Welcome to PaNsaka, a place for ideas. For generations, in villages and towns across
Sunday, 22 May 2011
How would you assess the soundness of banks in a country after the worst financial crisis in decades? Out of 139 countries, Canada is at number 1 with the healthiest banks and at 139, Ireland is last with the highest risk of bank insolvency. The United States is at a low 111, just one above Germany and the United Kingdom is at 133 between Chad, Burundi and Zimbabwe. Zambia is at number 56, just above Italy. - World Economic Forum Global Competitive Report 2010-2011.
How does Zambia compete globally in other key areas?
Sunday, 8 May 2011
I did not write this blog to amuse or offend but to provide historical and scientific facts that show that the nutriment we call nshima or pap; this meal we treasure so much as the essence of our daily nourishment, family and social feasts; the food that’s rooted in tradition; from a crop we believe is our “own”, was actually born of an old human evil and has and continues to cause so much silent destruction that labelling it a weapon of mass destruction seems appropriate so take heed. I am not an agricultural economist or scientist but a student of curiosity and wrote this because it is worth sharing the knowledge discovery that excessive maize intake is part of the Zambian problem. The adverse effects on economic development, soil fertility and individual (in turn national) IQ are real and proven. This blog will challenge everything you know about maize and nshima so brace yourself but please read with an open mind.
Over the past 100 to 500 years, nshima (or nsima and in some other countries pap, ugali, sadza or the similar West African staple fufu) has, in some instances, taken a religious form of its own to the point that refusing or avoiding it in a host’s house is not only viewed as a great but the ultimate insult. Some interesting views on nshima that come to mind are that: a meal without nshima is not really a meal; a woman who cannot cook it cannot be a good wife; a child who does not eat it will not grow strong and a man who has not had it cannot work well. When viewed with an out-of-the-box lens, one wonders whether the grip nshima has on our society’s psyche is comparable to substance addiction.
Maize and the Slave Trade.
Maize (Zea mays, colonial name: American Indian corn) is the most important food crop in
“Rice is here planted by some Negros in their own Plantations, and thrives well, but because it requires much beating, and a particular Art to separate the Grain from the Husk, tis thought too troublesome for its price, and so neglected by most Planters.”
Another species of rice (Oryza glaberrima) which is indigenous to
On maize, Patrick Browne, a physician and botanist wrote in 1756:
“This plant is much cultivated in all parts of
Back to the question – why maize? Simple – compared to the two species of rice, it had a relatively high yield, was easier to grow and provided sufficient energy to keep slaves alive. As historical records show, maize was fed to slaves not just in Africa but on slave ships and in the new colonies in the
According to records at the UK Natural History Museum, African slaves initially rejected the “new-world” maize but the enslavers’ determination to keep them alive was matched only with their inhumane ingenuity. In 1737, John Atkins, a naval surgeon, elaborated on one “forced feeding” method:
“The common, cheapest, and most commodious Diet, is with Vegetables, Horse-Beans, Rice, Indian Corn, and Farine… This Food is accounted more salutary to Slaves, and nearer to their accustomed way of Feeding than salt Flesh. One or other is boiled on board at constant times, twice a day, into a Dab-a-Dab (sometimes with Meat in it) and have an Overseer with a Catof-nine tails, to force it upon those that are sullen and refuse.”
The UK Natural History Museum further states:
It is likely that the Portuguese introduced maize to West Africa and to
This accounts for the origin of our maize cultivation and nshima. It is shocking that today a nshima meal is prepared using the same “enslavers forced feeding” method. Remember this, the next time you lunch into a lump of pap. It was indeed born of an old human evil but today we call it traditional food. Should we really?
Historians have argued that enslavers used food such as maize as a form of control. Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary defines a Weapon of Mass Destruction (WMD) as a weapon that can cause a lot of destruction. Considering the role this “control agent” maize played in the continent wide destructive slave trade, does it still seem out of place to call it a WMD albeit an old medieval one? Ignoring any possible petty arguments on labels or definitions, there is no doubt that nshima is a legacy of the African slave trade.
