After the initial panic of discovering that most of the food being exported from South Africa, United States, and Canada has ingredients made from genetically modified organisms, the first step was to clean up my diet - to exclude all products from those countries with any form of corn and soya including maize meal, corn syrup, and soya flour and lecithin.
The second step was to find proper food again. A friend supplied me with mtindi from cows that weren't being fed hormones and overdosed with medications. Over the next few weeks I drank at least five liters of this mtindi. My stomach started to heal.
I drank it at different strengths, and different tastes. And now while my stomach is still a bit tender it is stable once again. I have been eating almost completely local vegetables, rice, bananas, pumpkins, tangerines, local beef and food from people I know who have healthy farming practices!
I've re-discovered gimbi, which feels lovely on my stomach. My stomach is calming down for sure. Even my mind, to a certain extent. This morning I am off to Kigamboni to visit a young farmer. I supplied him with seedlings when he did not have cash. He re-paid me with beautiful pumpkins, chickens, meat, eggs, and greens of many kinds.
Actually the debt is finished. When I serve these foods to people, they note the quality. It's not corporate tongue tingling, but deeply satisfying. The farm is at Mji Mwema, Kigamboni, Dar es Salaam. The road is tarmac'd all the way to the turn off. Then we bumped along a dirt road through degraded bush and people's farms, until we arrived at cement walls surrounded by neat rows of vegetables.
We are visiting the farm of Kamili Joseph Ngowi and Aloyce Mtui. The main farmer is Ngowi, a graduate from the Kilacha Agriculture and Livestock College in Himo Moshi. They got permission to use the land about ten years ago. He is farming intensively and organically.
He is not using pesticides or herbicides of any kind. The only fertilizer applied is from their own livestock, mainly chickens and cows. They started in 2003 with the plot of six acres of highly degraded bushland, and their own labor. It was hard at first. The first crops they planted were foods that do not need much water: cassava (mihogo), and potatoes (viazi).
They also got young animals to raise. Nobody was living on the plot at the time. Thieves came one night and butchered the animals and took the meat away. That is when Ngowi realized he had no option but to move onto the land. He started again.
The worst pests and predators of this organic farm have been human ones. At first Ngowi planted a border with a type of mchongoma with very very long thorns. It makes an effective fence inside protecting seedlings against animals for example, but the humans burned through it! So they have had to invest a lot of money and effort in fencing the perimeter with cement bricks.
However in spite of hardship and setbacks, they have been moving steadily into turning these six acres into an intensive farming operation. Many different types of food are growing: greens such as matembele, mchicha, sukuma wiki, mbogamboga (pumpkins), moringa, mihogo (cassava), nazi (coconuts)miwa (sugar cane), machungwa (oranges), migomba (bananas), pilipili (hot peppers), passion, chaichai (lemon grass), dodoki (loofah as a vegetable or as a sponge), korosho (cashews), bamia (okra), and papaya.
Farmers such as these are acting out what has been reported in the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) Global Report (2008). This report was commissioned in partnership with the United Nations after a group of biotechnology companies asked the World Bank what it thought of genetic engineering technology as an agricultural strategy for developing countries.
More than 400 scientists from around the world using rigorous scientific methods contributed. Ironically, the ensuing report rejected biotechnology and industrial farming as a viable solution to the problems confronting low income countries.
The report instead calls for strong focus on small-scale farming and agro-ecological farming methods to feed local communities, address social inequities and protect the environment. Ngowi and Mtui are practitioners of the new modern way of farming; it is biodiverse, labor intensive and works with Nature, not against it. No wonder their food tastes so good.