crying never helped anyone


I watched the movie Blood Diamond, with Leonardo DiCaprio, last night. I sat alone, except for the puppy my digsmates and I found in the township, and cried. I cried for the 200 000 child soldiers in Africa that get so hooked on drugs and violence that they no longer recognize their families. I cried for the thousands and thousands of refugees who have nothing but themselves and the clothes on their backs. And I cried for the rest of us, every person who in the comfort of their homes, watches, cries and does nothing about the brutality and inhumanity that plagues our beautiful continent.


I know this is slightly of the topic of my blog – the world food crisis – but it is all the same thing when it comes to complacency in times of sheer desperation.


The most heartbreaking moment in Blood Diamond was, for me, when Solomon Vandy, a man searching desperately for his wife, daughters and son, looks with hope to Jennifer Connelly’s character (a hardcore journalist) and asks if the people in her country, whom she is writing for, will hear about the atrocities in his country and send help. Connelly, with the cold honesty of a journalist who has seen it all, says, “No”.


This is the revolting truth; that we will shed a couple of tears, maybe even start a half-hearted campaign for the cause, but eventually we become wrapped up in our own lives and forget about our responsibility to humankind. It’s “just human error” we say – convenience and complacency always win out.


We have only one life to live, why use it to take rather than give?


If you haven’t seen the movie yet, watch Blood Diamond, it’s a wake-up call like no other. Oh, and don’t forget about the hands that get chopped off so that we get to have a pretty diamond ring on our engagement finger.




Grubs up:part 2

Last week I wrote about entamorphagy – the consumption of insects- and it raised a lot of curiosity. With the constant bombardment of information urging us to ‘go green’ these days, it is difficult to bypass alternatives, like entamophagy, as something too extreme for anyone to be really serious about.
A friend of mine was paging through Times magazine in a doctors waiting room when she came across the article “Eating Bugs”. Knowing the topic of my blog, and with an interest in entamorphagy herself, she, as a good friend would, kept the article for me. What I found made me surprisingly warm to the idea of creepy-crawlies crawling into my digestive system.
I may be ignorant, but I only first heard of entamorphagy last week, so the concept is still quite foreign to me but, apparently, even in America, there are those trying to develop the trend. David George Gordon, from Seattle, is the author of The Eat-a Bug Cookbook, and swears by his speciality dinner party dish called – wait for it – ‘Orthopteran Orzo with Tarantula Tempura’. This delight consists of fried-up arachnid, mixed up with some crickets (tangy to the taste by the way) with a little pasta to top it off. Bryan Walsh, Times reporter, ventured bravely into the world of digestible insects and, he admitted, came out unscathed and very intrigued having had a fairly enjoyable experience! After trying Gordon’s version of dessert, Walsh was almost convinced. The’White chocolate and Waxworm cookies’ introduced him to popcorn-sized larvae that is meaty and flavourful and, if you listen to your rational brain instead of your weak stomach, is very likely to guarantee a fantastic time for your taste-buds.
People are more often than not put off by insects’s alien appearance, but it is important to remember that bugs pose no danger to our health, unless they were found in a pesticide-laden field, are not dirty and, if cooked correctly can be made into delicious dishes.
Go on, go green, go grubs!


Grub’s up

Thursday in Grahamstown is garbage collection day and as happens there was more than one desperate person searching the refuse bags for food of any kind. The irony that it was World Food Day yesterday was not lost on me, as I’m sure it wasn’t on many others. With food prices continuing to rise, I started to think about alternative foods and if ‘eating bugs could save the world’.


Entamorphagy is the eating of bugs as food and if this became a common dietary practice, we could not only be saving the world, but saving ourselves. The pro’s of dining on insects means economical, nutrition and protein-rich food that keeps cholesterol low, while at the same time keeping the pest count down and, subsequently, reducing the use of harmful pesticides.


While the idea of chewing on a juicy mopani worm gives me the chills from the legs up, in Papua New Guinea sago grubs wrapped in banana leaves are considered a delicacy. Rice and wasps are the Japanese equivalent of bangers and mash, and in many African countries crickets, locusts and other grubs are like the Simba chips we buy at Pick ‘n Pay. In that case, with western countries being the only ones that don’t indulge in the resources at our fingertips (or in our gardens), should we be the ones who’re considered strange?


For many, seafood such as crab, shrimp, prawn and crayfish are treats to be reserved for special occasions, but are these not the insects of the ocean? With this in mind, as one environmentalist put it, “to eat bugs is better to be dead and be eaten by them!”


The Middle East – can oil solve everything?

The Middle East invokes thoughts of a dark and mysterious corner of the globe where war, terror and chaos reign supreme and oil is the centre of their existence. Have you ever stopped to think about the effect the current financial and food crisis is having on third world countries other than Africa. I certainly didn’t, not until I read The Memri Economic Blog by Dr Nimrod Raphaeli.


Did you know that in the Middle East water availability is 1200 cubic metres per person per year, as opposed to the average person’s 8900 cubic metres per person per year AND this is expected to halve by the year 2050? Population growth, famine and desertification have all taken its toll on the area and water tables are being used with no option of being replenished. A water shortage is almost the same as an oxygen shortage, except the latter would take about a 13th of the time to wipe out the planet and it would make the current food crisis redundant. But I digress.