Maize and IQ.
Since maize is now our “own” and the slave trade was abolished over a hundred years ago let us move on and look at what really matters today - nshima’s nutritional value. Checking food nutritional value and content is important as recent scientific studies have found a correlation between diet, cooking styles and IQ. For instance, it has now been proven that foods rich in omega-3 and iodine (such as fish in the Japanese diet) can help brain development and IQ. According to a UNICEF/WHO/USAID 2009 report called, “Investing in the future – A united call to action on vitamin and mineral deficiencies”:
In communities where iodine intake is sufficient, average IQ is shown to be on average 13 points higher than in iodine-deficient communities.
The good news is that uncooked maize is rich in carbohydrate and several vitamins and minerals. Infact, it is a good source of thiamine (vitamin B1), providing about 24% of the daily value for this nutrient in a single cup. Scientists have found that vitamin B1 is an integral participant in enzymatic reactions which convert carbohydrates to energy, helping the functioning of the heart, muscles, nervous system and is also critical for brain cell/cognitive function. Vitamin B1 is needed for the synthesis of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter essential for memory. Unfortunately, to be eaten, maize must be cooked and there lies the problem. Vitamin B1 is easily destroyed by light, heat and when soaked in water. In essence, the nshima water-heating preparation method destroys the vitamin which is essential for natural memory development. There is more bad news. Excessive intake of maize leads to niacin (vitamin B3) deficiency which causes pellagra (known as the disease of the three “D”s – dermatitis, diarrhoea and dementia). The UK National Heath Services describes the last “D” dementia as:
A group of related symptoms that is associated with an ongoing decline of the brain and its abilities. These include: memory; thinking; language; understanding and judgement. People with dementia may also become apathetic, have problems controlling their emotions or behaving appropriately in social situations.
Other medical symptoms of Pellagra include mental confusion, aggression and emotional disturbances.
One is tempted to wonder whether the mentioned dietary effects have in turn had some kind of effect on our ability to develop “in-house” problem solving institutions and build a self sufficient nation. Has our diet somehow made us comparatively apathetic and indifferent to solving ALL our own problems? How much damage does our diet have on our collective intellectual capabilities? Studies have already been done on national IQ levels but I will leave that for another article. However, my friend K. Kibalabala could not have put it any better when he said:
“Nshima certainly keeps us very dull. Reason being, it gives us a false sense of achievement. Just check out how much you will dose and relax after brutalizing that white stuff.”
Native American’s ate maize for thousands of years without any side effects. It is now known that they were aware of the dangers of excessive intake and developed a preventative cooking method now called nixtamalization where maize was mixed with pot-ash, lime or alkali solutions and consumed with leguminous vegetables which tended to increase the vitamin B3 availability, thus greatly improving its nutritional value. When maize was brought to the “old-world” Europe and “slave-mine”
“It seems possible that if the traditional method of processing corn—developed in
Today, pellagra is no longer common in developed Europe or
Professor Christiaan Eijkman, one of the pioneers of nutritional science and the joint winner of the 1929 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine wrote, “white rice can be poisonous”. Considering the now known effects of vitamin deficiency in a maize rich diet, he might as well have also said, “nshima can be poisonous”. But this is not an exaggeration. By the 1800’s pellagra outbreaks became so common amongst Africans and Europeans who started consuming maize as the dominant food that it was thought that the crop carried a toxic substance. Professor Alfred J. Bollet wrote in his 1992 paper:
“The association of pellagra with corn resulted in many theories to explain the origin of the new disease, often called "Zeism," based on the Latin name for maize, Zea mays. The "spoiled corn" theory was analogous to the cause of ergotism, which results from a toxin produced by a mold that contaminates rye.”
