Emancipating ourselves from mental slavery

28th March 2017
The Fireplace


By Matshediso Fologang -

This past week I joined a group of elders and had the benefit of learning more about indigenous foods. This was part of the ongoing Focus Group Discussion on the Survey on Indigenous foods with potential for development of functional foods.

This ºwas facilitated by the Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (BUAN). As a people we have a variety of traditional foods, many of which are no longer easily available. Some, although still available, have had their production and processing commercialised. The need to conserve and preserve these has become very critical.

The survey was attended mostly by elderly people and sadly there were no young people present. The essence of the survey was to share all natural foods, how they are prepared and conserved. The discussion also included taboos (meila) associated with these. This was generally very informative.
It took me back some 50 or so years back. It is sad that with time we have completely abandoned production and consumption of a great number of our foods. We have adopted western foods because doing so is regarded as an indication that ‘we have made it in life.’  Our traditional foods were generally nutritional and balanced. Yet it is considered primitive to continue having them in our family menu.

We have both domestic and wild indigenous fruits and vegetables that are nutritionally better than the mass produced and genetically modified foods that are found in the chain stores in our midst. In this period/season of abundance there is available in the streets and markets a wide choice of these local foods.
Soon there will be nothing as we have also abandoned our traditional ways of food preservation. Some of our traditional methods like biltong production have been adopted by the settlers (colonialists) and have entered the commercial system and proved beneficial. We have products like kgomodimetsing, moritela-tshwene, mosukujane, motlopi and a variety of tea plants which could be considered for commercialisation. The story of rooi bos tea as indigenous Khoisan plant always reminds us that we have plants that can do well too in the commercial world.

The lerotse (juice) which was until recently unnoticed, has become a highly-demanded ingredient. Many other such produces like wild fruits and vegetables should be targeted and extensively researched on.Statistics has shown that we have high levels of unemployment and poverty. Government has put in place a number of poverty alleviation projects but these have tended to create a worrying dependency syndrome. We have people, even able-bodied, who no longer want to do anything of their own but expect government to provide for all their needs.

We must realise that this is not sustainable in the long run. We should facilitate for people to want to regain their dignity through self-employment. As I sat with these old people I learnt from them that these various foods could be used to create employment.

I went to Tshidilamolomo (North West Province) and found old people involved in production of Motlopi coffee. The group was making a living out of this. We can do it here. It could form part of local economic development as envisaged by Botswana Association of Local Authorities and Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development. Let us use our local merogo, maungo, caterpillars to generate sustainable job opportunities.

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