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!
Kenya Vegetarian Club visited the slums of Oboch market near Nyalenda market in Kisumu. The club donated maize and bread to these women and children during the christmas festival of the year. The club also donated to women in Abonga market near domestic airport and Toyota Kenya’s workshop. These women mostly sell fish. We explained to them to slowly shift their livelyhood to vegetable farming and stop eating fish.
Every year during christmas the club invite people to eat only vegetarian food. This time we reached out to them in different areas.
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.
Seed donation at this time was the result of one of my overseas trip. I met Pastor Mashima and he arranged for the farmers who would be interested in Muringa seeds. We donated to more than 100 farmers in the village called Ombeti near Ahero in Kisumu county.
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.
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.
The team of volunteers from Kenya Vegetarian Club moved to yet another village, this time to Kosogo, which is situated close to Ketito in Kisumu County. It was heartening to see over 170 farmers come forward to support this unique initiative of planting trees out of the seeds donated by our club. This mission meets twin objectives, of providing livelihood to farmers by encouraging them to cultivate the crops and also steering ahead in our tree planting program.
I love ice creams. Rich, creamy, heavenly, delicious –oh well I could go on and on just thinking of the dollops of ice cream that come in all kinds of flavors, colors and textures in the market. I know all of you are already creating mental images of the last time you had an ice cream. It fills our heart with pleasure, there is something feel good about it. Sitting on a warm pleasant day in our favorite joint whether with friends, family or alone, licking our favorite ice cream is definitely a great pastime. But the messiest thing is to catch the dripping cream after you bite into your favorite cone and it starts falling onto your wrist. Sure you agree with me recalling your last experience of biting into your cone.
But did you know the harmless pastime of eating ice cream is actually causing a great harm to our earth? Difficult to see what connection there is between eating an ice cream and harming environment? About one million trees are cut each year to provide you with the paper napkins that are used to wipe the cream off our hands even as we indulge in such a mundane activity as eating an ice cream. Two high school boys in Denver were passing by a neighborhood ice cream shop when they noticed two little kids with drippy hands and messy clothes as they were licking their ice cream. But what startled them was how their mom reached out for a handful of paper napkins to clean the toddlers. The boys did not forget this scene, they went back and after a few years of experiment have now come up with their version of a drip drop edible saucer which can catch the dripping ice cream and can be eaten too.
Image: internet source
Well may be all of us may not be inspired to invent something but one thing we can do is think how we can avoid using paper napkins all the time and switch over to handkerchiefs, cloth towels and dish towels like the good old days.
Kenya Vegetarian Club continued with the program of seed donation to farmers near Ketitu village near Kisumu today. The club donated more than 2000 seeds to local farmers who already have farms to plant Muringa trees. I am proud of my team which is helping me to reach out to people in different corners of the country. Our drive will continue for some more time as we still have 40000 seeds to donate.
The dictionary meaning for assertive is self-confident, self-assured, confident, firm as also forceful, forward, pushy and aggressive.
We do not want to sound forceful or pushy. Without meaning to be offensive, I have always wanted to ask this question, why is it that we always shy away from revealing our eating choices. We need to acknowledge with pride on our right to be a vegetarian. Let us not hesitate to acknowledge the choices we have made. These are conscious choices and hence we need to assert our right to be a vegetarian and vegucate people. We want to promote a compassionate lifestyle and recognize the right of every being on this earth to live. This includes the poor hapless animals which have no voice of their own. And for us to do this we need to be very vocal without being rude of course. Whether it is in the airlines or at a pre reserved meal at a restaurant we can exercise our choice and also see we get what we have ordered. In fact when I travel around the world now, I find there are more number of vegetarian restaurants now than before. This is a very healthy sign that the world is waking up to people’s choices and not the other way around. When Mahatma Gandhiji first made his journey to the west, he found that people ate whatever was there as they had to eat something in order to survive. And this could very often mean going against one’s own principles and accepting something that goes against the dharma of the individual. Food was then linked to survival.
But today thanks to awareness campaigns, people are no longer associating vegetarianism with any one particular religion and are able to accept that it is a way of life of people who have decided to promote vegetarianism as a cause and they respect these choices. Organizations like PETA have really created a remarkable appreciation for the rights of animals and because of this people have changed their lifestyles completely. We have a long way to go. We have to keep up the momentum. People may not be subscribing to veganism or vegetarianism due to ignorance. We have to highlight the cruelty done to animals at the slaughter houses, the inhuman conditions at the abattoirs, the fear felt by the poor animals, the depletion of resources due to the meat industry and the effects it can have on global warming and so on. We can impress upon the policy makers in the government and private agencies to give vegetarians more choices, encourage vegan and vegetarian restaurants by patronizing and publicizing them. These are our rights. Let us assert ourselves and see that our numbers swell in the coming years. It is not difficult if we are committed.
Last Christmas, Kenya Vegetarian Club organized a vegetarian lunch for officials in our county at Kisumu Yacht Club and they enjoyed it thoroughly. Sometimes we feel our friends will feel offended if we do not provide them what they want. This, in my opinion, is wrong. Our friends enjoy if we serve them vegetarian dishes with love and warmth and explain the reasons for the world to become vegetarian in a scientific and calm manner. This is the way we can help our planet earth. So three cheers for the assertive vegetarian!!!!
Kenya veg club donated seeds to the farmers of Nyahera village on 11th August. Wherein more than fifty farmers from various small villages were gathered to understand the importance of muringa seeds and promised them to grow for personal as well as commercial purpose.