Other micronutrients absent in a nshima rich diet are iron, zinc and vitamin A. Zinc helps learning and memory and it helps detoxify heavy metals such as lead, which is one of the biggest environmental threats to IQ. Studies from a lead-smelting community in
If we took these scientific findings seriously, maize (meali-meal) bags would come with a health warning:
“Excessive maize (nshima) eating affects brain development and stunts IQ.”
Maize and the Economy.
According to USAID, maize accounts for 60% of
Fortunately, over the past 20 years, the government food policy has been to diversify to other staple foods to help reduce crop failure risk. Cassava is one such crop in part due to its drought resistant properties. FAO data shows that between 1990 and 2005, cassava production steadily increased by as much as 250% whilst maize production was erratic and declined by as much as 50%.
However, like maize, cassava was brought to Africa by the Portuguese as slave food and studies show that too much cassava intake in combination with dried or salted meat and fish, and a shortage of fats and oils (as is the case in some rural areas) inhibits the uptake of vitamin B1, leading to beriberi. Professor Christiaan Eijkman wrote in his Nobel Lecture notes:
“Beriberi is a disease prevalent, epidemically, in tropical and subtropical regions of Eastern Asia, where rice is the staple food of the natives; it is found elsewhere among sago-eating peoples (Molucca Islands), as well as in South America, in places where rice or cassava meal is the staple diet, as in certain parts of Brazil.”
Beriberi takes several forms and can cause among other things, emotional disturbances, tiredness, heart problems, impaired senses and severe mental illness. Like maize, when cassava is soaked and dried in the sun, vitamin B1 is destroyed. Surely, how can this be the maize alternative? It’s a vicious cycle as this alternative takes us back to the health and low IQ issues. Interestingly, Beriberi literally means "I can't, I can't" in Singhalese due to the crippling effect it has on its victims. Reminds me of a local joke that if a problem is too big, don’t think too much or else you will get a headache as it can’t be done anyway.
The overall GDP impact of vitamin and mineral deficiency due to our nshima rich diet was summed up in a UNICEF report:
Micronutrient deficiencies debilitate minds and bodies. The lack of iron alone is so widespread in adults that it is lowering overall labour productivity, resulting in estimated losses of up to 2 per cent of GDP in the countries most affected. Currently,
It’s also worth mentioning the adverse effects maize has on soil fertility. East African studies have shown that maize must be grown in rotation with nitrogen producing legumes in order to maintain soil productivity and improve subsequent yields which in turn rely on the uncertainty of rain fall. It’s another vicious cycle. Further research would be needed to determine the exact economic cost of the maize-land degradation effect.
Considering all this, I am once again drawn to write that maize is a WMD albeit a none militarised one. It is unfortunate that most of these facts are still generally unknown to the population.
With the realisation of nshima’s origin and the fact that it not only has negligible nutritional value but excessive intake can be harmful, the question is, what next? One would argue that if you looked hard enough at any food item, you would find something wrong. That’s probably correct, the problem though is that in
How does one change the eating habits/culture of society, especially when it has existed for hundreds of years? That’s a tough one. Celebrity Chef Jamie Oliver’s tireless campaigns to change the eating culture and diet habits in the
Fortunately, that is the case with the introduction of the “Zambia Maize Meal Fortification Programme”. It’s a progressive step to fortify maize, flour and other grains with iron, vitamins, folic acid and zinc. This programme was developed in partnership with NEPAD after UN studies revealed the weakened physical and mental development state of malnourished children in developing countries. Is fortification the answer? According to a USAID/WFP paper, the success of the fortification programme depends on several factors including stability of the micronutrients, physical and chemical factors such as heat, moisture, exposure to air, light and acid or alkaline environments all of which are present during the processing, distribution and storage stage. Cooking also has an effect. Studies at Roche Laboratories in Isando compared two cooking methods mothers would use to prepare maize meals for 1-3 year old children and found that between 29 and 45% of fortified vitamin A was lost during the process. Of the two previously mentioned memory enhancing and brain developing vitamins, B1 is the least stable. A WFP paper showed that under controlled conditions, bread baking of fortified flour lost up to 5% vitamin B3 whilst the loss rate went up to 25% for vitamin B1. Considering all these physical and chemical factors, one wonders what the real total fortification loss rate is in uncontrolled traditional environments. Moreover, since adults prefer their nshima “well done” i.e. after prolonged, intense-hot-water-boiling cooking which in effect destroys the micronutrients; one wonders whether the fortification programme is redundant. Besides, fortification resources are externally sourced meaning a continuation of aid dependency and inability to develop self sufficient methods.
