Dr. Dennis Nturibi
Today I am breathing fire and brimstone! I recently travelled to a place called Berbera in Somaliland. Berbera is an old coastal town that was built up by the British in the late 1800s to the mid 20th century. It is a place with a rich heritage and history and is very strategically placed for commercial purposes. Berbera made a lasting impression on me because of fish. I try very hard to eat a plant-based diet, but on this trip I was not able to carry my food, as I would have liked. Thus, I found myself at a seaside restaurant on the day we arrived. To my astonishment, the menu consisted of only 2 fares, fried fish & spaghetti. In summary, it was a tasty but tormenting lunch. What amazed me most was how vegetables were just not an option. Middle class white & blue-collar workers within the town visited this restaurant. As a visitor, I looked around and wondered-Is this the standard fare day in day out? This was confirmed after inquiry, and even more worrying was the fact that this extremely dry coastal town, in the hottest region of the world, was hardly supplied any fruits or vegetable. Legumes were almost unheard of. Thankfully I only spent one night there.
Most individuals who find themselves in such places have no choice, and many more have no idea. They have no idea what role diet plays in their long term health, other than the well know malnutrition syndromes. They have limited choices, in what they can eat, where they can get it from, how much they can spend on it. I thought about a long distance truck driver who spends over half his nights in different towns across the country, hardly ever sleeping at home. Honest down to earth people struggling to provide for their families. Interestingly, Hargeisa, a very fertile region within the same country, with plenty of fresh food is just two and a half hours away by road.
Then I thought about the rest of us. We are literally spoilt for choice. In my hometown, the land is so fertile, if you’re constantly carelessly tossing out seeds in the back yard, you end up with a forest. My people have never known a draught. Through the generations, food has always been plentiful; all kinds of foods. Yet we are in a race to eat ourselves to death. We are ignorant. We constantly make bad food choices. We are exposed and have access to over 20 varieties of legumes, countless types of fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, natural sweets like berries, yams, cassava, sweet potatoes; the list is long. These foods are brought from all over the world into the markets near our homes. We can eat foods grown in Nigeria (yams), Russia (oats) and in towns hundreds of kilometers from our own. Best of all, we can afford them! But what do we do? We pump ourselves with junk food and drink void of any nutritional value and full of chemicals, sugar, salt and fat, and lament that we cannot loose weight despite our best efforts and cry about the cancers that are killing us. We then spend even more enriching the medical establishment! If a Berberian” was to understand how we are dying in the midst of plenty, what would he/she think? What would these people with difficult choices, no knowledge, and no finance think? Do we feel ashamed?
People, lets wake up and take responsibility. Like I keep saying, even if you do not care about yourself, care for your children, who shall surely follow you blindly. They are your responsibility.