We have just celebrated the earth day with much fanfare in all parts of the world. In most places, the idea of conserving nature and protecting Mother Earth is celebrated once in a year and people disperse after taking pledges and making vows. Many forget about them even before they reach their homes and until the next year, nothing ever happens. If you are the type following the news in the papers and media, you will agree with what I am saying. Of course, there are many people who really get inspired and try and do something in this direction. Even a small step counts.
But deep within the country, there are so many indigenous people like the Adivasis of Khondh in Odisha or the women of the Khasi tribe in Meghalaya who are silently renewing their relationship with mother earth not because it is earth day or something but because it is their way of life, something women from these communities have been doing for thousands of years. The Khondh community celebrates the seed festival or Bijun Parab just before the arrival of the first rains. The women collect different varieties of seeds throughout the year and store them safely from insects, beasts or any such intrusion by mixing neem paste or using natural fertilizers like lining the basket with cow dung. During the annual seed festival, they bring out the varieties of seeds they have saved into the open outside their homes and place them in the village square. The entire community participates in rejoicing during the festival with men beating the drums, women singing songs and children dancing and playing. Those who were unfortunate and have lost their seeds need not worry; the seeds will be shared by all the women. What a wonderful spirit of community sharing and caring.
And they wait, till the signs of rain. Then off they go to scatter the seeds in the patch of lands and soon the land gives them a rich reward and thus the cycle continues.
The Khasi tribe which is matrilinear also does something like this. Women preserve seeds of all varieties for they need wholesome meals which should include cereals, vegetables, fruits even medicinal plants. The knowledge that these women possess is amazing. They pass it on to generations along with the deep reverence for the mountains, rivers and forests. They are untouched by the guile of the outsiders and have made their lives simple and closer to the elements.
That is true earth day. Every day is a celebration. How I wish we can learn from our cultures and respect the earth and her resources with gratitude. The Beejotsav teaches us just this.
The Seed donation drive started by Kenya Vegetarian Club continues as it races to meet its target of reaching out to farmers in the interiors. This time we went to Ketitu as more than 35 representatives from various villages had assembled at Ketitu world vision office.
We also reached out to St Fredrick sub primary school where more than 120 kids participated and promised to be vegetarian and also help the school in farming of Muringa Seeds. These enthusiastic students are the hope for the future of our country and if we instil right values and habits from a young age, I am sure they will grow up to be bright honest citizens of the land. It was a day well spent and I am happy we are visiting so many places and distributing muringa seeds.
How to break the cycle of habits and start something afresh? Many of us make New Year Resolutions but we are not able to stick on to them for long. This is more so when it comes to things like diet, exercise etc. We want to do it but somehow end up not doing it. I am sure you have all faced these dilemmas and I am not alone in this. I recently read an article which explains how we can use our social media to help us sort out many things. We use it for a limited purpose for sending messages or forwards. But we can use it to break habits also.
If we start having discussions on our social groups on the need for maintaining a healthy lifestyle, switching over to a healthy food plan etc, then we will be able to take the discussion towards this particular task and it would be easy to follow it. This is backed by research as the article goes on to explain. Exposure to social-based messages promotes healthy eating which can actually increase consumption of fruit and vegetables and reduce consumption of high-calorie snacks. I think sub consciously the mind keeps getting bombarded by such similar messages that it starts attuning itself around it. They call this priming the mind which is an effective technique.
Advertisements make use of this priming effect by floating images of products which we reach out for when we go shopping. So why not use the same trick for getting something good done, I think it is a good idea. Likeminded people can motivate one another.
Yet another year draws to a close. Everyone looks forward to a fresh beginning. It has been a mixed bag this year. Trump’s win is poised to change the way the US is seen in the world. Many areas of the world are still marred by war, senseless violence, devastation and homelessness. Drug fuelled lives continue to claim many talented lives. Demonetization changed many things in India. People have adjusted to living within tight budgets. Nature’s fury has resulted in unseasonal floods, droughts and other calamities in many parts of the world.
Looking back we can see how many things could have been avoided if only we had led more responsible lives with consideration for others. That is what the world currently lacks. Expanding waistlines can be treated with diet and exercise but how do we set right contracting hearts. If the heart has to expand and accommodate goodness, a lot of self-effort is needed. We need to look beyond our self, but unfortunately the I, me, mine syndrome seems to be difficult to move away from.
Let us resolve to be a wee bit more loving and forgiving.
Let us resolve to include not just us and ours but also others in that circle of love.
Let us resolve to include other life forms also in our thoughts and prayers.
