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Food Experts: Time is Ripe to Grow More Bananas in Zimbabwe

Some dietitians and food experts are encouraging Zimbabweans to eat more bananas. The fruit is popular with vendors and Harare street children, who say they buy them because they’re both cheap and filling. Fans of the fruit say these are some of the reasons bananas should be farmed on a larger scale. Voice of America Zimbabwe Service reporter Fazila Mohamed in Harare tells us the country's oldest banana farm is situated just outside the resort town of Kariba, which is home to about 35-thousand people. The Banana Farm is about 60 hectares in size and produces bananas year round. Its manager, Malcom Middleton, says he delivers about six tons -- about 6-thousand kilograms -- to the market in the town center twice a week.

Though Middleton sings bananas' praises because he sells them,others are equally enthusiastic.

Vendor Muza Chikwama sells bananas on the streets of Harare. His stand is situated on Kaguvi street. Chikwama says he loves bananas because they provide him an income, “I sell banana’s because they are cheaper. I sustain myself like paying my rent, buying shoes and I don’t have to ask for help from anyone.”

Munya is a street child who earns money by guarding cars in the capital. He says he regularly buys bananas from Chiwkama, because he can afford neither chicken nor chips.

Bananas originally came from Malaysia. Interestingly, the banana plant is not a tree. It’s considered to be the world's largest herb.

Some other Zimbabwean areas producing bananas include Raffingora, Chiredzi, Burma Valley and Shamva. Farmers, like Middleton, say the demand exceeds suppliers' ability to deliver.

Bananas are high in vitamin B, which helps to calm the nervous system. Eating 2 bananas daily provides one with enough energy for a 90-minute work-out. One large banana -- measuring about 9 inches in length -- packs more than 600 miligrams of potassium; this is partly why the banana is considered an important food to boost the health of malnourished children.

Harare dietitian, Flossie Greenway, says depression-prone patients are often advised to eat bananas, because the fruit contains trytophan. This protein is converted by the body into serotonin, which helps the body relax and a person's mood to improve.

Amai Chido, who works as cleaner one of Harare's high-rise office buildings says, like Munya, buying bananas suits her pocket, ”Banana’s are cheaper than apples I can buy for my children. If there’s no food in my house I can buy bananas for the children they can eat.”

Bananas are nutritious and cost-effective. Considering the fruit contains four times the protein in apples, it may be easy to see some might change a well known phrase to “a banana a day keeps the doctor away”