Friday, January 23, 2009

Everybody Digs

A few more subjective thoughts on the Ugandan food economy.
According to the Bradt guide, a very large percentage (in the high eighties, I think, or more--someone with a Bradt guide?) of the Ugandan population participates in agricultural activity. There are large farms and export crops, but the majority of this activity seems, from unscientific observations out of bus windows and a few conversations, to be subsistance. Almost everyone is growing a substantial proportion of what they are eating. In the words of the deputy headmistress at Liana's school, 'everybody digs.' Digging, the all purpose term for working in the kitchen garden, is largely conducted with small hoes, and is the province of women, children, hired day laborers (usually men).
There are markets, and there are certainly imports (rice, particularly), but the cassava, the plantains, the bananas, the sweet potatoes and 'Irish' potatoes, the maize and beans and greens, most of the fruit, the tomatoes and eggplants, the cabbages...most of this is, if a family is smart, coming from their own plot, or a few others that they rent or own nearby. Even most of what's in the market is coming from no further than a few towns away, (the larger Kampala market excepted). Tea is grown commercially, and widely drunk with spice influenced by and named after Indian chai. Coffee is mostly grown for export--if you ask for it in country, you get instant. Bread is available but terrible, usually stale.

In many ways, it's the locavore's dream--subsistence eating without chemicals. The diet probably relies too heavily on dubiously nutritious starches (plantains, cassava) and fats, and the water isn't always clean, but at least you know where just about everything came from. And it's so matter of fact. That's the part that kept blowing my mind--it wasn't some fad or some back-to-the-landiness, it was just how people were eating.Liana's thinking about going more seriously into farming, maybe getting some chickens, digging a good garden. I'll update on her progress as she sends me pictures, if she does, and in the meantime continue trying to convince her that a: nasturtiums and their leaves are great in salads, and b: that salads are food.

1 comment:

Nicki said...

Where was this hen? Great picture. Nicki