Fwd [chifa] Why should Africa stop eating maize?

23 September, 2019

Dear HIFA-Zambia colleagues,

The message below is forwarded from our sister forum CHIFA (child health and rights).

Join CHIFA: http://www.hifa.org/join/join-chifa-child-health-and-rights

From: "Clare Hanbury, UK"

To: "CHIFA - Child Health and Rights" <CHIFA@dgroups.org>

Subject: [chifa] Why should Africa stop eating maize?

Dear All

On the 18th September, the BBC reported that "Zambia's vice-president has called for a radical change in the eating habits of the nation, saying people should ditch the staple, maize meal, for more nutritious foods ­ a proposal akin to telling Italians to stop eating ppasta. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-49714037

I find the report and the sentiment behind it a little unbalanced. It also makes people feel that what they are doing is wrong. Maize is a crucial part of people's diets in Africa. Many people have a deep relationship to their staple. This may be hard for those with higher incomes and access to more variety of food, to understand.

What is essential IS that any staple is seen as a part of a balanced diet alongside other fresh natural colourful food.

In a programme we have been involved with in Mozambique, Primary school aged children managed to convince their parents not to soak the maize to make it 'white' as unsoaked maize is more nutritious. The children decided to label the white maize 'Chima Zero!' suggesting to all around them that it has zero - or very little nutritional value.

Much to everyone's surprise, many parents listened and:

1. Switched to using 'brown' (unsoaked) Chima; and

2. Were influenced by another message from the children that their diets needed to include other foods of many colours ie 'A Rainbow Diet'.

It is always best to work WITH people and their ideas than make blanket pronouncements about profound dietary changes which people, particularly the poorest people, would find hard to follow.

'Don't eat maize' is an easy message and an unrealistic one. Better to go for something more complex that is empowering of people too.

For access to our free resources including posters and story books on the topic of Nutrition to use with children visit www.childrenforhealth.org/resources.

CHIFA profile: Clare Hanbury is director of Children for Health (www.childrenforhealth.org). She qualified as a teacher in the UK and then worked in schools in Kenya and Hong Kong. After an MA in Education in Developing Countries and for many years, Clare worked for The Child-to-Child Trust based at the University of London’s Institute of Education where, alongside Hugh Hawes and Professor David Morley she worked to help embed the Child-to-Child ideas of childrens participation in health ­ into government and non-government child heealth and education programmes in numerous countries. Clare has worked with these ideas alongside vulnerable groups of children such as refugees and street children. Since her MSc in International Maternal and Child Health, Clare has worked freelance and focuses on helping government and non-government programmes to design and deliver child-centered health and education programmes where children are active participants. Clare has worked in many countries in East and Southern Africa and in Pakistan, Cambodia and the Yemen. Her current passion is for distilling health information for teachers, health workers and others ­“ into simple practical health messages actionable by children.

http://www.hifa.org/projects/citizens-parents-and-children

http://www.hifa.org/support/members/clare

Email: clare.hanbury AT zen.co.uk