Essentially the current Middle Eastern situation is as follows: they have little to no arable land, are running out of water and without any ‘safety nets’ for the current crises, the most vulnerable people are dying of hunger. Their only option is to use the one thing they have – oil profits – to buy what they need from those who have. The member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman) are involved in talks to buy farmland from countries like Sudan, Pakistan and Thailand. If this materialises, however, there could be some severe political consequences.

We all know exactly what land disputes have done to the world in the past and Jacques Diouf, the Director General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warns against this course of action. He says that land purchases made in such an absolute manner could initiate unrest in these countries where they are battling enough to feed their own citizens. Diouf added, “I have no problem with Arabs doing the investment. Where I start getting worried is [a situation in which investors] rush and buy land all over the place. Land is a political hot potato.”


With the financial and food crisis bringing the world to its knees, I wait in anticipation of what move the Middle East decides to make – territorial conflict really would be the cherry on top.


take a stand and fast for hunger!

At last! A group of ordinary people are taking a stand against world hunger – and a powerful one at that.

Initiated in Iowa, USA, Presbyterians all around the world will fast for the global food crisis the first weekend of every month for the next year. Of course, there are those who are sceptical about the productivity of this kind of protest, but it is definitely a whole lot better than continuing life in a blissful bubble of complacency. Nancy Lister-Settle, who is “hunger-action enabler” for the initiative, believes that over 800 million people are going hungry not because the planet can no longer sustain us, but rather as a result of the political power-play and poor systems set up around the trade of food.

This protest is not, however, open to Presbyterian’s alone, but the whole world is invited to actively empathize with the growing number of malnourished and starving people across the globe. Fasting, while making a statement, will not work alone so it is imperative that participants, and others, make an effort to donate money saved to those who don’t have the option of fasting, but are forced into it. If you need to find a reason to join the protest, simply look at Egypt as an example of worldwide desperation – people physically fighting their way to the front of bread queues, getting crushed against the steel bars of bakery counters and being pushed to the ground when owners can’t handle the chaos anymore. 

As Robert Zoelick, president of the World Bank, says, we can no longer call this a food crisis, but rather a human crisis. So why not – why not make a sacrifice of 2 days once a month to aid those who go to bed with nothing to replenish their bodies or the ability to guarantee their survival everyday of the month. It’s the least we can do


GM Foods: Friend or Foe?

12 years ago it seemed that the debate had been laid to rest – genetically modified (GM) food is ‘Frankenstein food’. Dangerous for both health and the environment, never-mind perpetuating capitalism, GM was an option to be ignored. Is it, however, time to reconsider the decision? GM crops provide greater yield for the same area and uses less pesticides and fertilizers, hugely decreasing food costs and subsequently demand.


Over a decade down the line, the most crippling food crisis in more than a generation is sweeping the globe leaving millions starving and undernourished with people spending the money intended for education and healthcare on basic food stuffs – essentially being denied other basic human rights to simply survive. Does this not make it an ideal time to engage with food production alternatives that will ultimately alleviate the effects of this crisis?


A number of countries have embraced GM and as of yet no environmental and health problems have been reported. The majority of American consumers feed themselves with GM products and, apart from eating far too much (hence the obesity crisis in the country), there have been no health problems to speak of. While it would be an understatement for me to say that eating food that is not entirely food doesn’t ‘go down well’,  it is imperative to look at the facts: either we continue to let thousands and thousands of innocent people die of starvation or we make use of science. With good there will always be bad, but in this case it’s not an excuse.  


Will we step up to the plate?


I am currently a member of an 8-man student digs at Rhodes University and, as you can imagine, it’s fairly chaotic. Each of us pays R10 a night towards dinner and this way we have the opportunity to bond and eat an inexpensive, hearty meal. Then the food price hike became a reality and it was no longer a case of “that only happens in the poor parts of Africa!” Of course, instead of re-adjusting our budget, we went for the more immediately satisfying option of spending beyond our means. We expected the rise in prices to normalize soon enough, but in hindsight this was just naïve student logic.


When our funds depleted to such an extent that we could no longer afford a roll of toilet paper, we decided it was time to reconvene on the budget issue. Incentive is what gets people enthusiastic, so we held a “Cheapest (yet nicest) dinner competition” in our digs, the winner getting the coveted title and a cardboard trophy. We spent hours conjuring up economical recipes hoping to outdo one another and the result was that our meals changed dramatically from, for instance, cheese burgers, chips and salad, to mixed vegetable stew or vegetable pasta. Ultimately we became vegetarians – by force of finances.  


Becoming vegetarians allowed us to get our budgets, and bodies, into control; so is this really such a big problem? Meat is the most inefficient food on the market as it takes an incredible 3 kg of grain to produce 1kg of pork and over 5kg of grain to produce 1 kg of beef. I’m not disillusioned enough to think that not eating meat will solve the food crisis on its own, but if everyone started grabbing the veggies instead of the biltong we’d be walking on the path of world food crisis solution.


Taste vs. social conscience…I’m rooting for the latter.