“We are fortunate as people of Venda [Vhembe] to have so many fruits at our disposal, but I don’t think we value all these fruits enough. Some even go a week without eating any fruit, despite having all these quality fruits around us,” said Vhulahani Masia, a fruit vendor at Tshakhuma Fruit Market.
Tshakhuma Fruit Market, situated just outside Thohoyandou in the Vhembe District, is the only 24-hour fresh produce market in Vhembe, and sells bananas, mangoes, litchis, tree nuts, pecan nuts, nectarines, avocados and more. The market was established over two decades ago, and to this day, the majority of produce is locally grown.
Masia, who has sold bananas, avocados, paw-paws and litchis at the market since 1996, believes there is general decline in sales at the fruit market. According to her, decrease in interest and consumption of fruit is pronounced in the younger generation.
“I have been selling fruits at this market since 1996 and I can say that over the years there has been a decline in the number of local people who purchase fruits here. It’s something we should worry about, as it might mean that people no longer see the importance of fruits,” she says.
She added: “Something should be done urgently to educate local people about the importance of eating fruit before it’s too late. People who usually come here for fruits are mainly tourists from far away, and they often say that they wished they stayed this side [Venda], so they can have these fruits daily.”
Fresh fruit and vegetable reduce NCD risk
Eating fruits on a regular basis has various health benefits, as people who eat more fruits and vegetables are at a reduced risk of developing some chronic diseases. Per World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines, fruits and vegetables are important components of a healthy diet, while reduced fruit and vegetable consumption is linked to poor health and increased risk of contracting noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, high blood pressure and more.
“Including fruits and vegetables as part of the daily diet may reduce the risk of some NCDs, including cardiovascular diseases and certain types of cancer,” says WHO.
According to a 2019 study published in Nature, into body mass indexes (BMI) across the world, obesity rates in rural populations are on the rise. The dietary shift from traditional food that includes natural fruits and vegetables, to highly processed food, is one of the risk factors mentioned in the study.
Last year, Limpopo Department of Health introduced a new standardised eight-day cycle menu which includes fruits and vegetables at all its hospitals to promote healthy lifestyle and to fight obesity.
‘Our children don’t like eating fruits’
Although the region has easily available fresh produce, as the market is a testament to, fruit vendors feel that education around healthy diet is lacking.
“I think we still need more education on the importance of eating healthy meals, which includes a lot of vegetables, and a fruit on the side at all times. Our children don’t like eating fruits, but I think we’re to blame as parents because we don’t instill the importance of eating fruits and vegetables when they are still toddlers,” says Mavis Mudzanani, another vendor at the Tshakhuma Fruit Market.
“The worst part is that we only start valuing the importance of eating healthy when we are sick and by that time, the damage has already been done. We should start utilising the fruits and vegetables at our disposal to promote healthy eating habits, especially among our children,” she adds.
Nurse Phumudzo Themeli says that a child’s lunchbox is the perfect place to start with healthy eating practices.
“Children should be taught the importance of eating fruits and vegetables, and it should start with their lunchbox. Eating fruits and vegetables has a lot of health benefits such as strengthening the immune system which in turn helps the body fight off various diseases such as most NCDs such as heart diseases, strokes, diabetes, and high blood pressure.” – Health-e News.