Imagine a member of parliament earning his/her ticket into parliament on the basis of how s/he articulates food and nutrition issues to consumers. That means looking at potential voters more as consumers than just voters. Such a scenario is not very far from happening in both developed and developing countries as more people become aware of the value of eating the right kinds of food not just food.
A policy maker who understands the importance of the right food stands high chances of winning the hearts and postal votes of Zimbabweans living in the United Kingdom. Zimbabweans living in Northampton, Milton Keynes, Wellingborough, Rusden and other cities in the United Kingdom drive miles for to get beef that tastes closer to Zimbabwean beef. They certainly travel distances to get indigenous chickens from Tsholotsho, Binga and Bikita, not to mention Mawuyu and fruits from Mutoko, Buhera, Guruve and Gokwe. In the last six months, a company known as Zambezi Foods which used to supply Zimbabwean products to like maputi, groundnuts, dried vegetables (mufushwa) and many others suddenly stopped doing so. And you can guess what this means for Zimbabweans who had become accustomed to their food away from home.
Pre-land reform, a consortium of companies and white commercial farmers used to fly commodities like flowers, horticulture and meat from Zimbabwe to the UK and other European countries. In fact, Zimbabwe had its own beef quota into the European Union. One of the dynamics over the years is that there is now a huge African population in UK which demands some of the food which didn’t used to be exported by former commercial farmers. That means there is an entirely new market for Zimbabwean food waiting to be exploited. Also, with so much concern about processed food, organically produced Zimbabwean food will soon be part of the global food future. Partnerships and relationships are already cultivating this new paradigm.
“Maize meal, sweet potatoes, peanut butter (dovi), lemon creams biscuits, maputi, mufushwa, grass-fed beef and mazoe are some of the highly demanded foods in UK. These foods evoke enormous nolstagia for Zimbabwe as much as Nigerian food does the same for Nigerians. Initially Zimbabweans were excited about British food. Around 2005, Zimbabweans were more inclined to British culture (mainly language and food). Now that they have settled into British society, nolstagia is kicking in, causing a deep craving for home food. Women can drive 50 miles just to get Camphor Cream from Zimbabwe at GBP10 per bottle. While its good to tolerant each other as human beings, nothing can replace one’s true individual identity as British, Zimbabwean, Jamaican, Nigerian or Polish. People now prefer butchery meat than supermarket meat, perhaps due to whatever supermarkets do to beef and other forms of meat. Butchery meat is said to taste much better than that in supermarkets. Road runners and crows from India are now part of food in Britain,” said a Zimbabwean living in the UK.
Another Zimbabwean added:
“If Mangoes from India and vegetables from Ecuador can find their way into UK, why not those from Zimbabwe (Mutoko, Murewa, Mhondoro, etc), when we have strong historical ties with the UK and a growing population of Zimbabweans in the UK? Our relationships at household and community levels should be the foundation for robust food market not controlled by bureaucratic national and international trade processes.
Perhaps rather than dreaming of reviving companies like the Cold Storage Commission and a host of other big food companies to their earlier state, Zimbabweans should build small flexible companies that effectively coordinate themselves to supply agriculture commodities in developed countries like the UK. If 70 to 80% of European people are now employed by small and medium enterprises, why should Zimbabwe continue focusing on building gigantic companies that cannot swiftly respond to demand?
In a rapidly globalizing world, the future belongs to adaptive solutions and flexible arrangements.Development agencies should start exploring market – based approaches to poverty reduction by connecting local African producers with consumers and other value chain actors in developed countries like UK. It is now clear that lack of markets and related intelligence is holding back poverty reduction strategies in Zimbabwe and other developing countries. In a world where knowledge and people are becoming more and more mobile, food offer business opportunities at household and community levels.
“We came to UK around 2004 and cannot continue to remain consumers forever. While the Zimbabwean population in UK is increasing, there are very few Zimbabwean businesses in UK. We have to start smart win-win business partnerships. It’s not enough to send money (remittances) home through Western Union or Mukuru.com or eCocash because such money is insignificant for serious long-term investment. People have to be involved at grassroots level rather than leaving important issues like food to government alone. The Polish population in UK is the size of the Zimbabwean population but the Polish have established their own food systems and businesses. We certainly have to start thinking business rather than consumption,” another Zimbabwean said to eMKambo.
As shown below, people’s markets like Mbare Agriculture market in Harare continue to supply most of the food craved by Zimbabweans at home and around the world.
Mbare Wholesale Agriculture Market analysis March 2015
A total of nine products supplied to Mbare wholesale market during the month of March 2015 generated an estimated revenue of $ 618,856.00. Given that more than 70 different agriculture products flow into the market daily, you can imagine the amount of business generated by all commodities in the market.
The revenue generated per district or province is an indication of the existence of economic drivers in each particular province. Development partners and policy makers need to support these efforts by ordinary producers. Zimbabweans in the diaspora whose original homes are sources of diverse agricultural commodities can be proud to associate themselves with their home areas.
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