What are the alternatives and are they sustainable? For starters, with will-power, individuals can start changing their own eating habits. It has always been my opinion that the onus is always on the individual and not the system to take the first step. And individuals eventually make and determine the system i.e. the government. I wonder though, what the response would be if Zambian’s where told to completely diversify their diets by limiting nshima rich meals to only two or three times per week or two? An example and lesson from the past can be found in a paragraph from the Nobel Prize website:
Even if people hadn't heard of vitamins before the 20th century, many understood that it was important to eat varied food. And most people did. Problems with malnutrition usually occurred when people were on long journeys at sea, working for the army or imprisoned. In
Remember, rather than living on monotonous maize based thus “poisonous” meals, it is up to each individual to proactively research on (document and share the knowledge discovery of) Zambia’s many indigenous fruits, vegetables, fish and other foods. All this can be creatively mixed to make new, more diverse and varied diets which are beneficial to the body and mind. That’s my take, what’s yours?
National Health Service (UK)
Nobel Prize Organisation
World Food Programme
The World Bank
Full references can be provided on request.
Sunday, 1 May 2011
The Senga people of
Over the past week or so, some of my old David Kaunda high school colleagues and I have been engaged in deep and passionate discussions on several issues close to the heart. These discussions started when I forwarded a piece of controversial research I stumbled across online which stated that over the past 10 years, Zambia’s national IQ has dropped from number one in Sub-Saharan Africa to number 7. The topic touched the right nerve and what followed was a hurricane of intellectual exchange. We analysed the why’s and the how’s, pondered, agreed and on very few occasions disagreed on everything from what the definition of IQ is anyway to whether literacy levels, the education system and even the national diet had anything to do with it. Yes the national diet but I won’t digress as this topic deserves a dedicated article of its own. Back to the issue at hand, I found the exchange of ideas and knowledge fascinating and we agreed to build on it. We had started something and needed to see how far it would go, thus the start of this blog and related sites. Going back to the Senga proverb, we were moved to “open the door”. In hindsight, the origin of this shared blog was subconsciously driven by our need to take things further.
Our society has a myriad of problems; some obvious, others not, some historical, others yet to occur. Some of our problems are structural, fundamental and complex whilst others are basic and simple. Going through a whole list of problems is one thing and it’s another to solve them. Is problem solving the sole prerogative of politicians or social non profit organisations? Personally, I don’t think so. We can all play a small part and I don’t mean joining politics, working for an NGO, just voting or donating change to charity. For some, our paths in life means that we cannot do that but if we are moved to action by the many problems we have, surely there should be another way of helping out. This is where the benefits of a shared blog comes in. Hopefully, this blog will be the first of its kind where the many problems we have will be critically analysed by many contributors churning out many new and innovative problem solving ideas. Many minds will ensure many ways of seeing things – theoretically, experimentally or practically. The end result for all this is one thing and one thing only – a solution. Our hope is that one day, this and related collaborative sites will become a database of knowledge and ideas and a central “gathering place” for brilliance. Most importantly, our hope and long term goal is that some of what will start and be analysed here will one day translate into reality.
I will end my introductory blog with a quote from Robert Kennedy who at a 1966 University of Cape Town speech said, “Few will have the greatness to bend history, but each of us can work to change a small portion of the events, and then the total - all of these acts - will be written in the history of this generation.”
Most of the things we will be dissecting are not as new to all of us but something that is already laid down or thought about before. Before i lose my self in my thoughts may i bring your attention to our National Anthem and i must say it very much summaries what we want to achieve and that is a Zambia we can be proud of.....
