Malawi will never achieve the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of eradication of extreme hunger while emphasising bumper harvests of maize and not nutrition itself.
Maize is the number one staple food in Malawi, but, while it produces much of the bodyâ€™s daily requirements of carbohydrates, necessary to provide energy for labour, it can never provide the whole mixture of nutrients for a healthy body and mind. Carbohydrates are also provided from vegetables, beans, nuts and fruits as well as other staples like sorghum, cassava, rice, wheat and potatoes. Practising zero tillage, as nature does, requires far less intake of carbohydrate each day, so less carbohydrate has to be grown.Â
Mangoes have been fruiting in the hotter parts of Malawi since August and will continue until February in the cooler parts. Bunda staff tell me 75 percent of Malawiâ€™s mango crop goes to waste. Here are ways to save it. Indians dry the very small fruit and powder it to use as amchoor, to spice their food. Small fruit is prepared with oil and spices to make achaar, which also makes a small business for those who have access to oil and spices. Villagers have always cooked larger fruits as phala in times of hunger. Large mangoes, while still hard and white-fleshed, are grated then mixed with salt, chilli and turmeric from the market and a little cumin if possible, to make a sweet pickle which is very popular. Such mangoes were also wrapped in chiguduli (sacking) now in newspaper to speed up the ripening process.
When a green mango turns yellow near the stalk and begins to feel slightly soft to the touch but not too soft, it is ready to prepare for solar drying. Wash well before peeling and eat the peels of local mangoes, too, as they are delicious, which means they contain nutrients the body wants to eat! Sow the seeds now for the future. Hybrid mango skins do not taste so good so go in the compost heap. Slice these mangoes and place in an insect-free solar dryer for two to three days to store as dried fruit for the children in hungry season. Extra ripe fruit can be prepared as jam and juice for later in the year to add to the diet or sell as an income-generating activity. Guavas and other fruit can be saved in similar ways to add nutrients to the diet.
The first professor of community medicine at the Mangochi Campus of College of Medicine (CoM) taught that every child living in a village where mangoes grow will also find papaya and pumpkin growing locally in season, so Vitamin A never needs to be added to other foodstuffs, the village is food secure in Vitamin A for free, forever!
Bonongwe (Amaranthus) has been recognised by our President as a valuable vegetable from the two-metre tall variety to the very small dark variety which grows in hot areas in November, needing little water, but showing by its dark green that it is rich in nutrients. Share seeds with friends when you find your favourite varieties of bonongwe, luni, denje, chisoso, mpiru, and recall the powerful memories of foods your grandmother cooked.
Neem is widely accepted now as a safe, free insecticide for protecting maize and other crops from harvest pests. Finely powdered neem leaves, taken a quarter teaspoon a day from the onset of the rains until six weeks after the rains have finished, is free prophylaxis for malaria for adults and provides an income-generating activity for primary school girls to help with the cost of uniform.Â
Using such traditional knowledge of foods collected throughout Malawi in 1988 and published as Malawiâ€™s Traditional and Modern Cooking by Chitukuko cha Amayi Mâ€™Malawi (CCAM) in 1992, together with the Permaculture Ethics of Care for the Earth, Care for People, Share the Surplus, the way forward has been shown between Karonga and Nsanje. Add the teachings of Action for Natural Medicine (Anamed), which include 60 tried and tested, locally found, healing plants with the nutrition already recognised and all that is needed is NATIONAL PRIDE IN MALAWI. Here we have already produced and shown to help the poorest people out of poverty and into a healthy lifestyle if they and we choose to do so.-The writer is a housewife living in the rural areas this past 30 years. She edited Malawiâ€™s Traditional and Modern Cooking, is the matron of the Permaculture Network in Malawi and a strong supporter of Anamed.