Rundu businesswoman Elizabeth Hilger has started producing jam from a locally harvested vegetable called mutete that she also processes into a beverage that is quite popular among the hordes of local and foreign tourists thronging her lodge at Tambuti in Rundu on the banks of the Kavango River.
Vice-President Dr Nickey Iyambo who is on a consultative visit to the two Kavango regions, openly interacting with chiefs, governors and communities on the green schemes and other projects on Thursday, was among the people served a welcoming glass of mutete beverage at Tambuti Lodge.
Hibiscus sabbdariffa is the scientific name for mutete that in Silozi is known as sindambi.
Tourists that have had a taste of mutete juice and had mutete jam spread on their bread are from Germany, America, Britain, South Africa, Poland, Holland, Vietnam and neighbouring Zambia.
The pragmatic businesswoman now does not have to worry about the seasonal nature of mutete that is normally harvested in January and February as villagers have to wait until the next year, because a white commercial farmer in the Otavi area has also ventured into mutete farming.
“There is a white farmer in Otavi who is farming mutete and he is currently supplying us. It is quite a big relief as now we do not run out of mutete – we have it throughout the year,” says Hilger.
“Mutete is our local vegetable grown here in Kavango Region and we are proud to market it both inside Namibia and outside the country. I am proud to market a home-made product. The demand has picked up from clients,” Hilger, who is fondly known as ‘Lizza’, told New Era.
“Both mutete jam and mutete juice are popular – some of our clients in Windhoek order and we send it by courier service. The fresh mutete leaves, we cook it at the restaurant for dinner or lunch. Mutete jam costs N$60 (a jar) and mutete dry leaves cost N$40 (per packet),” said the down-to-earth Hilger.
When asked about the nutritional values of the humble indigenous vegetable she said mutete is known to boost red blood cells, which increases blood supply in anaemic patients, adding that it also expedites the recovery time for people having a mild cough.
Hilger, who is from very humble beginnings is so down to earth that many a time she has been mistaken for one of the handful of her workers as she can be found mopping the floor at her lodge that has hosted many high-profile people such as President Hage Geingob and the first lady Monica Geingos.
Hilger also farms with moringa that has a multiplicity of health benefits, among them the reduction of stress, it mitigates gout, it increases energy, it calms the mind, it lowers cholesterol and blood pressure, it strengthens the immune system and contains many nutrients, thus it is called a super food.
As one novelist once said, “There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.” So it seems there is no stopping Hilger, a woman who was born and bred near Rundu.