“…though it’s rare to see…lack of food here, it’s appallingly common to see the effects of malnutrition from lack of protein and micronutrients. Many people, especially the Maasai who aren’t traditionally farmers, eat only ugali (cornmeal paste), milk, and meat. Many people don’t understand that beans offer the same general kind of nutrition (protein) as animal products, so they routinely sell their corn for meat instead of growing beans, which would be much cheaper. In fact, this past week was the first time I have seen a bean plant since arriving in Tanzania. Maasai people grow only corn and traditionally farmer tribes (Meru, Chaga, Arusha) generally grow bananas, a few veggies, and corn…
I love teaching food drying and nutrition…when teaching bio-intensive agriculture (or no-till farming) you [and the students] cannot see the results for months or maybe years…food drying and nutrition are fun from a teaching standpoint because people see results within a day. Also, I know enough Swahili at this point that I was able to teach how to make a food dryer without a translator. In fact, last week I taught with only an intern, (who knows Swahili but not so much food drying) rather than an experienced trainer, so I was the most experienced person in the room! It was so satisfying to have gotten to the point where I really feel useful and needed.
The last day of class was especially satisfying. After having taught nutrition, making six home food dryers, and preparing veggies for drying, we made mchicha (cooked greens with onion and carrot) from the rehydrated food. As we were rehydrating the food one of the mamas said (in Swahili) “If I serve this to my husband he will be very angry with me!” They didn’t believe the rehydrated food would taste good or retain its nutrients. I was a little put out by her comment, but it made me realize that we hadn’t been involving the farmers very much in the cooking process. When the food was completely rehydrated I dubbed her Mama Mwalimu, (teacher) and asked her to teach me how to cook mchicha the Tanzanian way. Everybody thought this was funny and the greens were delicious because the farmers made them just how they like them. At the end everyone had to admit that rehydrated food tastes the same as fresh!”
-Meredith B., Tanzania Sustainable Agriculture Program, 2011