In the heart of Unguja, the southernmost main island of the Zanzibar Archipelago, lies the quaint village of Mitakawani. This is a place where each villager meticulously cultivates a small piece of land, rich with cumin plants, cassava, yams, tomatoes, and the fiery pili-pili pepper. Over the years, the cumin plants have evolved and thrived, adapting to the village’s unique hot and dry climate. The result is a cumin with a super concentrated flavour that has an astonishingly potent blend of pineapple, molasses, and a tinge of salty liquorice.
The atmosphere in Mitakawani is unlike anywhere else. With its red-orange soil, the region is notably hotter and drier than its neighbouring village, Kidichi. Yet, despite its harsh climate, the landscape is bursting with life. The canopy in this part of Unguja is more open with trees spaciously scattered, but the verdant surroundings exude lushness. Cows, goats, and chickens freely wander amidst the trees, foraging for fresh leaves and twigs.
In this village, tradition holds strong. Many houses remain constructed from wooden sticks, mud, and straw, echoing the craftsmanship of generations past. The people may not be rich in worldly possessions, but they are wealthy in spirit and community. With limited access to modern amenities like electricity, the villagers have honed age-old techniques, such as sun-drying spices, that imbue their products with a distinct rustic charm, full of character and authenticity.
Under the guidance of the village elder, Ali Juma Omari, a harmonious sense of togetherness thrives. The entire community works hand in hand, cultivating spices, sharing their knowledge and the fruits of their labor. The villagers’ collective pride shines through their determination to enhance spice production quality, especially with the recent exciting prospect of exporting their spices to the UK.