Let us resolve to preserve nature and prevent its exploitation in the coming year.
May the New Year bring us all happiness and cheer!
Each time we fill our plate with food, I think of all those who have toiled hard to make it possible to bring the food from the field to the table. Gratitude is what comes uppermost to my mind. Perhaps that is the reason we have so many festivals in India dedicated to agriculture and farming. The year begins with the onset of uttarayan coinciding with January. Sankaranti is a harvest festival that honors all that is associated with farming like the farmers, cows, implements etc. Then it is the colorful festival of Holi which celebrates the onset of spring after the cold spell of winter. Farmers pray for a good harvest during the year. Baisakhi celebrated mostly in Punjab in April is a thanksgiving for bountiful harvest. The Hareli festival in July August is also a harvest festival popular in Chattisgarh where tribes worship farming equipment and farm animals. Nuakhai is a harvest festival of Odisha celebrated in August September. The Kut Festival celebrated by tribes in Manipur is a post harvest festival. Bengal and other North Eastern states also have their own local versions of the harvest festival.
So there is so much beauty in this great diverse land where people, whichever place they may belong to, have specific festivals dedicated to harvest. 23rd December is observed as Kisan diwas in India. Africa also has many harvest festivals like the Yam Festival or the Homowo Festival which are all thanksgiving festivals for good harvests. We certainly need to observe these days as our lives are blessed by earth and rain, which give us good food which sustains us.
The day was warm and pleasant and we set out on our expedition into the interiors. This time our destination was Songhor Village near Chemeline. The place is so close to nature and with a lot of prehistoric sites, it is a beautiful village near the mountains. There is a huge potential to improve farming in this area and we decided to continue our seed donation program in this village. The farmers there are a well-informed lot. They are aware of the new techniques of farming. It was a pleasure interacting with them.
But what really surprised me is the fact that most of them were vegetarians. They seemed to know all about the benefits of a vegetarian diet. There is this great myth doing the rounds that native African tribes do not endorse vegetarian diet. In fact many seem to think that I am wasting my time promoting plant-based food in Kenya. During the time I was researching for my book The Veg Safari, I read that there were many Africans who embraced a plant-based diet as a matter of routine though they would not advocate it. For many, it was also because of economic compulsions. They found adequate energy for their tough life even in the plant-based items they would prepare. A few tribes have been vegetarians out of choice. So these were all interesting findings and it is a myth to typecast anyone in a particular bracket.
The box of sweets lay tantalisingly inviting on the table. I tried to ignore it and succeeded. Well almost. Then out of curiosity, I started reading the lines on the packaging. Pure ghee sweets— written in bold. I also recalled my visit to the ISKCON temple last month where they served Prasad made out of pure ghee.
With so much of ghee news on my mind I started reading about ghee and whether it is actually good for us. Ghee has always been used since ancient times in India. Clarified butter began to be used in the south where temperatures were always warmer than the north. So it had to be ghee or clarified butter and not butter which had to be used. And slowly people started realizing its benefits. As a cooking medium you can use very little and get enhanced flavors. Scientists are now saying that it also aids weight loss. The energy from medium chain fatty acids in ghee and coconut oil actually burns the fat in the body. It improves the functioning of the gall bladder and enhances digestion. Food gets burnt quickly and this also helps in weight loss as fat is not accumulated in the body. Ayurveda recommends usage of ghee as it provides an alkaline system for the body.
All this sounds quite good and I am definitely planning to try out ghee in my diet. Of course moderation is the key.
November 25th is observed as the International Meatless Day. It is the birth anniversary of Sadhu Vaswani who advocated non violence and compassion along with service to the downtrodden during his lifetime. His birthday is observed as Meatless Day and the movement has gained international recognition due to the sustained campaign by his followers. In India, four states Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh – have issued instructions in the past for the closure of slaughter-houses as well as butchers’ shops on 25th November every year, in their respective states. This is a great achievement and like all campaigns this change cannot happen overnight.
Long time ago if you mention vegetarianism, people would snigger and say it is the cult of the crazy. Mahatma Gandhi writes in his autobiography how difficult it was to find vegetarian food in the west. But now, thanks to health and lifestyle reasons people have started accepting vegetarianism as a way of life. Our younger generation should be convinced about the ill effects of animal food and more importantly alternatives should be introduced to them so that they understand that vegetarian substitutes are equally tasty.
At Kenya Veg Club we will continue to promote vegetarianism.