- Stand and sing of Zambia, proud and free,
- Land of work and joy in unity,
- Victors in the struggle for the right,
- We have won freedom's fight.
- All one, strong and free.
- Africa is our own motherland,
- Fashion'd with and blessed by God's good hand,
- Let us all her people join as one,
- Brothers under the sun.
- All one, strong and free.
- Praise be to God,
- Praise be, praise be, praise be,
- Bless our great nation,
- Zambia, Zambia, Zambia.
- Free men we stand
- Under the flag of our land.
- Zambia, praise to thee!
- All one, strong and free.
this brings me to the topic of interest ....WORK CULTURE . Ladies and Gentlemen this topic is of interest to me because we have what it takes in some cases but we are failling because of our work culture. what is the root cause of poor work culture, what can we do to improve it? Let us remember that we are "A LAND OF WORK AND JOY IN UNIT"
In order to get to the core of this issue i felt that its best to get to understand what this is really about so i decided to do a research on WORK CULTURE and here is what i found....
Work culture is a combination of qualities in an organization and its employees that arise from what is generally regarded as appropriate ways to think and act
Why is it important?
Culture is the vehicle through which individuals coordinate their activities to achieve common goals and expectations
Culture helps individuals understand how their roles fit within the larger picture
Culture defines the norms of acceptable conduct
Culture develops consistent interpretations of behaviors throughout the organization
The well-managed culture can improve performance significantly while the unmanaged culture will impede even the best-intentioned change effort
The "work culture" of an organization is a product of its history, traditions, values, and vision.
"a pattern of basic group assumptions that has worked well enough to be considered valid, and, therefore, is taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think and feel."
Desirable work culture includes shared institutional values, priorities, rewards and other practices which foster inclusion, high performance, and commitment, while still allowing diversity in thought and action....
Now having read through the above i can say that the first cause of poor work culture in our setting is that there is usually poor orientation and core values and goals are presumed to be know to the new employee. i dont know about others but i can testify that when i arrived at my first appointment as Junior Resident Medical Officer i was not given any conditions of service but just the letter of appointment. What is surprising is that in GRZ there are all these written down components of work culture but somehow some one feels there are not very necessary. if i were given all these documents about the conditions of service, scope of work or practise i would probably be asking my employers for a better pay, maybe this is the reason why these documents are not availed to the new employees.
This is a challenge for all those that are in management and especially Human Resource managers and Officer to see to it that employees are issued with these very important documents. My resolutions is that when i finish with outreach programmes i will ask My Human resource office to bring files of all the employees at my station for scrutiny and will be fighting to make sure that everyone under me gets to knows whats expected of them and what they should expect from me and from the overall employer~GRZ/MoH/PSMD. I challenge you my friends to do the same.... Have a lovely week.
In closing, I would like to look at the soultions for improving our work culture. In as much as most of the points shoulder on management's willingness to materialise,I place emphasis on the fact that we can also as individuals take up the challenge to make changes in our lives especially as far as work culture is concern.
The work culture can be improved in a number of ways by, for example:
1.Improving communications between management and staff in both directions.
2.Consulting employees and their representatives about their jobs and any changes to them.
3.Ensuring that jobs which pose a risk and which cannot be completely eliminated are rotated so that no individual spends long on that task.
4.Ensuring that all employees have sufficient variety of tasks to enable them to use different muscles and postures and to make their job more satisfying.
5.Providing adequate rest breaks to prevent the build up of fatigue and by ensuring that the breaks are taken.
6.Identifying and removing stress factors from the workplace.
7.Giving workers control over their pace of work and how they plan their day.
8.Removing piece rate and payment by results systems that make earnings dependent on excessive work rates.
9.The management staff can be the best example in leading the road to improved work culture.
Ok friends ,I submit and i hope that this has been of some help to you. If you are on the job and you happpen not to be in position of your job description i suggest your first stop tomorrow morning should be at the HR Managers office.