Whole families are now having to live off the land in Zimbabwe day after day, week after week, month after month.  This is a terrible hardship.  Children and nursing mothers will be worst affected by this harsh diet.  Obert Gumpo wrote “Hungry Zimbabweans Forage to Survive” in the Institute for War and Peace Reporting from Gwanda in south-western Zimbabwe last week.  Obert Gumpo mentioned Baobab fruit… 

I well remember bushcraft survival training in the old Rhodesian army, when we had our rations withdrawn and had to “hunt” (but no firearms allowed) and gather our own food for a few weeks.  Although we ended up looking forward to a few beers and a “real” meal at the end of the exercise, we didn’t starve and were none the worse for it.  Among others, baobab trees provide a cornucopia of food; not only the fruit, but leaves and roots are edible and they provide a range of healthy nutrients packed with vitamins, minerals and fibre.  So much so that the European Union has recently licensed some enterprising people to import extracts of the fruits, which are reputed to have the highest known concentration of vitamin C from any natural source. 

But, at the time I’m talking about (1960s and 70s), very few people bothered to gather and eat baobab fruit, which could best be described as having an acquired taste.  No one with access to civilised food chose to eat this fruit.  Only monkeys, baboons and soldiers undergoing bush survival training shared the delights of the “monkey-bread tree”. That was all very well, but in my day there were plenty of them.  Now, there are many people but very few baobab trees for them to subsist on.  Most baboons and monkeys in Zimbabwe have long ago been eaten by hungry people. 

Uncontrolled bushfires burn day and night, started by half-starved people trying to trap the last of Zimbabwe’s once abundant wildlife; increasingly scarce snakes, mice, rats and birds, to help eke out the meagre fare that can still be gathered from a land that is being stripped bare.  Trees have been cut down for firewood because the supply of paraffin and electricity is erratic and too expensive anyway – inflation is said to be running at “eleven million percent” (Cathy Buckle), though how anyone can calculate that I don’t know.  Even if you have the money, there’s little food or other basics available in the shops, many of which have closed.  The United Nations estimates that over 5 million people in Zimbabwe will need food aid by the end of this year.  Fortunately, now that the elections are over, Mugabe’s regime has lifted the ban on Aid Agencies delivering food to the people of Zimbabwe. 

The baobab (Adansonia digitata) tree grows in hot, low-lying, arid parts of Southern Africa.  They are very different from any tree that people in other parts of the world would recognise as a “tree” [apart from in Australia, where similar specimens (Adansonia gregorii) are found].  Baobabs have been described as “upside-down trees” because it looks as if an ordinary tree has been uprooted and planted upside-down, with the roots pointing up into the air. 

It seems to me that Mugabe may be on his last legs, but I fear that real change will not be allowed to take place in Zimbabwe by his murderous henchmen.

END

Author, Peter Davies was a soldier in Rhodesia from 1963 to 1975, where he took part in the capture and interrogation of terrorists.  His novel, Scatterlings of Africa, is based on his own experience during Rhodesia’s war on terror, and personal observations of how terrorist activities impacted Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and its people.  http://www.peterdaviesbooks.com

Readers who would like to make a contribution to help innocent pensioners, who are unable to buy food and other basic necessities in Zimbabwe, should please contact Patricia Williams by email patashnix@btinternet.com.

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