20th November is Africa Industrialization Day, on this occasion, it is so important to remember how much industrialization has helped to take our country forward. We need to train our women and youth in skills that are required to industrialize. This is very important and for this small scale units have to be set up and we should be able to achieve sustainable development. In our own small way if we support our local workforce, then that will see sustainable development in the region in the long run.
When we distribute seeds to local farmers and help them cultivate their farms and assist them by buying their produce for our own consumption, then we are helping the agriculture sector grow in a systematic way. Kenya Vegetarian Club is aiming at achieving this kind of development in the region. There is a vast potential as our land is green and there is always a need for locally made fresh produce. This will also help in the creation of jobs for locals and setting up of farming related allied industries.
The month of October is observed as Vegetarian Awareness Month after being endorsed by the International Vegetarian Union in 1978. It is a great way of acknowledging the benefits of vegetarianism to the individual, to our resources, to our environment and above all in bringing compassion to our lives. It is sad that people indulge in cruelty to animals just to fill our plates and pamper our palates. If our movement should succeed then we need to create awareness as many people may not even know what animals go through before they end up as food on the table. That is why this month is also known as Reverence for Life month. By being a vegan we can take this concept one step ahead by promising that we will not use any animal product at all in our lives.
What can each one of us do to promote this concept in our immediate neighborhood among our friends and maybe even family in some instances? Vegetarians should come out and speak about how life-changing the whole experience is. As it is good for nature and animals, we are not burdened with guilt and can feel a lot more light both physically, mentally and emotionally. It can also resolve many diseases like digestion problems, obesity, breathlessness etc. and definitely it keeps us fresh and energetic. For those who want to make the switch but cannot give up non-vegetarian food, there are substitutes from the vegetarian world, which can bring out the same or if not at least equivalent taste. The internet is full of such recipes. Where there is a will, there is a way.
This is a great month as it provides us a chance to sit back and reflect on why we should turn vegetarian. It would be good to read books and articles on vegetarianism as it will give a true picture of what animals go through. My book Veg Safari describes various aspects of vegetarianism which will help in gaining an in depth understanding.
Happy Vegetarian Experience to all my readers!
My team went to plant 450 trees in various schools in Kibigori area. We donated 450 trees to Oroba Primary school, Wook Primary school, Minyange Primary school and Waware primary schools. We also donated some trees to Miranga Dispensary in Milani. These indigenous trees
A lot of thanks to donor of these trees. My team delivered the trees to the school early this week. The school authorities confirmed planting them into the schools with the help of kids of the school.
Ancient Aryans worshipped nature and that included trees, plants and other elements. They preserved water bodies and held every aspect of nature in great reverence. In India there is a tradition of creating figures of gods and goddesses with mud and clay especially from that which is got from the river bank. These idols are then worshipped and after a certain period say 3 or 5 or 7 or 9 or 10 days, these idols are immersed in water bodies after an appropriate send-off This is how Ganesh Festival or Durga Puja is observed. Lord Ganesh is worshipped with leaves from various trees, plants and also with wild flowers. When the idol is immersed with all these the water also gets rejuvenated with the medicinal properties that is there in the leaves and gets purified. This is how our ancients followed nature and its cycle. More importantly they would never abuse nature for they were well aware of the price they would have to pay if nature decides to strike back at them.
Unfortunately as with all else, we have forgotten our ancient customs and their significance and these festivals have also become an occasion to show people’s status and money power. How else can we explain the use of colorful Plaster of Paris idols gaudily decorated with artificial festoons and buntings? These images after immersion poison the water with the harmful chemicals and this in turn is going to affect the living forms in the water as also those who may eat them. The air also gets polluted and there is destruction everywhere. This is surely not what the gods want. We need to spread this awareness and let us take a pledge on the occasion of every festival that we will think carefully of the repercussion of our action and never do anything to destroy air, water or any other element and do all that we can to protect them always.
All native tribes whether they are Native Americans, Africans, Aboriginals wherever they are, respect nature and its forms. It is only the so called educated and cultured man who has thrown all established customs to the wind and lives without following any good sense. It is time we reverse this trend and as a first step start with ourselves by taking a pledge to nourish and nurture nature.
Kenya Vegclub contributed to the course material launched by Lake Basin College today at Ketitu center near Kisumu. The course is called Vegetable Nutrition Science. It is designed to educate farmers on how to grow vegetables organically and scientifically. The material is jointly written by Vaishali Shah and Prof Jack Kamiruka of Lake Basin College. The duration of the course is six months in two semesters each of three months.
The topics are Production of vegetables organically, Effects of meat production, Importance of vegetable farming etc.
We also donated muringa seeds to the farmers presented there.