Food & Daily life

Tree-lined cities

Harare and Bulawayo are home to the majority of the urban population. These cities contain a mixture of both old and modern architecture. Both have a relaxed feel in many parts because of their wide, tree-lined avenues.

Depending on the time of year, the flowering trees bring a blaze of colour to the streets. Jacarandas produce beautiful canopies of mauve flowers, while frangipani trees are covered in white blossoms and flame trees blaze red.

  • Jaracanda trees
  • Frangipani flowers

Although two-thirds of Zimbabweans live in rural areas, men will often leave their villages to find work in the cities or on farms, leaving women and children to remain behind.


In the countryside, smallholdings are scattered. Zimbabweans prefer to have bush between themselves and their immediate neighbours. This means the term "village" mostly refers to an area of smallholdings and not to a number of houses located together.

One to watch

See how Patrick (18) and Shamiso (13) cope on their own in 'Growing Up'

Over two-thirds of smallholders are women, who as well as raising crops and poultry, look after the home. Many also take part in some form of local work to provide extra household income.

Child-headed households are unfortunately common, where older brothers/sisters look after their younger siblings. This is because an estimated 1.4 million children have lost either one or both parents, mainly due to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Maize meals, drinks and snacks

Though bread and rice are eaten in some parts of the country, maize/corn is the staple food for many Zimbabweans. The corn is ground into maize flour (called mealie-meal), which is used to make thick porridges. Where food is plentiful, porridges are served with vegetables or meat. Onions, tomatoes and groundnuts/peanuts are often used for sauces.Dried fruit

Mealie-meal is also used to make maheu, a common drink. This is thick, creamy and slightly gritty. With a naturally sour taste, it can be sweetened with sugar. Left to ferment, maheu becomes an alcoholic drink. Millet/sorghum beer, made locally by women, is another popular alcoholic beverage.

Snacks such as fried cakes, potato chips and dried fruit (as shown in the photo) are popular. And once again, maize proves its versatility. Roasted maize can be bought by travellers from street vendors and it is also used to make flavoured popcorn. See the video of the local factory making popcorn and maize snacks.


Though men and women are equal under the constitution, women are still discriminated against in legal matters. A woman’s testimony is not given equal weight in courts of law and in customary marriages, all property rights belong to the man.

Two types of marriage exist in Zimbabwe. Customary marriages are the most common; this type of marriage can be polygamous (where a man has more than one wife) and divorce is frowned upon. There are also civil marriages. These are monogamous and can be dissolved by divorce, when women can claim a share of the marital estate.