After a period of enjoying good and diverse food during the holidays and in Tana, we are back in the village and have to do with what is on offer here. For a few days no bread has been available, a sign that the road way to Ambat is really suffering from the rainy season by now. Freddy was planning to go that way with the car today but that was cancelled because it is too wet. Fortunately, we brought all kinds of canned food and spreads from Tana. And there is enough that we can buy around us. Green beans, tomatoes, onions, mangoes, and rice of course. With eggs, flour and milk, we make ourselves a good lunch.
This week, Oxfam has published results of their research “Good Enough to Eat”. In this, they combine data on various aspects of food: Do people have enough to eat, can they afford it, how is the quality, and what is the extent of diabetes and obesity? The country that comes out as the best place to eat is the Netherlands. Of course, that is reason enough to mention it here. But with my stomach filled with pancakes and looking at the neighbour’s maize field, I also wonder how Madagascar is scoring.
Let’s start with ‘enough to eat’ — as measured by the percentages of malnutrition and underweight children — here Madagascar dangles on the third worst position. More than one third of the children in the country are underweight. When it comes to quality of food Madagascar even has the lowest score in the survey. People mostly eat nutrient-poor cereals (rice) and root crops (cassava). In general, it can be stated that this is linked to high food prices. Especially in countries in Sub-Saharan Africa the price of food is high in comparison to other products and services. We do not experience the miserable position of Madagascar every day. We are in a region that produces a lot of rice and enjoys relative prosperity because of that.
In the conclusion, Oxfam gives the recommendation that we have heard before from development organizations and donors: Investing in small-holder agriculture in developing countries. The word invest implies that profits can be made in terms of higher production and market access. However, the reality often shows that investments in new technologies do not simply lead to changed practices. This is part of Freddy’s research on the adoption of Conservation Agriculture, a technique that helps in adapting to climate change. He looks at the processes of education and the ways in which farmers make choices.
The vast majority of the African population makes a living by subsistence agriculture . The opportunities and choices of these people will shape the future, for themselves, for the cities and the natural environment . We are trying to learn more about this. In order to do this, we sometimes need to temporarily forget our number one position…