Part of the purpose of this blog is to explore issues surrounding how what we eat affects those around the world. I received this story recently from a friend in Cambodia. It’s amazing to me how much we can learn from people we think we are serving!
From Esther Matharu, CRWRC-Cambodia:
Health is a big issue in Cambodia. Many people in the remote villages suffer from malnutrition due to lack of knowledge and ability to grow vegetables during the dry season, when the rice has been harvested and the cows and buffaloes are left to roam around the dry fields, searching for food. Vegetable gardens need to be enclosed from the wandering animals, but the main problem is water. It is no use building capacity for vegetable planting if there is no source of water. Hence the integrated approach to development listens to what the villagers say and provides skills on community mobilization, to build wells, for example, with partial funding from those who lovingly donate to our programs, as well as contributions from the villagers in order to ensure sustainability of our programs. But also there is the question of using chemicals. This is often offered as an option to increase yields of vegetables and rapid growth of animals. However, farmers in the villages are increasingly rejecting this option, for a number of reasons.
Recently, in a discussion with participants attending an exposure visit to another area, there was a discussion about how many people in the West are opting to be vegetarians because of the cruel treatment of animals destined for slaughter to feed humans, and how chemicals in the food chain affect human health. All the participants noted how their parents were telling them that food had become tasteless and un-nourishing, even dangerous to health, as compared to the past. One person commented how his mother was telling him not to eat pig meat. “It is not good, she said, because it is full of chemicals”.
A lady in the group, a village leader, told us how she feeds her pigs on a daily mixture of low grade husked rice porridge and morning glory or any seasonal leafy vegetable, and salt. It takes six months for the piglets to reach 60kg as opposed to the 3 months of chemically fed animals. She said that to conserve the meat, she either slated and sun-dried the striped pieces of meat, or she put it in a barrel of soy or fish sauce and conserved it up to 3-5 months. “For every 4 pigs I sell, she said, I kept one for the family”.
When asked why she kept the animals longer, she explained that keeping the animals for 6 months instead of three was more economical, because not only did she not have to spend money on chemicals, feeds and medicines, but the meat was tastier and better. “It is just not worth it, she said, my profits are not better, and I can do without the middle man. I like to see my animals grow naturally, with food from my own fields. It is better for the environment, better for my animals and better for my income!”
While I was listening to the group, I thought to myself how much there is to learn from each other, while, as we are using so many resources to keep ourselves healthy, and failing, simple farmers work hard to get it right, even under pressure to buy into the system.
This post linked to Fight Back Friday.