Dr Mnangagwa a mentor, hard  worker, says Batswana First Lady. . . Mrs Masisi keen to learn from her First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa and her Botswana counterpart Mrs Neo Jane Masisi, who is in the country to learn from her Zimbabwean counterpart’s life-changing initiatives, admire a maize crop during an AGRIC4SHE field day at Mr and Mrs Plaxedes Chifokoyo’s homestead in Mashonaland East yesterday. — Picture: John Manzongo.

Tendai RupapaSenior Reporter

BATSWANA First Lady Mrs Neo Jane Masisi, who arrived in Zimbabwe yesterday on a three-day working visit, has described her counterpart, Agric4She patron First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa, as a mentor and women empowerment champion whose programmes she intends to replicate in her home country.

She brought along a high-powered delegation comprising women to learn more about the Agric4She concept and train others back home.

The Agric4She programme, Mrs Masisi said, brings the culture of working in families.

Her visit to Zimbabwe brings to fruition Dr Mnangagwa’s regular call for First Ladies to visit one another, share notes and experiences on various subjects.

The visit provides a platform for the two First Ladies to share best practices, explore potential collaborations and exchange experiences in agriculture and women empowerment.

It also enables Amai Mnangagwa to showcase the philanthropic works she is doing to empower mainly women and youth through her initiatives.

Mrs Masisi’s first stop was a courtesy call on President Mnangagwa at State House after which she described her meeting with the President as brief and appreciable.

First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa welcomes her Batswana counterpart Mrs Neo Jane Masisi who is in the country on a three-day working visit at Robert Gabriel Mugabe international Airport yesterday.

“The meeting was very brief. As you know in our culture when you come into somebody’s territory, whether a chief or Head of State, you come and pay your courtesies, so it was just to say greetings I am in your territory. I was also sent with warm regards and gratitude from his younger brother, Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi, and I am looking forward to the few days that I will spend here with Amai. Thank you so much for the warm welcome, I appreciate,” she said curtly. 

Mrs Masisi showed great appreciation of her Zimbabwean counterpart’s call for regular visits among First Ladies.

“I think it is a very, very good idea because you learn from each other and because we are so similar Africa really is one and was meant to be one so as we visit each other, we cement relationships, we learn a lot and we just move our continent forward. 

“That is why I am here. This is the first time actually I am visiting a First Lady on a working visit and I am so happy that it is right here in Zimbabwe, our neighbours. And as I said, I am so excited about the programme ahead that I will have with Amai and you must know that you are very lucky to have Amai as your First Lady. She is a mentor to many of us as you know she has been a legislator and gone through many other offices and functions. So she is a mentor and mother also to some of us, not only a sister,” she said. 

Dr Mnangagwa took her counterpart and her delegation on a tour of breath-taking Agric4She projects she inspired as part of her empowerment initiatives.

The delegation was taken on a tour of Mrs Plaxedes Chifokoyo’s Chardley Farm in Marondera Rural.

First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa and her Batswana counterpart Mrs Neo Jane Masisi admire maize crops during an AGRIC4SHE field day at Mrs Plaxedes Chifokoyo’s homestead in Mashonaland East yesterday.

The farm, which is run by Mrs Chifokoyo as the director and her husband as the manager, produces maize, traditional grains, groundnuts, cowpeas, beans and boasts an orchard with an assortment of fruit trees.

There is also a thriving bee-keeping venture as well as the rearing of chickens, turkeys, goats and cattle.

Many Agric4She beneficiaries paid glowing tribute to Dr Mnangagwa while revelling in the bountiful yields they attained with her assistance.

Value addition was also shown in its rightful colours as the women brought grinding stones and peanut butter making machines which they used in making peanut butter. 

They also expressed oil from the groundnuts, showing just how they were benefiting from their hard work.

Traditional grains, which boast high nutritional value and medicinal properties, were also displayed and the products made from the grains.

The crops were produced through the assistance of the First Lady who provided inputs like seed and fertilisers, chemicals, extension services and participated in the planting, weeding and harvesting of the crops.

The women displayed artefacts that they make through recycling, an initiative spearheaded by the First Lady to ensure people live in a clean environment while generating income to sustain themselves and their families through waste.

