ourselves to market our collective skills set through this unique book that all hotels and chefs across the divide can take centre stage in the promotion of local cuisine and serve such food to local and international tourists. Of note your Excellency is that you brought to the fore the need to amplify culinary tourism which on itself can build on the successful Land Reform Programme started by the Government to strengthen linkages between agriculture and the tourism sector.”

Minister Ndlovu said culinary tourism can instil in locals a sense of national pride and ensure unemployment rate remain low especially in rural areas with low economic activity.

He said during her travels around the country with her philanthropic work, the First Lady came face-to-face with human wildlife conflict.

“Being the compassionate mother that she is, Her Excellency then initiated dialogue between my ministry and Zimparks to find a lasting solution to the problem. Eventually as the discussions on human-wildlife conflict progressed, the forum became one where we picked a lot of fruitful ideas about wildlife conservation, strategies to enhance wildlife co-existence with humans and possible solutions to mitigate human-wildlife conflict.”

Weeks later, the minister said, the First Lady was seen visiting victims of human wildlife conflict and assisting them in any manner she could.

“Families of victims were also given attention. Her passion is in community engagement and I can confirm that I am in a better position to avoid confrontation with animals just from taping into the wisdom and knowledge. On the other hand, she gave us some valuable thoughts as inputs into the wildlife policy we are now crafting and I can assure you that her guidance has always been pro-communities and pro-conservation. With leadership of Her Excellency demonstrated in the above issues, it was only natural that we then requested her to become Zimbabwe’s Wildlife Ambassador,” he said to thunderous applause.

Earlier, Minister Ndlovu’s deputy, Barbara Rwodzi highlighted the opportunities that abound because of traditional dishes.

“As Government, we will have to commercialise these businesses through Zimtrade with the help of ZTA, with the help of Ministry of Women Affairs to promote these businesses. Our winner for this year Mrs Stella Chitsunge is already exporting her products to England and they are already in high demand,” she said.

Women’s Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Minister Sithembiso Nyoni spoke on the inclusion of women in production, preservation and marketing of traditional foods.

“Amai thank you very much for coming up with this noble initiative of promoting the consumption of our traditional foods by both locals and our visitors. The initiative has not only raised awareness among locals on the value derived from our traditional cuisine but it has also opened an array of opportunities for women as well as small and medium enterprises in the area of production, preservation and marketing of traditional foods.

“Women play a big role in what is consumed in households. We therefore applaud you Amai for involving all women, especially those at grassroots level in the cookout competition. This has created excitement as there is great anticipation for future consumption and activities which have led to the deliberate approach by communities to farm, grow and preserve traditional foods that are unique to their provinces as they prepare for this national event. This was never so before. My Ministry working with other relevant ministries such as the ministry of lands, agriculture, water and rural development will from now on work towards strategising on how we can work with women throughout Zimbabwe to totally package and preserve these ingredients. The aim is to bridge the gap especially from the seasonal foods so as to make sure that our dishes are served to our people and tourists throughout the year.

“Furthermore, we already see an opportunity for value addition through packaging so that vegetables are available throughout the year.”

Minister Nyoni said she was privileged to attend the finals that were held on the 25th of May 2022 and was aware that there were ministries from Zambia, Tanzania, Namibia Botswana and Malawi that were fascinated by the competition.

“Indeed the feeling among us as ministers that were there is that the programme can be broadened with the finals taking a regional content. An immediate opportunity that we saw, the potential of exporting properly preserved and well-packaged traditional foods, this is an avenue that my ministry will also pursue very vigorously. This initiative has helped us push the main agenda of my ministry which is all about empowering women to fully participate in economic activities so as to build a stronger economy and improve the quality of life in communities.”

Other ministers who attended the event included Higher Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development Minister Professor Amon Murwira, Deputy Minister of Local Government Cde Marian Chombo, Minister of State for Harare Metropolitan Province Oliver Chidawu and Permanent Secretary for Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Nick Mangwana among other dignitaries.

— Herald


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