Interview with Barabaig about Current Food Crisis

by August 21, 2012

In this two-part video, the Indigenous Knowledge Project speak with the Barabaig about the food crisis they now face. See below for part 2 of this interview.

The main issues can be succinctly summarized as globalization and climate change. Due to land seizures caused by land privatization, the Barabaig have been forced to adopt a subsistence lifestyle. Historically, the Barabaig greatly despised farmers and would often war with them over the land. However in the last 15 years, they have been forced to become farmers in order to survive. Beginning in the 1990s the Tanzanian government has tried to assist the Barabaig in this transition. This assistance has generally been in the form of verbal communication, a warning that they are no longer able to access the same traditional grazing lands and that they need to learn how cultivate food. It sounds like the government has provided limited training via agricultural extensionists. However, it clearly has not been enough. You can see their farms, and it is clear, they really don’t know how to farm, and most don’t have the caloric energy to farm in the first place.

The other major issue is climate change. Apparently, the amount of rain has not fluctuated greatly in the past decade, however, the intensity of the sun has caused perpetual crop failure. Thus, the current state of the village. Due to the extreme suffering at the village, and a basic lack of vision and hope for the Barabaig as a future, most teenagers leave the village and never return.

So far our methodology has been to establish a women’s group in the neighboring town of Katesh. This group is led by Mamma Deo and Rahema. We have set up a micro-loan scheme to finance and train these women in how to cultivate a diversity of food using bio-intensive agriculture, compost (soil making), nursery and seed selection, garden planning, companion planting, crop rotation, natural insecticides and biological controls. We have built a rainwater hafir, a chicken rearing facility, and are establishing community gardens were we learn how to dry and preserve food. We also discuss the issue of food sovereignty and it affects on gender roles and decision-making. These women then go out to the village and teach the villagers how to construct and manage their own community gardens and chicken rearing facilities. Since the village is restricted to rain water only, we must wait until the rains to proceed with our trainings. However, by the time the rains start, the women’s group in Katesh will have had enough practice in bio-intensive agriculture to teach the villagers. We are empowering communities to empower each other.

Currently, the greatest challenge we are facing is access to water. There is literally no water for 15km in any direction. The cost of building a bore-hole is around $15,000 US- and that is simply to strike the water and insert a manual pump. One cannot really understand how critical water is unless you’ve experienced it yourself. It is difficult to spend an extended period of time in the village because not only do they have no water, but no food. We are in solidarity with the people, if they do not eat, we do not eat either. Thus, every time we go to the village, we must bring enough food, or sacrifice a goat, so that we can all eat together. Although we have prepared eleven rain water hafirs in the village, we must wait for the rain in December before we can proceed planting our gardens. In addition to small gardens to provide a diverse diet in essential micro-nutrients, we are planning to cultivate a crop that we can bring to market, such as sunflower oil and chili peppers as we have secured a market for these products and have an expert to consult us in this process. However, with absolutely no water, we can do nothing.

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