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A SON WAS RAISED FROM THE HOUSE OF GUTU

A WAKE UP CALL

Out of the Chinyika community, then, a son – Paul "Chidara" – was raised from the house of the Gutu chieftainship, and was moved by the suffering of his own people. He woke up to the call of his ancestors to save his people from the scourge of hunger and poverty. Chidara then, who had become a successful business person and management educator, as we have seen, was woken from his slumber of individual success, prompted by his participation in the master's programme in social and economic transformation, and then responded to his "fathers voice". More importantly, awareness gripped him and reminded him of his responsibility to his people as the son of a chief. Emotively aroused, he initially decided to feed the people who were starving in Chinyika by buying bags of mealie meal (corn) and grain, and distributing these to them. While in the process of facing this challenge and responding to his "father's voice" to take care of his people, Chidara Muchineripi enrolled on the Trans4m master's (MSET), unknowingly together with Steve Kada, in 2005. That was the beginning of the establishment of the Chinyika Community Development Project. Chidara then reconnected with the voice that called his people to revisit the source of their food security in the past, the nutritious food and meals that came out of the sweat of their labour. A community that never starved.

THE PRIMACY OF FINGER MILLET

The Transformation Journey

The voice echoed through poems and drama. One villager, at a field day function inspiringly recited the following poem.

The grass that turns into gold

The grass that gives people their livelihood

The grass that is fed to people and their livestock

The grass that connects the Chinyika people with the ancestral spirits The grass that acts as a medium between the people and the spirits The grass that has value beyond money The grass that makes and gives life to people

The grass that derives its life from the soil but also gives back to the soil the nutrients

that nourishes the soil

The grass whose seed grain lives forever

The grass that pervades through every aspect of the Chinyika people's lives The grass that makes delicious food and drinks

The grass that is used to celebrate success and to talk to the ancestral spirits The grass that gives the human body everything it needs.

The grass that makes and gives life to people, the grass that turns to gold the magical grass.

The poem summarizes the value and the importance of finger millet, one of the "key actors", as it were, for the Chinyika people. The Golden grain, rapoko (Figure 6.2), was going to play a critical role in their transformation journey. It would be at the centre of all their activities in developing food security in the Chinyika households. Through this re-visitation of the past, Chidara reconnected with the tradition and culture of growing indigenous small grains. For him, the voice of his father had always echoed throughout his lifetime. At the same time, his mother, while she was alive, had not abandoned the clan's cultural farming norms, and she remained a custodian and implementer of the traditional grain growing and food preparation. She was a typical African mother of her community.

Western Culture Has its Virtues but Africa Must Retain its Humaneness

Muchineripi and Kada then, after becoming co-researchers, spent endless hours together in Chidara's special gazebo thatched structure, while they participated parttime together on the Master's in Social and Economic Transformation, run by Trans4m in South Africa, at his home in Harare. He was filled with great emotion as he narrated the story of his village people, promoted by the reminder, through his education and research, of his grounding. He would clench his fists, put his hands on each side of his body and stamp the ground as if in a dance. It was as if he would be planting himself in the soil of his ancestors as he rooted himself in the centre and soul of Chinyika's traditional past. Chidara's father, as a chief, had passed on the oral tradition of a true African to his family and subjects. "A true African does not completely abandon his culture despite getting a Western education. Western education had its virtues but the African has to maintain his humane nature."

It is considered immoral, as such, to watch and let a poor person or family perish of hunger when the other person has more than enough. Chief Chitsa of Chinyika, in addressing people on one of the field days, said, "Munhu ega ega, mwana ega ega anofanira kuziva kwaakabva" translated as: "each person, each child must look back and know where they came from and be responsible to himself and his community like what we have witnessed today. Our son Paul has demonstrated that each one of us must be responsible to their people."

Chinyika's Rapoko

Figure 6.2 Chinyika's Rapoko

PUBLIC-PRIVATE-CIVIC PARTNERSHIP

Muchineripi then, representing Chinyika community in his capacity as designate chief, and Steve, representing the business sector as HR Director of Cairns Foods, played their respective catalytic roles. As such they created a relationship between the private sector and the rural community, there by institutionally extending – with the Zimbabwean Department of Agriculture ultimately also playing its governmental part – the actor network.

On the one hand, Cairns Foods, through their agronomists, provided the Chinyika community with technical advice in growing the traditional and horticultural crops. On the other hand, the Chinyika people provided Cairns Foods with a wealth of knowledge for purposes of product development. Cairns, in its own transformation process, was turning towards foods with a traditional base and flavour in addition to the current Western-oriented food products on the market.

Muchineripi Rock

Figure 6.3 Muchineripi Rock

Cairns in fact, at the time in 2005, produced Western products like wines, cornflakes, breakfast jams and tinned vegetables. Thereafter, through its newly constituted research and development team, it evolved a product prepared from small grains, specifically sorghum and rapoko. The urban African elite was now turning to more traditionally based products like porridges, peanut butter and organically grown crops. A market opportunity for traditional small grains like rapoko, peanuts and pumpkins was slowly emerging. Through the private sector, production of these high nutrient content foods, together with communities like Chinyika, resulted. At the same time, the government sponsored agricultural extension officers had hailed the reintroduction of rapoko on a greater scale than before. Altogether they revisited the traditional knowledge base of growing rapoko and preparation of the delicious meals that the people are now enjoying.

The Karanga people, who constitute the majority of the Chinyika people, are known as people of the soil. Their life depends on the soil, for they till it. They grow their crops on it and draw water from the ground. They bury their dead in the soil. Soil is their power. It gives them their identity. Their identity is also wrapped up with that of their longstanding chief of recent times, Muchineripi. It is as if Muchineripi rock came to life and talked through the people. The spirit engulfed everyone who sat or stood on the rock (Figure 6.3). Questions were raised. One elder poetically asked:

'Why are the children, mothers and fathers starving?

Why have the people forgotten what used to happen on this rock?

Where your forefathers gathered rapoko and millet in abundance?

Where children played around while fathers and mothers pounded rapoko ears with sticks and winnowed the grain from the chaff?

Where granaries were filled with golden brown rapoko grains?

Arise the children of Chinyika.

Arise and be who you should be!'

Indeed the people of Chinyika did arise to democratic communal effect.

 
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