Millet for Mbayi
Millet is one of the oldest foods known to mankind. In fact, it is mentioned in the Bible for making bread and, indigenous to Africa, has been used as a staple food for thousands of years. It is inexpensive, grows well in areas with poor soil fertility, has a short growing season and is highly nutritious. Maize (corn) was introduced into Africa by the Portuguese in the 16th century and has since become the staple crop. However, the subsistence farmers in Mbayi struggle to produce maize in soil that is infertile and requires both D Compound and Urea, fertilizer that is very expensive. Commonly, they must proceed without and hence after much hard work end up with very poor crops.
About 78% of rural Zambians live below the poverty line suffering from chronic hunger and malnutrition. In impoverished areas like Mbayi it seems to make sense to turn to a tasty grain like millet that doesn't require fertilizer and is richer in protein, iron and calcium than maize, all sadly missing in the diets of these villagers. They often rely on vegetables like cassava and sweet potatoes that are easy to grow but poor sources of protein. Full of antioxidants, high amounts of fibre, B vitamins and considered a warm grain - helps to heat the body in the cold and rainy seasons- millet seems ideal for Mbyi where people are malnourished and often endure damp and cool evenings. Also, millet can be ground to make flour or meal which means that nshima, the traditional staple food can still be consumed. But change is often uncomfortable and slow even if it seems reasonable.
We have 40 kgs of maize seed left over, that didn't get planted last year, so I'll need to raise funds for fertilizer ($350.00 Canadian). For those who are interested, like Elias from Tanzania (where millet is more popular), finger millet will be distributed. Actually, after hearing about millet from Peter Van Straaten, Professor Emeritus at the University of Guelph and an expert on soil productivity in Zambia, I gave seed to Elias once before and it flourished. This is a promising new initiative. I think it's worth a try.