‘Make Zim a gastronomy tourism powerhouse’

Source: The Herald – Breaking news.

‘Make Zim a gastronomy tourism powerhouse’ 
Tourism and Hospitality Industry Deputy Minister Tongai Mnangagwa (second from left) and Minister of State for Masvingo Provincial Affairs and Devolution Ezra Chadzamira (left) partake in some of the dishes prepared at Amai’s Provincial Community Cookout Competition at Masvingo Polytechnic yesterday.

George MapongaMasvingo Bureau

Zimbabwe must take advantage of its rich traditional cuisine and position itself to become a gastronomy tourism powerhouse in Africa, riding on the work being done by First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa to promote traditional dishes, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister, Barbara Rwodzi said yesterday.

In a speech read on her behalf by her deputy Tongai Mnangagwa during the Amai’s community Provincial Cookout Competition at Masvingo Polytechnic yesterday, Minister Rwodzi thanked Dr Mnangagwa for the inroads made in Zimbabwe’s quest to realise its full potential in gastronomy tourism.

Nothing can stop Zimbabwe from taking a cue from other countries whose economies were anchored by gastronomy tourism, she added. 

“Tourism, as you may be aware has evolved beyond mere holidaying and recreation. It has become an avenue for exploration, connection, and personal growth,” said Minister Rwodzi. 

“In this journey of discovery, gastronomy plays a pivotal role as a gateway for understanding a destination’s culture and heritage. 

“Culinary experiences have become a driving force in travel decisions, as international food enthusiasts seek authentic and immersive opportunities to taste the flavours of the world. As such, tourists are increasingly seeking for destinations that offer a culinary journey alongside traditional sightseeing.”

Minister Rwodzi added that many countries including Spain, Italy, China and France rely on gastronomy tourism as a major driver of their economies. 

“Ultimately, that is where we aim at, to put Zimbabwe on the global map and be the gastronomy tourism powerhouse in Africa,” she said. 

UN Tourism (2023) statistics show that tourism revenue generated US$1, 4 trillion globally whilst expenditure on food-related activities is estimated to account for 40 percent of the global tourism expenditure.

Minister Rwodzi chronicled the history of the growth of gastronomy tourism in Zimbabwe, which started as just an ordinary event before expanding, leaving the country on the cusp of becoming an international giant in the sector thanks to the relentless efforts of the First Lady, who is also the tourism and hospitality industry patron. 

“The traditional cookout programme is a concept which was introduced by Her Excellency the First Lady of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Dr A. Mnangagwa in 2019 through her visionary leadership. “When she introduced this idea, some of us did not understand what it was all about. It started as a small event here in Masvingo Province, elevated to district cook-out competitions, then to provincial and national levels and we witnessed the First Lady’s participation physically in both provincial and national cookout competitions. 

“In 2022, she tasked the Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry to coordinate the implementation of this programme together with provinces and other line ministries,” she said. 

Last year, the programme was elevated further to SADC regional gastronomy competitions, with the inaugural event successfully held in Masvingo.

Eight countries namely Zimbabwe, Botswana, Angola, DRC, Namibia, Mozambique, Malawi and Nigeria. 

Nigeria joined in the competitions despite not being from the SADC region, but from the Economic Community of West African States bloc.

The event attracted the interest of the international community, resulting in the First Lady being invited to a UNWTO forum on Gastronomy Tourism in Spain to share the Zimbabwean experience in promoting traditional cuisine. 

Further, Dr Mnangagwa was invited to the United Kingdom to showcase the Zimbabwean cuisine during the World Travel Market (WTM), a huge global tourism exhibition.

Minister Rwodzi said through the work of the First Lady, Zimbabwe was given an opportunity to build the SADC UN Tourism Academy that will be based in Victoria Falls.

“Through the efforts of the First Lady, Zimbabwe has been given the opportunity to host the first ever UN Tourism Africa Gastronomy Showcase during the period 26 – 28 July 2024 in Victoria Falls. 

“African countries shall be showcasing their traditional cuisine during this period. With this, it is evident that Zimbabwe has gone to another level in terms of promoting gastronomy tourism. 

“Apart from being served in hotels and restaurants, the Zimbabwe traditional foods have diffused into social and economic gatherings as well as regional and international markets. 

“To enhance the tourism and culinary skills in our students, UN Tourism also availed scholarships to 100 students in the field of tourism and the country was given the opportunity to build a UN Tourism Academy for the SADC region in Victoria Falls,” she said.

Minister Rwodzi said this year’s Amai’s Traditional Cookout Competition had been slightly tweaked to include three different categories namely; students in tourism or culinary programmes, professional chefs and the community. 

The development was meant to reflect President Mnangagwa’s mantra of “‘leaving no one and no place behind” as the nation moves towards Vision 2030.

The Second Republic has also committed to adopting an inclusive approach in sharing tourism benefits to include rural communities and eliminate poverty while fostering rural development.

Minister Rwodzi also noted the level of innovation and creativity reflected in the traditional cuisines being produced during Amai’s Traditional Cookout Competition, which she said showed that the country’s gastronomy tourism sector was evolving.

The Ministry of Tourism has structured the tourism development industry into 10 clusters with gastronomy being infused under the culture and heritage cluster out of the realisation that gastronomy tourism was a catalyst for economic empowerment especially in rural communities and was also a boon for job creation.

Mrs Rejoice Gundura of Victoria Range in Masvingo district emerged the overall winner in the community category and will represent Masvingo in the national cookout competitions in Mutare. 

An elated Mrs Gundura paid tribute to the First Lady for inspiring women to use their own hands to change their lives.