Part of the meetings of day 2 in AFRICA(!) were spent learning about one of my favorite topics: food.
If you don’t know by now, I am passionate about food sustainability, hunger solutions, as well as ethical food sources! That is why I jumped at the opportunity to spend sometime outside of the conference room and in the rural Western province where progress is being made.
Here are some of the inspirational stories that I learned about:
- The Diocese of Mongu Development Centre (DMDC) has been around since the early 70’s first working to provide nutritional assistance to the local residents. Today, it focuses on local food sustainability. To meet that goal, DMDC provides farmer training; runs a distribution center for seeds and equipment; operates a rice polishing machine, free for the community to use; and is exploring technologies with bio-diesel. One of the greatest pieces of all their work is how earnestly they commit to sustainability. All the rice seeds sold are organic. Rice husks and residual powder are given purposes such as fertilizer for local crops and road cover. Trees are grown at the center and then replanted to restore the local forest. Lastly, the brickettes left by the plants used for bio-diesel are made into pellets to be used in fires instead of charcoal and the oil used for making soap.
- During my time with Fr. Singini, he mentioned to me his interaction with one community. They were frustrated that food was so much cheaper in the city of Lusaka than it was in their local store. The Oblates stressed with the community to ask why was it so more expensive. The community realized that the conditions of the roads to the village were terrible. Even though few in the village ever rode or drove in a car, it would benefit the whole community if the government would fund highway maintenance, making it easier, and consequently cheaper, to bring in the food supply.
- Outside of Mongu, near the convent where I stayed, was a surprising site: a Shoprite! Similar to the chain that we have back in the States, this multinational had set up shop in this tiny town. However, when the company first approached the village, they wanted to be in the center area. The community said no, as it would take away from local business. In doing this they ensured that smaller operations could continue. However, it also allowed the town bus company to generate new revenue from creating a new route out to the ShopRite.
What I love about these pieces of my time in Mongu, is that they represented local yet revolutionary changes. Instead of providing just food assistance to the community, DMDC now aids people in growing food for themselves as well as to sell on the market. Plus, they are trying to be as renewable and sustainable as possible. Fr. Singini encouraged a community not just to be frustrated, but ask why and stand up for themselves. ShopRite was given a respectable place in town, but not one that was put above other community member’s interests.
Small changes like these demonstrate the impact that we have as a community, as consumers, and as advocates.