Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Food crisis: Part III

Moringa oleifera

So that brings us back to the pagivolte. There are things that I think could certainly help improve the food security of villagers here, and possibly also of city dwellers. We gave the following suggestions:
1. Try saving-or just not spending- a small amount of money (the equivalent of 50 US cents) each week, so that you can cover the increased price of food. Or try joining a money-saving cooperative; lots of villagers do this: everyone puts in a small bit of money each week, and every few weeks one family gets all of it.
2. Plant moringa in gardens. This is a small tree whose leaves grow fast and are packed with vitamins. It tastes a lot like spinach.
3. Plant vegetables. (Again, not a lot of people do this, but a few do. We'll see.)
4. If you can afford a baby sheep or goat, buy it now to sell for profit later. It's true: livestock here is like banks in America. You invest your money in a sheep and then sell it after Ramadan when people are celebrating the end of their fasts.

Yep. That was what our pagivolte was about. The women were pretty funny--they thought we were very entertaining. They may have taken something to heart; I'm not sure. Deep down, I don't see why they would. We don't know what they go through every year; surely they have strategies for feeding their families. They're here! They've always been here! But then why don't more of them do those things on the list? What do they know that they don't tell us, that they conceal behind their laughter and amusement with us? That's the real question; the facts are that they know about living here, that I don't, and that whatever they do to curb hunger and malnutrition is just enough to make it, even if it means relying on a few bags of millet brought by foreign aid which will not be coming this year. It is infuriating; it is amazing; it is frightening; it is risky; it is brave; it is trusting...and if it means that another 20% of the babies in the country die before their 5th birthday this year, then there is a lot of work to do.

I don't know what my role is in all of this, but I'm here, and I tell you what, I will do what I can...to start, when I get to my village tomorrow, I'm going to plant my moringa saplings in my concession, and start mixing some cow poop into the sand to grow a garden. Yeah! TAKE THAT, FOOD CRISIS!

Wow, well I got pretty intense just then. And now I'm sweating even more, and the sun found me again, and bleached out my shade. So it's time to move on.

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