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The Niles #14
The Food & Food Security Issue

Dominik Lehnert and Leila Bendra-Lehnert
Correspondents from the Nile’s riparian countries take a closer look at food and food security in the basin.
15.12.2019  |  Kigali, Rwanda
Maize is a key staple crop across the Nile Basin due to its variety, plentitude and easy cultivation. (photo: The Niles | Davis Mugume)
Maize is a key staple crop across the Nile Basin due to its variety, plentitude and easy cultivation. (photo: The Niles | Davis Mugume)

It is nearly impossible to come up with a single word that describes Africa’s diverse culinary traditions. Harder still is conveying the ethical, social, political, artistic and religious facets of food procurement and preparation amongst the various communities in the Nile Basin.

From Egypt’s Cairo to Burundi’s Gitega, this issue of The Niles attempts to explore the essentials of food: from conflict and food insecurity to the sensory aspects of preparing and eating national dishes.

In daily life, ancient Africans saw food as a mirror: “We are what we eat.” They believed that proper nourishment sustained a high quality of life – modern-day physicians and scientists confirm their forefathers’ beliefs.

Beyond science, culture has proven since time immemorial: to eat, people must gather to sit at a table. While the absence of food can divide societies and lead to conflict, the abundance of food forms strong bonds amongst families and entire communities.


The keys to ending food insecurity in the Nile Basin

Using more efficient and sustainable farming techniques, assisting smallholder farmers and creating awareness about ecological preservation are the keys to ending food insecurity in the Nile Basin, according to regional experts.

Help the smallholder farmer to end hunger in the Nile Basin
Henry Lutaaya | Kampala, Uganda
The bulk of food in the Nile Basin comes from small farmers. Once they are adequately supported, it could bring an end to food insecurity in a region rich enough in resources to feed everyone.

Respect the river that nourishes us
Tuver Wundi | Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo
To feed the growing number of people who will rely on the Nile in coming years, all countries in the basin must ensure that the river is used sustainably.

Invest more, modernise farming and open the borders to allow for food trade
Henry Lutaaya | Kampala, Uganda
With basic farming techniques and complex trading, Nile Basin countries are in a race against time to avert a major food crisis.

Protect DRC’s ‘breadbasket’ from armed thugs
Tuver Wundi  | Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo
Although eastern DRC has some of the most fertile land in the country, many farmers cannot harvest their seasons of hard work, due to dangerous kidnappers waiting amidst the crops.

Educate farmers about post-harvest management to stop food loss
Selam Mulugeta | Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Fourteen percent of crops grown go to waste due to poor storage, late harvesting and improper packaging.

Beware of tricks to steal land from widows
Fabien Niyonizigiye | Bujumbura, Burundi
Land disputes are par for the course in Burundi, but witchcraft and other tactics can leave bereaved wives with nothing.

See how food connects despite political divisions
Elzahraa Jadallah | Khartoum, Sudan
Along national borders in the Nile Basin, similarities in food traditions prove that cultures are far more similar than they are different.

Don’t underestimate the effect climate change has on food production
Jean Paul Mbarushimana | Kigali, Rwanda
Irregular weather patterns have dwindled farmers’ harvests and made food insecurity inevitable. A governmental plan to tackle the issue in Rwanda is still in its early stages.

Food security is essential for human life
Bullen Chol | Juba, South Sudan
Humanitarian aid is the only way to survive for the South Sudanese population living in protection camps. This aid, however, is reducing despite efforts by humanitarian partners to fill the gap.

Revise tradition of inheritance to save the land
Addis Getachew & Fabien Niyonizigiye | Addis Ababa, Ethiopia & Bujumbura, Burundi
In both Burundi and Ethiopia, the cultural practice of splitting up land amongst heirs, destroys the land, yields bad harvests and leaves people hungry.

Nutrients can be found everywhere

Amid hunger and a growing population, residents in Nile Basin countries will have to use more available resources previously overlooked. From date tree bark to crickets, nutrients can be found everywhere.

Add crickets to your diet for more protein
Rehab Abd Almohsen | Cairo, Egypt
With populations growing and resources shrinking, scientists are turning to insects as a nutritious food alternative.

Reap what you sow!
Davis Mugume | Kampala, Uganda
A poor coffee farmer toils away at the coffee beans in his garden, but he has never tasted his own coffee. Instead, he spends his money on expensive Nescafé.

Don’t throw away the date’s byproducts
Rehab Abd Almohsen | Cairo, Egypt
The fruit of a date tree is just the beginning of its usefulness. There are several other uses for the wood, seeds and leaves.

Grow plentiful and nutritious maize!
Davis Mugume | Kampala, Uganda
Maize is a key staple crop across the Nile Basin due to its variety, plentitude and easy cultivation.

Beware of easy money
Tesfa-Alem Tekle | Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
While growing khat means frequent and lucrative harvests, the long-term risk of food insecurity is a crisis in the making.

Bread: The food that sparks revolutions
Asmaa Gamal | Cairo, Egypt
Bread is the basic food of the people in Egypt, which is why they call it “living” in Arabic.

Re-examining existing resources

As modern-day science attempts to solve food insecurity, some solutions have been around for centuries. From ancient super grains to healthy yet straightforward recipes from grandma, feeding a region can often be a matter of re-examining existing resources.

How to make good bread
Asmaa Gamal | Cairo, Egypt
Ayman El-Rabi, a baker from Cairo, speaks about his work and the importance of bread in Egypt.

Make food security the top agenda in the Nile Basin
Waakhe Simon Wudu | Juba, South Sudan
The Nile Basin Initiative is in a race for time as growing populations still rely on rain to grow crops. Irrigation is a solution on the one hand, but a new challenge on the other.

Plant crops in the city
Dagim Terefe | Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Recent estimates place Addis Ababa’s population at over seven million. Feeding so many people means that farming cannot only take place in rural areas.

Eat with your family, cook with your grandmother
Alaa Eliass | Khartoum, Sudan
Food is a family affair in Sudan – from learning the recipes to weekly gatherings around a large table.

Eat traditional, homemade foods to stay healthy
Martha Agama | Kampala, Uganda
Modern lives prefer fast, easily prepared food and baby formula. But slow-cooked, old fashioned diets are far healthier.

Eat ancient grains to ward off future food insecurity
Addis Getachew | Addis Abeba, Ethiopia
Today, teff is being hailed internationally as a “superfood” for its nutrients. But the tiny grain has been feeding Ethiopians for 4,000 years.

Hungry for more?

Taste the Niles
Correspondents from the Nile’s riparian countries investigated the secrets to their beloved national dishes.

What’s wrong here?
One of these kosharis is not like the other! Can you spot the 10 mistakes?

The Niles à la carte
Share your favourite recipe with us. You cook, we publish!

This article is part of:
We are what we eat


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