This article by Jill Richardson relates how America’s poor dietary practices are negatively affecting our international trading partners. As the global food economy continues to expand, other countries are importing the foods that make American’s fat, and it’s having devastating consequences on the population.
Richardson goes on to mention how “traditional diets” really aren’t all that bad as compared to the western alternative. Sure, people in Tabora eat a lot of ugali, but they usually eat it with beans and some sort of vegetable. Nutritionally speaking, a standard ugali meal is more well-rounded than the classic all-american chicken fingers, french fries, lots of ketchup, and a coke.
I wonder if poor eating habits are avoidable or if they’re just a nasty consequence of development. I read an article a few months ago which discussed the two types of malnutrition affecting Tanzanian’s today. One type stems from chronic underconsumption, low income, and nutrient deficiencies, but the other end of the spectrum is seeing increasing trends of developed-world diseases like diabetes, obesity, and heart disease due to excessive intake of things like saturated fats. In the village, we’ve experienced situations which elude to this traditional-gone-western downfall. The “richest” foods that people eat for special occasions like parties or holidays are red meats and oil…lots of oil. Being able to purchase these foods is seen as a sign of wealth and affluence. The mission of the Tabora Project is to change the status-quo of nutrient intake among the young population. I had not considered before that there was actually an even worse scenario than the one we’re currently facing. The thought of a Future Tabora filled with children eating big macs and bo-berry biscuits makes me a little bit sick.
The goal of the Tabora Project is to aim somewhere in the middle. We would love to see a village where children got enough food to eat but didn’t fall victim to the rich-people-eat-red-meat-and-oil syndrome. From a realistic stand point, it sounds like a tall order. Changing someone’s cultural habits and way of life isn’t an option, but increasing their knowledge base about what makes their children healthy is. We hope by providing these women with education in nutrition, they can come to value a bountiful vegetable harvest just as much as they would a quarter-kilo of beef. The education partnered with their increased capacity to grow the vegetables themselves can make a healthy diet more realistic. The Tabora Project, as well as other development efforts, is an opportunity to learn from the mistakes we made as a developed nation, and set our host villages on the right path to success.