Blessings Chidakwa in Kadoma
Last Saturday was no ordinary one for at least 25 people who graduated in nutritional garden training at Kadoma Hotel and Conference Centre (KHCC).
Among the graduates was a self-confessed HIV positive Kadoma woman, Mrs Mere Jamina Huseni who stood tall receiving her certificate, with smiles lighting up her face.
The Rainbow Tourism Group (RTG? developed nutritional gardens at three of its hotels, the pilot project having been rolled out by Kadoma Hotel and Conference Centre with their partner Community Capacity Building Initiative Centre for Africa (CCBICA) having conducted the trainings in the production of vegetables and nutritional herbs including thyme and basil.
B-Metro sought to find out how the nutrition project had changed Mrs Husenia��s life over the past few months.
Mrs Huseni, who was accompanied by her supportive children had this to say:
a�?I have been living with HIV since 2004. l disclosed my status to all my family members including my in-laws. However, as of today I am proud to have graduated with a course on nutrients and balanced diet,a�? she said.
The trainings on nutritional gardening were conducted every Tuesday by an expert from CCBICA, RTG serving them free meals, with participants doing individual as well as group work.
a�?While at the hospital we were always being taught about nutrients and adherence. l later got to know a lot when l met CCBICA guys working with RTG,a�? she said.
a�?I benefited a lot, that as people we can identify the correct nutrients that one should take for both HIV negative and positive people. I also plan to make my own nutritional garden so that l sell herbs for a living.a�?
According to CCBICA officials if one invests $2 per plant the end product would be resold at $16 per portion, with as many portions likely to be generated over a short period.
a�?I also benefited through the kitchen taste course, it assisted to save cooking stuff. Where l used to spend two litres cooking oil l now use less than a quarter of it.a�?
Mrs Huseni, a Sanyati district chairperson for ZNNP+ refused to let her work detract her from graduating, as she balanced it with her course.
She said God willing the programme should be spread across the country so that all HIV positive people also take a leaf.
a�?Word should be spread countrywide that CCBICA is offering free trainings at all RTGs hotels in Zimbabwe. People will be taught how to grow, process and even consume herbs in their rightful quantities.a�?
Mrs Huseni said herbs were just a complementary, not a substitute of Anti-Retroviral drugs.
a�?Herbs do not affect ARV medications, l remain taking my usual doses, nothing is affected when consuming herbs, it is just like taking my everyday spices like ginger.a�?
The history of the graduation ceremony would not be complete without special mention of one Mr Frank Mwale also living with HIV.
What makes him unique, is that he is among the few men at the graduation, if not the only male graduate.
Mr Mwale also shared his experience, which would make one want to believe that nutrition gardening is the only thing to do under the sun, considering the origins of men in the Garden of Eden.
a�?Herbs also work as antibiotics and they do not affect our bodies. I had a challenge of swollen feet and at hospital was advised that ita��s lack of Vitamin B6. l would buy $2 pyridoxine tablet regularly. Now l no longer fork out a cent to purchase that drug, thanks to RTG and CCBICA.a�?
a�?I now have a special diet that has iron and zinc. Among the foods there is spinach and black jack, now l can walk with ease.a�?
Mr Mwale also appealed to HIV positive people to do away with stigma.
a�?I urge my fellow colleagues to avoid self-stigma, gone are the days, now everyone is positive literally, meaning if one is sexually active there are chances of contracting the disease. Everyone is positive unless proven negative,a�? he said.
a�?If those who are HIV positive contract any ailment should visit the health institutions early as our immune systems make us take too long to heal.a�?
KHCC general manager Ms Paula January, the brains behind the nutritional gardening said the hotel remained committed to offer support to the surrounding community.
a�?As RTGs our key initiative is that of Corporate Social Responsibility, we as Kadoma Hotel had idle space that we had about six to seven years back before meeting with the CCBICA team,a�? she said.
a�?We brainstormed what we could do with our garden, the first project had to do with herbs where we said everybody is now into healthy eating, so ita��s good to ensure that we come up with a herbal garden that will have all that is required by our market.a�?
a�?In the discussions we thought about the community. That is when this initiative of community-based horticulture came into effect.a�?
a�?Also in line with Zim Asset we thought along self sustenance, whereby people come and learn and then go back to the community and start doing it for themselves, that will help them to get revenues and cash in their pockets, so that was all this initiative was about.a�?