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Feature: The tale behind Uzumba-Mutoko’s bountiful golden fruit

Local News
Mango vendor

It’s a simmering January afternoon as Mercy Rugonye (29) waits for customers at  Murewa turn-off along the Harare-Nyamapanda Highway.

The intense heat often associated with the summer season does not deter the mother of two from darting in between vehicles soliciting for customers for her mango fruit.

To several travellers, it’s quite rare to have ripe mangoes at this time of the year, and Rugonye’s mangoes are ripe and business is brisk.

Rugonye is a fruit vendor at this junction. She has been in the trade since she moved to Murewa centre years ago and thanks to the good harvest of mangoes, also known as the “golden fruit” in the area, business is brisk.

In Murewa, mango sales have been sustaining several families.

“I sell mangoes from October to April. It is fortunate that this area has lots of mangoes that get ripe at different intervals. I get my supplies from Mutoko and Uzumba at very cheap prices. In the villages, I can order them for US$2 per bucket,” Rugonye says.

Uzumba and Mutoko are known for producing mangoes and other horticultural products.

A survey in both areas by NewsDay Weekender showed that each homestead has at least three mango trees.

From generation to generation, mango sales have sustained families in these areas, with dealers from as far as Mbare in Harare also visiting the area to take orders for their own businesses in the capital.

Uzumba legislator Simbaneuta Mudarikwa (Zanu PF), who tells NewsDay Weekender that the success story of the mango business owes much to the efforts of a reverend Samuel Gurney, of the United Methodist Church, who pioneered the mango plantations in Mutoko, Uzumba and some parts of Murewa.

“It is all the hand of Gurney. He was based at Nyadire Mission. During those days, clerics and missionaries were equipped with various skills so that they would engage in projects meant to sustain their congregants,” Mudarikwa says.

Nyadire Mission was established in 1923 in Mutoko with a catchment area of 25 000 people.

Gurney was a pioneer Methodist medical missionary who is famed for establishing the Nyadire Mission Hospital. He died in 1924 and never saw its completion. He was replaced by a Doctor Montgomery who continued his work.

“After the establishment of the mission, Gurney encouraged villagers to plant mango trees. In Uzumba, there was reverend Kajese (father to ambassador Munyaradzi Samuel Kajese), who also encouraged people to plant trees as well as the production of butternuts and tomatoes. In short, this is a success story by the Methodist Church in terms of agroforestry development,” Mudarikwa adds.

The legislator expresses concern over the current generation, which has since stopped planting of mango trees in the area, a situation that could result in their short supply in the future.

“These mango trees were planted by our grandfathers. If you move around the homesteads, you will realise that there is a mango tree where our forefathers lived. It is a pity that the current generation is not into the culture of planting more fruit trees. The current generation is benefiting from mango trees that were planted so many years ago,” Mudarikwa says.

Gurney and his team reportedly brought propagated mango tree plants to villagers, a magic that has worked wonders after his demise.

It is also reported that the thriving horticulture or tomato production in both Mutoko and Uzumba was influenced by Reverend Kajese, who encouraged villagers to grow cash crops to encourage self-sustenance.

Government is on record saying it will ensure that a tomato processing and canning factory is established in Mutoko. The same applies to mango production, where value-addition is set to be implemented in these areas through erecting a factory.

First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa, in conjunction with traditional leaders has embarked on a project called Nhaka Muchero, with each chief planting at least 200 fruit trees in his village.

Today, Rugonye boasts of being a successful mango vendor.

Little did she know that it took the effort of a missionary to move from village to village encouraging people to plant mango trees.

Generations have been sustained in these remote areas by mangoes, a golden fruit indeed.

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