Mrs Masisi, who was in the company of her team, was asking questions related to farming, especially the Pfumvudza method, as the delegation took notes with a view to replicating the project in their motherland.

The questions by Mrs Masisi and her team showed zeal to learn and understand how the projects are done.

The two First Ladies also addressed the beneficiaries and members of the community, hammering on the importance of hard work.

Dr Mnangagwa gave the women a pat on the back, saying their efforts had lured a whole First Lady from Botswana to come and witness their success.

First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa and her counterpart Mrs Neo Jane Masisi who is in the country to learn from her life-changing initiatives, look at Agric4She beneficiaries grinding sorghum to make mealie meal and peanut butter during a visit at Mr and Mrs Chifokoyo’s homestead in Mashonaland East yesterday.  Pictures: John Manzongo

“I do not have many words, but wish to extend warm greetings to you asking how you are. Today we have met in another chapter in our lives as I thank women over how we ran and continue to run today with farming, Agric4She. 

“You responded positively, came forward and we worked. This has spawned a visit by Her Excellency the First Lady of the Republic of Botswana Mrs Neo Jane Masisi. We thought we were just doing this to raise our families, but look how this has spilled to other nations. We thank you vana baba for allowing us to undertake these projects as we worked and continue working together,” she said.

The mother of the nation said working together gave couples and families an opportunity to build strong and lasting relationships.

“I asked the man at the homestead where we were and he said he was the manager while his spouse was the director who monitored progress on their plots. This shows that their marriage is intact and is bound isn’t it so women? If the wife is the director and the man, the manager this means the house is filled with love and respect isn’t it so? 

“If we continue working hard and together like this as families including our children, we do not see a child consuming drugs because the projects will occupy him. I then asked the husband as to whether he will divorce his wife because we are seeing divorce cases affecting even elders. I asked whether he can let such a productive woman leave the home. His response was ‘never Amai, nothing will break us kunze kwerufu’. 

“The wife is able to speak seTswana. I heard her speaking to Her Excellency Mrs Masisi her home language and just saw how the world is a small place. This also shows that as Africans we are one. I wish to thank you so heartily that as you continue working for your families and in view of what climate change has done, as we do Pfumvudza, it won’t be as difficult. I thank you for what we have seen here being displayed by women, making peanut butter, drying vegetables, all the fruits we have seen, the grinding mills and everything showing how you embraced Agric4She.

“All this is through hard work and women who are committed and you have seen the results of your hard work. See how this has brought us a First Lady we had never seen here through hard work. 

“You feel happy seeing the success you have achieved. I told my sister at our Organisation of African First Ladies for Development meetings that I have what is called Agric4She which is done by women and she asked to come and see for herself. Today she is here and brought along some women who live close to the border between the two countries so that they teach their peers so that we all do not have hunger. 

“Today we are proud that she is here to learn and increase her knowledge on what she is already doing in her motherland. I will also go to Botswana to learn how they do it and come and share with you. Isn’t it so good? Let us thank our mother who came and spent time with us today. Thank you very much for visiting Zimbabwe and all your delegation. Botswana is a country that we relate well with,” she said.

Mrs Masisi added colour to the gathering after extending her greetings to the community in Shona.

“Makadii henyu?” she said, triggering laughter.

“Let me first of all start with my thank you and I thank my host for bringing me here to this wonderful place. Let me also say tinotenda to the community for welcoming us here and to the traditional leadership for having us here this morning. Ladies and gentlemen, I really cannot say much because I have seen it all. 

First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa and her Batswana counterpart Mrs Neo Jane Masisi share notes in Mashonaland East yesterday.

“While I was sitting there, I was seeing Agric4She and before I came here I read about Agric4She. My sister tells me about Agric4She and I came here expecting Agric4She. But I can say to you my sister you have to call this something like Agric4she squared. It is much more than Agric4She, I think you need another name because this is a way bigger project,” she said.

Mrs Masisi said what she had seen had many pluses as she saw entrepreneurship in the agriculture sector. 

“What did I see ladies and gentlemen? I saw the colour of women. What did I see? I saw food security. What did I see? A more sustainable way of giving people participation. I saw women who carry the entire nation on their backs. I have seen the evidence. Even the blind can see,” she said.

