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Zimbabwe Bread Shortage Spawns Homemade Solutions

Some enterprising women in Zimbabwe’s second largest town of Bulawayo are working to counter persistent shortages and high prices – by making their own bread. The mothers make different types, depending on the ingredients they have in their pantries. The housewives go to great lengths to find the necessary ingredients to make homemade bread which children say they enjoy eating because it's tasty and filling. From Bulawayo, Voice of America Zimbabwe Service Reporter Netsai Mlilo says with a single loaf of bread costing an average of 1.5 million Zimbabwe dollars, few families in Bulawayo are able to buy the staple daily. Aside from high prices, finding the commodity is a struggle since most bakeries have stopped baking, citing unprofitable controlled prices.

There are various ways of making the loaves, called by various names including amaqhebelengwane, chimupotohai or chifuturabvana.

Recipes differ according to ingredients available.

Praise Mlangeni lives in Nkulumane 12 with her three children. Through a translator she says, "It’s very expensive in the shops so it makes sense to bake your own bread. It helps you save. With the money you save on bread, you can use to buy soap, mealie-meal or something that is needed in the house. I won't buy bread from shops if I have wheat, because the bread I make at home is just the same as long. As long I have flour, I won't buy bread."

Mlangeni says she travels to farms in Nyamandlovu – about 30 kilometers from home – to find wheat, which she buys from farm workers after harvesting. Recently Mlangeni managed to get 10 kilograms of wheat in exchange for 6 plastic plates. She says she used most of the flour to make bread during Christmas.

Mlangeni explains that her mother, Belina Dewa, taught her how to make the various types of homemade bread she prepares for her family.

Dewa says, in the past, she used to make amaqhebelengwane when she had no money to buy bread. Now, however, she's doing so quite often.

"The mealie-meal bread, or white maize meal, is more filling that what they are selling in the shops these days. The bread from the shops is light like paper. A loaf, you can hold it in your hand. So mealie bread is best. Children eat, get full and drink water. There's no food, no bread, no flour so that’s what we are surviving on because we cannot cook [porridge made from white maize] twice a day," she says.

Dewa's youngest daughter, Sipho, says she now prefers homemade bread.

She explains it's not just the taste that she enjoys, "I drink tea with homemade mealie bread. I love homemade bread. I don't like bread from the shops because it's expensive and you don't get full. When we buy a loaf, I only get one slice because there are many people at home."

18-year-old Buhlebenkosi Dlamini lives at Mandalay Farm in Nyamandlovu.

Dlamini says she too enjoys homemade bread, although it's hard work, "I went to pick wheat for just two days. But I stopped when I failed to fill even a five-kilogram packet in a day. Others were filling five- or 10-kilogram tins because they are used to it. I was just starting and it was difficult. We pick the wheat, thrash it and then take it to the grinding mill before we can make bread."

Some housewives say they sometimes make 'vet koek'. This is traditionally an Afrikaans delicacy. If cooking oil is available, small bundles of dough are deep fried.

Some other lucky families are still enjoying bread for breakfast and for sandwiches. These families say they import the bread from either Botswana or South Africa. Others admit they have 'connections' at bakeries that keep some bread for them the few times bread is baked.