I recently participated in a webinar on the future of food; however, the two variables did not seem to have appeared in the discussion. It is against this background (and gap) that I build on a conversation I have been having in my head, regarding how best Namibians – because I gave up on the idea of saving the world – can create food security.
There is an indigenous saying that ‘Without a barn, your grains will never satisfy you’. It is on this basis that this article fast-forwards to the suggestions regarding the discourse of food and the future.
We know that it is difficult to attempt a Jesus-turning-water-into-wine to provide the needed refreshment for that particular occasion, neither is it possible to feed this nation with bread and fish overnight. The same goes with the fact that every community has its own fishing practices; hence, we cannot even teach them how to fish. Instead, we should allow them to freely use their ways of fishing – fishing being the metaphor of obtaining food – in order to feed themselves and others.
I know that the most food secure nations are those that have varieties of food, which is actually not the case in Namibia. We, instead, survive on the basics and recreate the hand-to-mouth cycle to get by – without necessarily building barns for ourselves and those who want to experience our respective cultures through food.
Many a time I am frustrated as to what is not genetically modified so that I could make a meal. My choice is limited among the usual grains and pasta or other carbohydrates. Moreover, I often wish if only I could find my soul food at any retail in my proximity when I need a snack, then I would be fulfilled, literally tasting my soul food.
Food is the core of any culture, and as Namibians, we have lost it. It is not about having a festival to celebrate traditional food but instead making the food – and most importantly the food practices – part and parcel of our daily lives. This, therefore, means the only way forward is to take many steps backwards and do what our forefathers did to make the table and put food on it. Commercialising food is a danger to communities because they end up buying even what they can grow in their backyard.
Why don’t we teach communities to be self-reliant instead of only focusing on how farmers can commercialise their produce? Perhaps that way we can re-introduce the bartering system so that if I have too many grains, I can trade with a poultry farmer, for instance. Lessons from the Great Depression can help us understand how this works, but that is a topic for another day.
People are miserable and depicted as poor because they cannot afford to go to retails and pay for groceries. People are hungry because they do not know what else to do with the same food items besides boiling it the way they are used to. If only culinary schools could focus on also exploring dishes with indigenous food, or if charity focuses more on backyard or indoor gardening, then we are a step into securing food for future generations.
Let us go back into the past to save our people from drowning in waters, looking for dead fish instead of them focusing on finding fresh fish for a meal. Government should also avoid imposing too many restrictions on “natural resources” that were initially a source of living for surrounding communities. Let us remember that if the San community, for instance, is used to hunting to feed the family, they will never be satisfied by the canned food we try to bribe them with for taking over their territory and making it “conservation” areas. That is like restricting a fisherman from fishing and then giving them canned fish for dinner. He and many generations of his clan will never be satisfied because it does not work like that – then we call them “marginalised”.
*Linea Hamukwaya can be reached at email@example.com