Of blueberries and other beautiful Zimbabwean stories
Ranga Mataire-Group Political Editor
The story of Zimbabwe being among the top producers of blueberries and the subsequent reticent attitude from some compatriots got me thinking about Ngugi waThiongo’s “Decolonising the Mind”, a book that I think is a must read for every African.
While the natural reaction of majority Zimbabweans was exuberant pride, some amongst us felt riled by the blueberries report and wished it had happened somewhere.
Ngugi waThiongo locates this kind of reticent attitude in the historical annals of imperial mental subjugation and brainwashing.
The Kenyan author believes that the mental genocide inflicted on black people during slavery, colonialism and neo-imperialism has rendered some amongst us mere caricatures of Western cultural hegemony.
He captures this sad dilemma when he writes:
“The biggest weapon wielded and actually daily unleashed by imperialism against the collective defiance [of the colonized] is the cultural bomb. The effect of a bomb is to annihilate a people’s belief in their names, in their languages, in their environment, in their heritage of struggle, in their unity, in their capacities and ultimately in themselves” (Ngugi, 1986:3).
It’s baffling why a Zimbabwean would be compelled to play down the successes in the horticulture sector, especially that of blueberry records, when it’s clear that since the dawn of the New Dispensation, something positive has been happening in this sector.
In fact, according to a study by EastFruit — an international information platform of agricultural experts, analysts, marketers specialising in the fruit and vegetable business, there has been a surge in blueberry investments in Zimbabwe which has resulted in an increase in exports by 63 percent annually or 1,200 tonners over the last five years.
The report further states that have also been new plantations by investors from neighbouring South Africa being attracted by local agriculture policies, favourable climatic conditions, high quality irrigation water and cost effective labour.
Experts witnessed an 85 percent growth, amounting to over 5,000 tonnes in 2022.
Now this is good news for Zimbabwe as this has propelled the country into the top-15 global blueberry exporting nations, surpassing Serbia in volume.
Growth in exports of blueberry exports is anticipated to further rise this year by 40 percent and Zimbabwe stands to benefit significantly in the coming season.
Besides assured substantial exports earnings, the growth of the blueberry production resultantly generates employment and has a direct positive bearing on Zimbabwe’s international trade standing when it comes to other agricultural produce.
But this not the only inspiring coming from Zimbabwe. The country has made headlines for its record outputs of tobacco and wheat production. All these deserve recognition especially for a country that has been under Western economic sanctions for more than two decades.
Beyond agriculture, there are other numerous tales of resilience, innovation and human spirit emerging from Zimbabwe, showcasing the nation’s potential beyond its agricultural prowess.
Zimbabwe’s economy is on a rebound. The country’s GDP is expected to grow by 4.6 percent in 2023, according to the International Monetary Fund. This is a significant improvement from the 0.8 per cent growth rate in 2020.
The Government is spending billions of dollars on new roads, bridges and dams. This is helping to improve the country’s infrastructure and boost economic activities across all sectors. The dams are meant to mitigate drought seasons and in some cases create reservoirs for hydro-electric power.
Despite the challenges faced in the past, the country has been making significant strides in various sectors, including mining, tourism and the arts showing resilience, creativity and determination of the Zimbabwean people.
Known for its rich mineral resources, the country has seen the re-opening of several mines, some that were once closed.
One such success story is the establishment of arguably Africa’s largest iron and steel plant — the Dinson Iron and Steel plant in Manhize, which is nearing completion.
A subsidiary of the China’s largest stainless steel manufacturer, Tsingshan Holdings Group Limited, the company is constructing the US$1.5 billion integrated steel plant close to Mvuma.
According to the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development, the mining sector remains a key player that contributes more than 60 percent of the country’s export receipts, attracts more than 50 percent foreign direct investment (FDI) and contributes 13 percent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and is a major employer.
In 2021, the mining industry attained US$5.46 billion in exports against a target of US$8 billion during that period. The sector remains well on course to generate US$12 billion in revenue by year end thereby contributing significantly towards the attainment of the national vision of an Upper Middle Income economy by year 2030.
The mining sector continues to record positive growth underpinned by a number of programmes that include increased exploration, resuscitation of closed mines, opening of new ones, expansion of existing projects and encourage beneficiation and value addition.
Besides the mining sector and agricultural innovations, Zimbabwe has embraced renewable energy solutions to combat power shortages. One such success story is the launch of the Pay-As-You-Go solar power system.
This initiative has provided affordable and clean energy access to rural communities, empowering them with electricity and transforming their lives.
The Pay- As- You – Go system has not only improved living conditions but has created employment opportunities within the renewable energy sector.
Other beautiful stories can be found in conservation efforts being undertaken to save wildlife and their habitat. Home to diverse and captivating wildlife, the Government and other private partners have come up with initiatives to protect wildlife and have garnered international recognition.
The Bubye Valley Conservancy, for instance, has implemented innovative conservation practices, leading to significance increase in wildlife populations.
Successful anti-poaching initiatives and community engagement programmes have not only protected endangered species, but also provided livelihood opportunities for local communities. These conservation success stories demonstrate the importance of preserving the country’s natural heritage for future generations.
In education, Zimbabwe has witnessed remarkable educational innovations aimed at equipping young minds for challenges of the future.
The establishment of the tech-focused schools and coding academies has provided students with the necessary skills to thrive in the digital age.
Other initiatives like the Zimbabwe Science Fair have nurtured scientific curiosity and innovation among young Zimbabweans, encouraging them to pursue careers in STEM fields.
These educational advancements are shaping the next generation of leaders and innovators in Zimbabwe.
Beyond its agricultural achievements, Zimbabwe has a plethora of positive stories that celebrate resilience, innovation, and human potential.
Whether its embracing renewable energy, conserving wildlife or fostering education innovations, Zimbabweans are proving that they can overcome challenges and create a brighter future. These inspiring narratives remind us that Zimbabwe’s true wealth lies not in its natural resources but also in the strength and determination of its people.