This past week we had a great visit from a youth group from a local church. The youth ministry from the Christian Gathering Worship Center had been learning about non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, heart disease, etc., and the importance that good physical, mental, nutritional, and environmental health can play in the prevention and care of these diseases. As part of their learning they came to Never Ending Food to learn more about the immense resources that are available to us here in Malawi to improve the health of the nation.
As we discussed the importance of eating a diversity of nutritious foods, we also emphasized that our agricultural systems need to reflect this diversity. In 2001, Malawi moved from a 3-food group model to a 6-food group model to encourage this diversity, but our agricultural focus remains primarily focused upon the growing and eating of one high-carbohydrate low-nutrient crop–maize. Despite 8 consecutive years of surplus maize harvests our malnutrition rates have remained steady with approximately 47% of our children under the age of 5 suffering from nutritional ‘stunting’. There is no reason for this when so many foods can be grown and eaten in this 12-month tropical growing climate.
We also looked at how environmental problems, such as over-sweeping, deforestation, and burning have all contributed to the problems of pollution, asthma, and resource depletion. As we walked the group through the various zones of good Permaculture design, we could see the light bulbs coming on in several people’s minds in recognition of the fact that we have been given everything that we need to create a virtual Garden of Eden wherever we live! When we protect, care for, and nurture our natural systems we receive not only diverse and nutritious foods, but also natural medicines, building supplies, fuel, habitat and so much more!