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On new foods and crime conquest

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The drastic changes in climate will require Africans to change our staple foods in order to survive. Doing so need not be very difficult. Our ancestors did this for ages, especially on the arrival of overseas people.

We learn from history books that maize, cassava, sweet potatoes and several food items were brought to Africa by the Portuguese. Though we condemn the Portuguese for being the last to abolish slavery in their colonies and to grant independence to their African colonies, we must thank them for introducing extra crops which helped to reduce incidents of famine and malnutrition.

Unfortunately, books that I have read do not throw much light on the type of food our ancestors ate before the arrival of the Portuguese. One thing is certain our ancestors were inventive about the menu. They identified edible fruits, insects in the bush and aquatic creatures. They blended serials into a variety of meals.

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During my childhood, I remember women including my mother used to provide a variety of foods which we knew only in the Ngoni language. Apart from maize nsima, they cooked meals from millet, especially during the rain season when there were shortage of maize. From millet, they prepared mthibhi (sweet beer), utshwala (alcoholic beer), chirungu (gruel), and mthimphwa (a kind of salad) and so forth. From maize, they cooked uncrushed grains called maqakeni, mhuselela (smoked fresh maize) and a variety of others. From cattle, we ate not only meat but also blood called lubende and isithube (porridge cooked in milk) and masi (sour milk). Their menu provided more variety than we do have in towns these days.

Our restaurants, chefs and nutrionists should see if they can invent new foods out of the sweet potatoes and cassava. It is true that cassava is already providing kondowole meal but in the manner it is prepared by some manufacturers is devoid of flavour. In Mzimba, kondowole is not a staple food but women do prepare it from time having learned from visiting Tonga women. The cassava is first peeled, soaked in water then dried in the sun. After that, it is pounded in a mortar. The thick porridge made from such flour has a very good flavour but the type of cassava flour I have sometimes bought at trade fair differs little from starch.

Those who intend to manufacture traditional foods should conform to the tastes to which people are used. A good example is what appears in supermarkets as peanut butter. It preserves the taste of what in chiTumbuka is called chibwandira. This is roasted groundnuts ground with a pinch of salt. It lasts for some time without getting bad.

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As a student in London decades ago, I used to enjoy what were called mashed potatoes and Hungarian goulash. Menus modelled on these could be introduced in hospitals, hostels and restaurants. Gradually, people could get used to them just as they used to eating maize meal, potatoes and cassava tubers.

In short, one way to keep famine at bay is to invent new types of food and wean ourselves from overdependence on one staple food.

Our scientist should devise methods of preserving fish meal and fresh maize in a manner that would improve current methods. The manner fish is smoked and preserved at present appears unhygienic. I doubt if such fish can be exported.

Indigenous trees which bear edible fruits should be specially protected from want on cutting, wild fruits are sources of nutrition. In my childhood days, women could prepare porridge from the juices of fruits such as mbula. By getting too enamoured of foreign habits, we have lost the wisdom and culture of our ancestors.

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Conquest of crime and corruption. These evils are found in every country in the world. But they are worse in countries like Malawi, Nigeria, Kenya and so on. Do we have to accept them as a way of life? That would be foolish.

In 2009, I was one of the group of journalists who went to Beijing, capital of China. Much to my surprise, I saw police officers on patrol without guns. With us, police officers who did that would not scare off criminals. Instead, these days criminals even kill police officials on duty.

One method of uncovering the hideouts of criminals is to have a substantial fund of which rewards would be made to anyone, police official or m member of the public. It is true that members of the public currently give a lead which results in the police apprehending notorious criminals. But incentives would have greater impacts. Much as voluntary work is appreciated, most people do not object to a reward when it is given to them for a service rendered.

Police officials who take part in apprehending dangerous criminals should be given ad hoc rewards as soon as possible instead of rewarding them with promotions to higher ranks later in the year.

Without a dedicated police force devoid of corrupt elements, nobody is safe in this country. If rewards are given to police officials who report on their colleagues who collaborate with criminals, this could lead to a better constituted police service.

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