Monday, May 10, 2010
The way forward
Herbert Chifamba Harare — Exactly two years ago, Ambuya Ednara Mushonga of Nyamajenjere Village in Guruve was afflicted by illnesses that saw her go through a horrendous patch, which left her incapable of performing any household chores.
She had essentially become a vegetable.
Today that "human wreck" has been miraculously revitalised and is up and about doing everything the younger generation is capable of, thanks to various herbal concoctions she took and the natural diet to which she simultaneously switched.
When The Herald visited the village recently, she was among scores of women who took to the stage gyrating energetically to the welcoming lyrics the villagers sang to receive the news crew.
"For more than a year, I suffered from swelling legs and hands, excessive weakness of the joints and excruciating pain in the kidneys, which left me unable to do anything and entirely dependent on my grandchildren.
"My situation changed for the better immediately after I started taking herbs in porridge and tea and eating purely natural foods that are not processed, a piece of advice I got from another villager," she said when the dancing team finally decided to take a break.
Ambuya Mushonga is now a member of the village Natural Health Action group that was formed at the instigation of one Bellington Nyamhondoro, who incidentally became the director of the programme that has since spread to many districts in the province and even some suburbs of Harare.
Under the programme, the villagers are in the process of establishing herbal gardens and training each other in the processing and cookery of natural foodstuffs to boost their immune systems in the face of the innumerable diseases that threaten mankind.
There are more than 10 pilot herbal gardens at the moment in Ward 5, incidentally the one under which Nyamajenjere Village falls.
"The herbs that we use here have seen people responding to treatment almost immediately and we have assisted thousands in many different parts of the country to address chronic sicknesses and other prominent diseases like cancer and asthma.
"We have also helped people who have reacted negatively to drugs for different health complaints, for instance those on anti-retroviral treatment," Nyamhondoro explained.
He said the programme began in 2005 when he was invited and trained by Environment Africa in the propagation, processing and use of herbs.
From there Nyamhondoro would go out and train communities holding workshops and it was during such exercises that he also introduced the use of the immune booster moringa tree in areas like Guruve, Zvimba, Mudzi and along the Nyamapanda border area.
"We taught the people how to process both the bark and leaves of the tree, a process that involves drying the stuff before pounding it into pulp or in some cases taking it to the grinding mill.
"Other herbs like 'gotakota', (a panacea for many diseases), 'borage' (a pain killer and blood purifier that is taken in just like tea) and 'resurrection' (an immune booster and panacea for backaches, stomach disorders and even renal problems) are among the herbs that we taught people to use," he added.
Nyamhondoro and his team of trainers also focussed on the use of other herbal remedies like makoni tea (immune booster and cure for flu and colds, remedy for swellings resulting from use of anti-retroviral drugs) and "allena" for tooth aches, oral thrush and ulcers.
"We have a combination of different drugs called 'murapa' that is used for such complaints as sore arms and legs and asthma and we work hand in hand with the University of Zimbabwe's school of medicine and do tests in their laboratories," he said.
The advantage with natural herbs is that they do not have any known side effects at the moment compared to other drugs that have chemical residues that may have the adverse effect of weakening blood cells and destroying the individual if used wrongly.
To date more than 2 000 people have benefited from use of the herbs and their various health complaints have ended while more than 5 000 country-wide have also been trained to train others in places like Guruve, Mudzi, Chitungwiza and Harare's Mabvuku, Warren Park and Highfield suburbs.
Apart from the use of herbs, Nyamhondoro and his team have also broadened their scope to the adoption of nutritional diets and natural foods.
"We have trained people on the use of natural foods as very reliable sources of nutrition and therefore key in boosting immunity of the body.
"They now know how to process mbambaira (sweet potatoes) into flour, biscuits, chips, buns, jam, meat and most interestingly, a drink that is very nutritious and almost the equivalent of orange crush," the programmes manager Privilege Muchenje explained.
Recent developments at Nyamajenjere Village explicitly testified to Muchenje's claims, as the villagers put on display different foodstuffs processed from their local agricultural produce, trees and other plants from the wild.
"We process Soya beans into milk, chunks that are meaty in taste and we can also use it for making tea with the residue left after processing usable for stock feeds.
"Hatinwe tii tsvuku muGuruve isu (we do not drink black tea in Guruve) as even those without livestock can still make milk from Soya beans," a Nyamajenjere villager, Judith Kanhanga said.
Scores of other villagers also gave testimonies of how they had been cured of different health complaints by herbs introduced by Nyamhondoro and his team before joining the Natural Health Action Programme.
By processing crop produce or wild fruit and plants into herbs and natural foods, the villagers are actually adding value to the natural resources paving the way for them to sell them at competitive prices.
The majority of the villagers have since forgotten what it is like to buy groceries from shops, as they only need things like sugar and salt only while the rest is locally produced.
"It pains me to note that we used to sell produce to cities or industry and the same produce would return processed and asking for a fortune.
"We are now doing it ourselves and getting the value of our produce at no cost at all," area co-ordinator of the programme, Chiwanza Kadamuto said.
The villagers have now focussed their sights on establishing a big communal herbal garden for the project and are appealing for well-wishers to help with funds for building infrastructure like sheds for storage and the processing of the herbs and other produce.