INFLATION, sickness, malnutrition, poverty –these problems are widespread in developing lands. And there is no immediate solution in sight, at least from human point of view. If you live in developed or developing land, is there anything you can do to improve the quality of your life? Yes, there is! Following are five suggestions that you may find helpful and practical.
NUMBER ONE: PLANT A GARDEN
“He that is cultivating his own ground will have his sufficiency of bread,” says the Bible at Proverbs. Indeed, it may surprise you to see how much can be produced on a fairly small plot of land. In his book LE JARDIN POTAGER SOUS LES TROPIQUES (The Vegetable Garden in the Tropics), author Henk Waayenberg claims that a plot of land measuring 50 to 100 square meters can produce enough vegetable to feed a family of six!
Why spend your resources on things that you can grow yourself? Depending on the soil and the climate, it may be possible to grow items like okra, peppers, spinach, parsley, lemon grass, green onions, cassava, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, sugarcane, tomatoes, cucumbers, and corn right next to your house. At the very least, such a garden can supplement your family’s diet, and you may even have some excess produce that you can sell.
If you have sufficient land, you might also consider planting a variety of fruits trees. In some cases, a single fruit tree can produce more fruit than you and your family can eat. Learning about composting –the process of recycling dead organic matter and putting it to use as fertilizer –will help you improve your food production.
Trees can do more than produce food and extra income for your family. Well-placed trees can also give shade, clean the air, and make your surroundings more beautiful and pleasant. What, though, if you know little about gardening? Do you have friends, neighbors, or acquaintances who have experience in this regard? It may also be possible for you to purchase or borrow some books gardening
NUMBER TWO: BUY IN BULK
Do you buy basic items like flour, rice, and oil in small quantities? If so, you may be wasting a large part of your budget. Instead, if at all possible, try buying such food items in bulk, sharing the cost with two, three, or families. Buying in bulk can also save you money when certain fruits or vegetables are in season. In some cases, you may even be able to buy things wholesale.
NUMBER THREE: LEARN THE ART OF FOOD PRESERVATION
Buying in bulk raises the question of how to store perishable items. Drying food is one popular and practical method. A great number of women in Africa make a living by drying fruits, okra, beans, squash, pumpkin seeds, and herbs. Drying does not require any special equipment. The item can be placed on a clean surface or hung up, perhaps covered by a thin cloth to discourage flies. The air and sun will do the rest.
NUMBER FOUR: TRY SMALL-SCALE BREEDING
IT is possible for you to raise your own chickens, goats, pigeons, or other animals? In many places meat has become a luxury item. But with a little help from others, you can learn how to raise a small flock of animals. Do you enjoy eating fish? Well, you might try learning how to make a small fish pond. Meat, eggs, and fish contain iron, calcium, vitamins, minerals, and protein –vital to your family’s health.
NUMBER FIVE: MAINTAIN PROPER HYGIENE
Hygiene is also important to your family’s health. Unclean conditions attract rats, flies, and cockroaches –the cause of all sorts of sicknesses. Maintaining proper hygiene will cost you time and effort. But the cost of cleanliness is less than the cost of medicine and doctor bills.
Standards of cleanliness may differ to some extent from person to person and from country to country. However, there are a few general principles that are applicable everywhere.
Take, for example, toilet facilities. In rural areas these are often allowed to be filthy and dilapidated and are a major source of illness and disease. Local health workers may be able to be healthy. Germs and parasites abound in polluted water. So filter or boil water before using it. Rinse eating utensils with boiling water, and wash your hands thoroughly before handling food. Store water in clean, sealed containers.
Dogs, cats, chickens, and goats should not be allowed to roam in a kitchen –not if you want to maintain sanitary conditions. Nor should rats and mice be allowed to run over pots and pans, contaminating your food. A simple rattrap might eliminate the problem.
FEED YOUR JUNK MAIL TO THE TOMATOES
What might a post office do with 500 tons a month of undeliverable junk mail, including catalogs and other advertisements? The Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, and post office has begun sending much of it to be burned into compost. The compost is being used to grow tomatoes and marigolds reports The New York Times, and the results have been promising.
The bacteria that convert the shredded junk mail into compost are fed stale beer and soft drinks, waste products of beverage manufacturers. The beer and soda contain sugar, on which the bacteria thrive. Says Joel Simpson, vice president of the composting company conducting the experiment: “The same things that make us fat make those bacteria fat and happy.”
BETTER THAN HUMAN INTERVENTION
Ten years after a storm felled 15 million trees in England in 1997, it was found that woodland areas undisturbed by human intervention had experienced the most prolific regrowth, reports The Daily Telegraph. Where trees had been blown down, more light reached the ground.
This caused saplings and shrubs to grow to a height of six meters, and insects, birds, and plants have also proliferated. Many fallen oak and yew trees did not rot as expected, and their timber, now seasoned, has tripled in value. Says conservationist Peter Raine: “More damage was done by well-intentioned cleaning up [by humans] than by the storm itself. Many of trees planted that autumn were planted hurriedly, badly, and they died.”