The African Flavours 2018 was a success, with many foodie enthusiasts, vegetarians and vegans in attendance. The discussion session on 'how strange is the vegetarian diet in African food culture', was very interactive and informative too.
The evening started with a welcome remark and introduction by Maureen Duru-Onweni, the founder of The Food Bridge vzw. She pointed out that Africa is a vast continent with a diverse culinary history and food culture. So although meat consumption is valued, there are many plant based dishes too. Thus what is strange may not be the eating of plant based meals but some of the ideologies behind vegetarianism. Speaking further, she stated that like all concepts, there are varied arguments for or against vegetarianism in Africa. Some Africans believe vegetarianism is of African origin but has been appropriated by other cultures, while others see it as part of Asian religious practices, thus not acceptable for them. Yet there are Christians too, who use Genesis 1 verse 29 to support their stance that people were meant to be vegetarians. She concluded her presentation by stating that irrespective of what African food culture is expected to be, like all other food cultures, it will have to change and accommodate divergent food practices to remain dynamic.
The next speaker Ms Jutta Kleber of the BigPicnic project (Meise Botanic Garden), started her presentation by sharing information about the horizon 2020 Bigpicnic project of the Meise Botanic Garden and its focus on African food security. On African vegetarianism, she noted that research supports the view that Africans have a long history of plant based diets. Hence with the challenges of climate change and food insecurity, going back to eating more plant based diets are a better option. This is because much resources including land and water are needed for rearing the animals that produce meat, whereas a fraction of such resources will be needed for growing crops. Moreover, the environmental and health impact of the increasing meat consumption, also has to be taken very serious in people’s dietary choices.
Dr Maureen Duru - Onweni. Founder / Director, The Food Bridge vzw at Tropentag 2018
Across the globe, having an agro food sector that is able to meet the huge demands placed on it, is a top priority for governments, global agencies, researchers, entrepreneurs and actually everyone. Although food is a mundane everyday thing, there are different complexities in the way we produce or eat food. Even what we accept as food is not a simple act. Thus adding to the challenges of getting it from the source of production, to the place of consumption.
The African food system is as complex and diverse as the continent. Despite the resources available globally and efforts already made, the agro food sector in Africa is yet to reach its full potential. The problems are ever evolving and taking new forms, thus new solutions need to be found and partnerships expanded to include all stakeholders in the development of this sector in Africa.
African Diaspora communities are not just dynamic components of the localities where they are situated but also of Africa. This is because migration is not just about those that left but more importantly, it is about those left behind. It is for those left behind, that Diasporas continue to maintain links to Africa using economic, socio cultural, religious and even political mechanisms.
The Helping Hand Project