Communities Revive a Traditional Method of Storing Grain in Times of Need

HealthPost-harvest activities

Notes to broadcasters

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HIV/AIDS affects rural households in many ways. For example, as people become sick or die, there are less hands to help with farm work. It becomes difficult to provide enough food for the family. Traditional knowledge and customs offer useful and creative ways of solving some of these problems. This script describes one such tradition from Zimbabwe, a country in southern Africa. Many traditional practices involve the sharing of resources, and provide ways for people to help one another in times of need. Talk to your audience about local traditions that could help them cope with the shortage of labour. In particular, interview older people, and traditional leaders. Ask them if they think that old traditions are suitable for use today. If not, could these practices be adapted for present times? This script can be broadcast as it is presented here. But it could also be used it as a model for your own program, which discusses local coping strategies.

Other program ideas on this theme:

  • Sharing the load: how people in our community help each other in times of crisis.
  • Traditional farming practices: a kitchen garden provides food for your children.
  • Keeping small stock (pigs, rabbits, chickens, bees) can increase family food security.
  • A forest garden provides fuel, fodder, fruit and medicines.



AIDS hurts communities in many different ways. People who are sick with HIV/AIDS may not be able to work. Parents have trouble feeding their children. Today’s program is about how an old village tradition is helping people cope with some of these problems.


Zimbabwe is a country in southern Africa. There is a tradition in that country called ‘zunde ramambo’. In this tradition the village chief sets aside a plot of land. The plot itself is called ‘zunde ramambo’, which means ‘the chief’s granary’. Many people from the village work the plot together, growing grain and other crops. After the crops are harvested, they are stored in a special granary under the care of the traditional leader in the village. Then they are distributed to orphans, elderly people, disabled and sick people, and others who are in need. The chief supervises the distribution process.The tradition of ‘zunde ramambo’ is a good way to provide food to those who cannot provide for themselves.

This is an old tradition, but a very useful one. In fact it was no longer practised in most communities. But some wise chiefs introduced it again to help the suffering in their villages after experiencing several droughts. The Nutrition Unit at the Ministry of Health also recognised the potential of the zunde ramambo and helped spread information about the idea to all traditional leaders through meetings and study visits. Now there are many ‘zunde ramambo’ plots in Zimbabwe. The traditional leaders themselves realized that this practice could sustain their communities in the wake of AIDS which has increased the number of widows and orphans.

This communal method of growing and storing grain is useful in many ways. AIDS often destroys families as mothers and fathers die in the prime of their life. In Zimbabwe, many children have lost their parents. Friends and relatives wanted to keep the children in the villages, rather than sending them away to orphanages. Using the system of ‘zunde ramambo’ they were able to provide food for these children and keep them in their home communities.


Are there any old traditions – ways of growing or storing food – that could help the suffering in our own community? There are many wise people and leaders here too. We should think and ask them about how some of the old traditions can help our people.


Let’s start a discussion about this. I invite you to contact me here at this radio station with your ideas about useful local traditions. Any ideas that can help us feed and care for our people are welcome. Let’s talk some more. Until next time, I am, ____________.


Contributed by Vijay Cuddeford, Toronto, Canada.

Reviewed by Julia Tagwireyi, Coordinator, Interim Secretariat, Food and Nutrition Council, Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, PO BOX 7705, Causeway, Harare, Zimbabwe. E-mail:

Information sources

Conversations with Chief Mangwende, President, Chief’s Council, Parliament of Zimbabwe, PO Box CY 298, Causeway, Harare, Zimbabwe.

Conversations with Julia Tagwireyi, Coordinator, Interim Secretariat, Food and Nutrition Council, Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, PO BOX 7705, Causeway, Harare, Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe: Elderly people suffering in silence,” by Margaret Chinowaita, The Zimbabwe Standard, February 6, 2000.

The smallholder agricultural sector’s response to HIV/AIDS,” by Gladys Mutangadura. Sexual Health Exchange, No. 2000-3, 2000.

Remembrance of Things Past, by Alan Berg,” New & Noteworthy in Nutrition, Number 29, September 30, 1997. World Bank Group.

Community Based Orphan Care Program: Zimbabwe’s Approach,” by Neddy Matshalaga., Africa Notes, October 2000.