Sikkim is a tiny state tucked in Northeast India. It has achieved a great milestone as it has become India’s first fully organic state by implementing organic practices on around 75,000 hectares of agricultural land. This was achieved over a period of 12 years as it was in 2003 that the government decided to make Sikkim a state that is fully organic. They enacted legislation for this in their state assembly. They banned the entry of chemicals for farming purposes, their sale was also banned. Farmers thus did not have any option but to go organic.
I was so thrilled to read this report. I wish we can also turn Kenya into a completely organic state. We can do it if we educate our farmers on the evil effects of pesticides. Very often it is ignorance and the ready availability of these harmful chemicals that make our farmers take the easy route. These chemicals may be easy to use- just buy them and have them sprayed and the pests are gone. But new problems come in even before we realize. Diseases like leukemia, lymphoma, brain, kidney, breast, liver, lung, skin cancers and various other hormonal imbalances can occur if these pesticides are used over a long term. These chemicals cause damage to the environment and sometimes they may destroy good bacteria too. The toxins can also get into the vegetables and fruits and cause many defects in the consumers.
We have to train our farmers to use bio pesticides using neem, garlic etc which can kill harmful pests and keep the nation healthy. Kenya Vegetarian Club is spearheading this campaign and we also talk to the farmers about keeping the soil healthy and for this, we have to use good bio fertilizers and nutrients. Then if good quality seeds are planted the yield will also be good.
Kenya Vegetarian Club officially inaugurated the reforestation program in Kisumu county with the donation of Muringa seeds. The program was initiated in Ketito village with the local farmers who have ready to plough lands. The group of farmers representing various small villages around came forward to commit their lands for the reforestation program. Each farmer has committed atleast an acre of land for reforestation.
I am thankful to the the villagers who have responded to our appeal of the program and initiated the seed planting.
Our intention of donation of Muringa seeds as they can be directly planted into the farm and has many medicinal properties.
We are planning to plant more than fifty thousand trees in Kisumu region. We have identified locations for thirtee thousand trees but still looking for more places. If any of my readers know any farmers or people who would be interested in th program please feel free to call us.
Do you think of the farmer who sowed the seeds, tilled the land, irrigated and kept watch till the golden crop got ready to be transported on a journey before it reached your kitchen changing many hands in the process? When was the last time you ever spoke to a farmer who prepared the food that eventually landed on your plate? We hardly think of these seemingly insignificant things as we are lost in the daily chores of our life.
Every little thing that ends on our plate has a story to tell. If we try to understand what went into the making of each ingredient, the farmer’s sweat, the middleman’s shrewdness, the shopkeeper’s struggle etc- then we can understand many things. I feel we need to look at food from its source and this is what we are aiming to do? But why you may ask. Because there is a lot of economics there. Our farmers need to do a lot more research on what vegetables can be grown in our region, what crops can be supported by the soil we find here, what are the vegetables that people in the region want to consume, can we introduce some exotic vegetables and fruits in our local farms, will there be a market for these, can we eliminate the middleman and connect the buyer with the seller directly? A whole lot of questions. But this kind of food connect should be mapped so that we can maximize gains for both the seller as well as the buyer. We at Kenya Vegetarian Club aim to make this food connect, bring the farmer in close connect with the buyer. This way we will know the journey of each and every thing that lands up on our plate and also what to eat in which season thereby improving our health and general well-being.
Farmers love to produce what sells fast. If the sellers come directly with their produce, the buyers are most benefited, in terms of money, quality, freshness and feedback which can be given directly so that we get improved services. Also getting involved with the farmers helps us to put a face on the nameless, faceless warriors of the earth who work day and night to prepare the fields to give us our daily meal.
When I set out to know these things, I found that many vegetables come into Kisumu because our county farmers alone cannot meet the demand. We have huge tracts of land and we have poor farmers. They do not have the knowledge or means to do research on these things. This is one important area of work for us at Kenya Vegetarian Club. We study and research on these and tell the farmers what vegetables they should grow, donate seeds so that women can become more empowered and our region is fully self-sufficient and our farmers finally will have enough food to eat.
I was just reading a report in the paper about how celebrities in India have started adopting animals in the zoo and contribute towards their upkeep and maintenance. Following this even others have started showing interest in such a scheme. This brings in revenue to the zoo no doubt, but also gives a sense of participation to others. The sponsors of the animals get free passes to visit the zoo, they can name the animals or its offspring. Such attractive schemes make people feel they can also participate in some good cause. Above all it inculcates a sense of bonding in areas where we may think we have no role to play.
Then there is also a scheme where people can adopt trees in reserves and forests. This is another novel idea and now people have started thinking of doing such good acts especially when there is a family function, a birthday or an anniversary. What a fine thought it is to extend our sense of belonging to include Mother Nature in our life. These out of the box acts send positive signals to all members of the family that it is time to take ownership of the world around us rather than expecting governments and NGOs to do these kinds of things. We too as individuals can contribute to many such causes, there is no dearth of schemes only we need to have a heart that beats for other living beings in this planet. In the schools I visit in Kenya for tree planting, children are encouraged to adopt the trees, give them names and treat them as a family member. Only this will help us raise a generation of kids who feel for other species. The kids are excited and feel they are doing an important contribution. This should be encouraged.
The United Nations has declared this decade from 2011 to 2020 as United Nations decade on Bio diversity. More specifically May 22nd is observed as International Day for Biological Diversity. We have to do our bit in preserving all life forms or in the least desist from harming or disturbing the life forms around us. We need diverse forms if we have to escape from climate changes and other such disturbances. So let us spare a thought to all the living forms on this day.