admin | October 26, 2023
Amid crippling electricity cuts, refrigerators are silent. And so township grannies in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, are relying on their smarts and traditional preservation techniques: roasting and smoking meat over fires as they attempt not to throw away food. This at a time more and more Zimbabweans are going hungry amid a combination of shrinking incomes and price increases. Smoking meat over a fire to preserve it has been around for centuries, but Zimbabwe’s energy crisis has reminded older generations of the practice at a time when large-scale enterprises such as butcheries are having to rethink how they do business. Grandmother Tabeth Chisale says, “You cannot watch the meat go bad in these trying times.”
Amid crippling electricity cuts, refrigerators are silent. And so township grannies in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, rely on their smarts and traditional preservation techniques: roasting and smoking meat over fires as they attempt not to throw away food.
This at a time more and more Zimbabweans are going hungry amid a combination of shrinking incomes and price increases.
For the 79-year-old grandmother Tabeth Chisale, her fridge is full of food and perishables, such as beef sourced by her children, but she is increasingly frustrated by the unrelenting power outages. Earlier this year, they went seven days without electricity.
She says, “We were informed it was not because of the regular power cuts but some thieves had vandalized the power supply.” There are increasing reports of the theft of copper cables and transformer oil from power base stations.
However, amid such a chaotic and erratic energy supply, grannies such as Mrs. Chisale must find or have found ways of making the best out of a bad situation. Her practice is a hard-to-understand culinary secret for many: first roasting meat, then boiling it.
She explains : “Once I suspect the meat is going bad, I roast the meat over a fire, then hope that electricity will be restored in time. I then stew the roasted meat. You cannot watch the meat go bad in these trying times.”
Smoking meat over a fire to preserve it has been around for centuries, but Zimbabwe’s energy crisis has reminded older generations of this practice at a time when large-scale companies such as butcheries are having to rethink how they do business.
Local food scientists have raised concerns about the consumption of bad or rotting food, noting that it reverses the small gains the country is making towards addressing nutrition deficits among children and the elderly.
In a country where supermarket shelves are stocked with expired food items, the practices of Mrs. Chisale show the desperation of consumers, local analysts say.
Desmond Mugadza is chair of the food science department at the Midlands State University. He says the answer is simple: “Avoid over-stocking perishables.”
He explains, “Food must be free from bio-hazards to ensure it is safe for consumers to eat as all food items have a shelf life.”
Yet the desperation of consumers such as Mrs. Chisale has meant that they have sought ways to salvage their food without the support of science. Bargain hunters often stock up on food and other basic commodities due to regular price increases, creating difficulties in how the food is stored in the absence of electricity.
Yet, the food preservation methods available to Mrs. Chisale come with a downside: “The meat that I try to save doesn’t taste as it should, but it’s still meat,” she said.
Electricity cuts aren’t just affecting consumers, but also producers. Backyard poultry is a common business for the unemployed.
Nelisiwe Mudimba explains how the power cuts have affected her, saying that on numerous occasions, she has had to throw away dozens of rotting chickens. She adds, “When you slaughter your birds, you pray that they will be sold before they go bad in the fridge.”
She says she has also tried smoking the chickens over a fire, feeding some to her dogs, but: “I cannot eat all these chickens. What’s the point, then, of operating such a business?”
These concerns come as global agencies lament the continued waste of food when millions go hungry. While FAO says most food losses in developing countries are during post-harvest and processing levels, in countries such as Zimbabwe, power cuts have only added to the food waste crisis.
For now, Mrs. Chisale and her peers continue to seek old ways to address new challenges and make their own local desperate efforts not to throw away food, albeit against their will.
This story is adapted from an article written by Ignatius Banda for Interpress News Service, called “Amid Power Cuts in Zimbabwe, Food Preservation Made Easy by Grannies.” To read the full story, go to:
: Zimbabwe: Amid power cuts, food preservation made easy by grannies (IPS)