She said she was charmed by the many crops being produced by women.

“I have come with agriculture experts and we are taking back a lot of notes. You might call us copycats but this is something that is worthy of coping. In Africa we have the same problems that include HIV, GBV, drugs and where do I see solutions, I see them right here, Agric4She is the solution Amai. You will see me back here again for more lessons,” she said.

She left the gathering in stitches when she jokingly asked for a plot of land from the traditional chiefs so that she could also start her Agric4She projects.

Mrs Chifokoyo expressed gratitude for the visit to her farm and took the delegation through the various activities she undertakes there.

“We have food for children to take as they leave for school as you encouraged us Amai. You told us to plant traditional grains so that we achieve food self-sufficiency and when maize under-performs, we thrive on vegetables. I grew sorghum and millet which are drought-tolerant. I have groundnuts from which I also express cooking oil as you taught us to grow groundnuts which we use to make peanut butter and oil to put in our relish. I am expecting a tonne of maize and our mother always comes to assist us in planting, weeding and harvesting. Our mother demonstrates what she teaches us,” she said.

Batswana First Lady Mrs Neo Jane Masisi and Amai Mnangagwa listen to Tafadzwa Dhliwayo during a tour of University of Zimbabwe Innovation hub yesterday. Tafadzwa benefited from a study tour to Spain which was organised by Dr Mnangagwa last year.

Mashonaland East Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Aplonia Munzverengwi extended a warm welcome to the First Ladies and all the guests for coming to validate and applaud the enormous accomplishment of the successful implementation of climate smart agriculture4she spearheaded by Dr Mnangagwa.

“Your Excellency, the world is evolving. Africa is evolving and right now agriculture is a field where creativeness does not stop and opportunities are endless. 

“We are very happy because over the years you have taken various initiatives to support women in agriculture, a development that has seen an unmatched surge of interest in farming from sundry women in this province. You see the inclusion of women in smart agriculture as the key in the Government’s efforts to top up the nation’s food gap and achieve food security at household level,” she said.

The Agric4she programme, Minister Munzverengwi said, boded well for the nation’s agro-based economy as Dr Mnangagwa gave women free inputs that include seeds, all small grains seeds, sunflower seeds, fertilisers and extension services in an unprecedented empowerment initiative that will see them excel.

Later in the day, Mrs Masisi and her delegation were left spell-bound by a tour of an innovation hub at the University of Zimbabwe in Harare which showcased a motley of products and foods that can be made from our traditional grains and natural resources, creating wealth and jobs.

There were also products that can be made from baobab which were on display.

University of Zimbabwe Vice Chancellor Professor Paul Mapfumo hands over a gift to Botswana First Lady Mrs Neo Jane Masisi after a tour of the institution’s Innovation Hub yesterday.

Dr Mnangagwa’s Angel of Hope Foundation forged an alliance with UZ to assess an array of products that can be extracted from traditional grains and natural resources in a development aimed at upskilling beneficiaries for post-university, thereby creating jobs.

She humbly requested tertiary institutions to channel their research into the health benefits which have proven to be highly nutritious and medicinal.

The hub showcased Baobab croissants, Baobab rolls, Baobab muffins, Baobab biscuits, mixed grains muffins and Magogoya crumbed with sorghum seeds.

It also showcased Zim terrine aspik (a mixture of round nuts, cowpeas, and groundnuts), Cheese samp cakes, cheese stuffed sweet potato, coated sweet potatoes, fried okra, dried meat in peanut butter, The Crow of the city-road runner, Sunshine bream (bream crumbed in sorghum), Sweet potato chips and dried pumpkin leaves.

Desserts included Baobab Mousse, Baobab yoghurt, Baobab cheesecake.

In honour of the Botswana delegation the students made Seswaa a delicacy in Botswana most eaten at functions and this featured pounded beef, lamb, pork.

The Botswana delegation included women who come from areas that are awash with baobab trees who sought to see what they can make with them and earn income.

“We learnt a lot today and we are going away with a lot of hope and a lot of learning,” Mrs Masisi said. 

She hinted on the prospects of a baobab festival in her country to see the different products and foods that can be derived from baobabs.

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