Rice and beans – it’s a simple meal, yet here in Alpha 2 it’s a luxury. Sitting outside, enjoying the feast prepared by our fantastic lunch mama and soaking in the scenic landscape of Endagikot Primary School, we feel it’s important to reflect on nutrition in the country from a wider perspective.
All of the non-Tanzanian team members undoubtedly take food availability for granted in our home communities. In the ‘Western’ world we can walk into any local supermarket and buy any food of our choice. Our food is imported from all over the world straight to the shelf.
In Tanzania, however, food availability depends on the season and recent weather conditions. Heavy rainfall periods affect the harvest just as much as droughts, storms and natural disasters. Such a dependency subsequently has a severe knock-on effect on nutrition in Tanzania.
The lack of imported food, combined with other factors such as climate, poverty and cultural and farming traditions, causes a distinct lack of variety in the Tanzanian diet. In rural areas especially, the diet consists primarily of cereals such as maize and sorghum, starchy roots such as cassava and pulses (beans). Starchy foods provide three quarters of the total energy intake, whilst consumption of micronutrient rich foods including animal products, fruit and vegetables is extremely low. Vegetables are traditionally cooked by boiling them until very soft, which significantly reduces the level of nutrients. The result of all this – severe levels of malnutrition including a recorded 42% of children under 5 years old with stunted growth in 2010 and 69% of 6-59 month old children who are anaemic.
Alpha 2’s aim is to help tackle this issue. We want to work in a way that will help put an end to hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. Throughout the course of our third and final phase we have been working to raise awareness amongst the pupils of Endagikot Primary, their families and the wider community, on the importance of eating different food types. We will stress the particular importance of foods containing proteins, vitamins and minerals. We also aim to encourage community members to grow their own food and we will demonstrate how different cooking methods can be used to retain essential nutrients in food.
We also plan to continue the vegetable garden in the school, alongside demonstrations of using sack gardens and planting seedlings – all projects started by previous Raleigh volunteers – so as to provide a more lasting and sustainable learning experience for the children about nutrition.
Our experience has certainly uncovered some considerable obstacles. We have learnt that factors such as the cost of food and the conditions for crop growth cannot be easily changed, making our work very difficult. We hope that, regardless, our efforts will go a long way in making the people of Endagikot aware of the nutritional issues in their area and in Tanzania.
Meanwhile, we personally now value the benefits of food in our Western society to a much greater extent. On returning home we shall no longer take the food availability and variety that we enjoy for granted.
By 2030, the Global Goals aim to end hunger and ensure access by all people, in particular the poor and people in vulnerable situations, including infants, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round. There is also the aim to double the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers. We hope that by making the students of Endagikot Primary school more aware on what their bodies require, and how they can be resourceful with the foods that are available to them, we are contributing towards these goals.