Fighting Malnutrition Using Traditional Dishes

A Closer Look at Nyemba; a hidden nutrient-dense food item

By Learnmore Nyoni

Over a quarter of children in Zimbabwe are stunted.

Stunting is a condition that results from poor nutrition, where children are too short for their age, and their brain is not developing optimally. Hence, they may not perform optimally in school or later in life, thereby affecting the country’s socioeconomic development.

Malnutrition does not only affect children but also adolescents, pregnant women and lactating mothers.  

However, one of the major problems in fighting malnutrition in the country is the inaccessibility of nutrition information to the average Zimbabwean. Nutrition blindness is a major problem.

Public health experts in the country encourage the use of traditional foods in the fight against malnutrition. Sadly, most communities in the country associate the consumption of traditional foods with poverty. 

An Easily Accessible Solution

We take a closer look at one of the highly nutritious but often relegated food item; cowpeas. Locally known as ndumba in Ndebele or nyemba in Shona.  Cowpeas are widely cultivated in Zimbabwe, even in drought-prone areas. Most Zimbabwean farmers intercrop it with maize staple crop, thereby promoting nitrogen-fixing of the soil since cowpeas are a legume. 

Cowpeas leaves are also a very popular relish in many parts of the country. Known as mutsotso or munyemba in Shona, most Zimbabweans enjoy this vegetable when dried, along with the Zimbabwean signature beef stew and maize thick porridge (sadza).

Ndumba/Nyemba/Cow Peas Nutritional Profile

Cowpeas are nutrient-dense. They are rich in vegetable protein and dietary fibre. Each serving also gives one, a handful of micronutrients and minerals such as iron, calcium, zinc, folate, copper, vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, C and folic acid.  

Health Benefits

Cowpeas have natural health benefits that include promoting digestive health, enhancing heart health, improving sleep and assisting in weight loss. 


Zimbabwean chefs are coming up with new and exciting recipes to make cowpeas tastier. 

Paidamoyo Chiyangwa, an 18-year-old girl, based in Chikwaka village in Goromonzi developed a new and exciting cowpeas recipe which she refers to as manyemba balls. This new dish is created in a way that appeals to the urbanised palate of young Zimbabweans.

Click Here to Watch Paidamoyo Chiyangwa’s Manyemba Balls Recipe

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