Nkwah Azinwi Ngum has an MSc in Rural Economics and Agri-Food from the University of Yaoundé II Soa, Cameroon. She is a Cameroon Human Rights Fellow and a Cameroon Women’s Scholarship fellow. She was trained by the Israel’s Agency for International Development Corporation – MASHAV- under a course ‘Agribusiness, a tool for the empowerment of rural women’ in Israel.
Currently she serves as the Coordinator of the Cameroon Women’s Scholarship Alumni Association. She is also one of the World Council of Churches youth ambassadors in Africa; and has completed an Eco-school course on Water, Food and Climate Justice in Malawi.
She recently founded an organisation “Save The Future”, which aims to empower communities and young people to overcome development challenges. The organisations primary focus is to equip young people with the necessary sustainable agriculture skills, as a means to curb poverty and food insecurity.
People should be able to economically afford the food necessary to maintain their well-being Click To Tweet
Nkwah, to what extent is food security guaranteed, if one is growing their own crops?
We need to know the basic definition of food security before we can clearly understand this question.
Food security in its most basic definition means: ensuring that everyone can access the amount of healthy, nutritious foods they need to live. However it also indicates that people should be able to economically afford the food necessary to maintain their well-being.
Growing your own food is one way you can make sure your family always has an ample supply of fruits and vegetables and other food crops. We should note that growing your own food does not necessarily mean you are food secure. But, it reduces the resources you would spend on say, vegetables, and these resources could be channeled to other food crops that cannot be grown in the garden, hence contributing to food security.
You have been raising awareness of food security on social media, how has this been received by your target audience?
Using social media to raise awareness on the dangers of food insecurity and how we can cope or avoid the situation has been a little challenging. People still do not see this a challenge, but it is a situation whose consequences have triple effects – individual, family and economy.
Notwithstanding challenges, from the reactions I have received, attitudes are changing; many people are beginning to gain interest in the subject and are trying to curb the situation by growing their own food.
I will also like to note that, aside from social media, I am educating children in orphanages and schools on sustainable food. For the past four months, I, together with my friend, Ndeby Jarreth Therese (Co-Founder of Save The Future), have been able to reach about 200, 9-17 year old young people.
From time to time, we call back to check the progress they are making in maintaining the gardens and also whether their feeding habits are changing. We are also hoping to increase the beneficiaries of this project to 2000 by the end of this year.
Children who grow their own food may have increased preference for vegetables. Click To Tweet
What’s your advice on how we can actually convince our kids to have healthy eating habits?
Kids are more open to learning new cultures and attitudes than adults. One trick is introducing these veggies in their diet, whether frozen or dried, and being diverse in the colors (use different colors so that they can find the food attractive).
Alternatively, we can get kids to eat healthily by letting them assist in growing the food they eat. Create a home garden (no matter the size) and let your kids help out in the garden. Let them grow their favorite vegetables. During which time, you can teach them the benefits of veggies and fruits. Research has shown that children who grow their own food may have increased preference for vegetables.
Aside from home, pre-schools and primary schools can also contribute in grooming kids in healthy nutrition by using school gardens. Kids interact and learn from their peers. Therefore, school is one of the main social contexts where agricultural and food related practices, attitudes and other skills can be developed and shaped.
What are some of the healthiest foods that you recommend us to take daily?
Our food choices are very important for a healthy life. For a balanced diet we need to eat fruits and vegetables, protein, grain products and dairy foods. However, we need to know which food is vital on a daily basis and which are not.
I would recommend fruits and veggies as the healthiest food for our daily consumption. We have to encourage and inculcate the habit of eating fruits and vegetables daily. One way of doing this is by growing our own veggies like okra, lettuce, amaranth, cucumber etc.
You are also encouraging entrepreneurial skills so that people can produce more and sell excess. When one has taken farming to the business level is there anything they have to do differently?
Many people see farming as a way of life, but today the concept is changing, especially among young people.
If we want to consider our farming as a business; we need to treat it like another business venture. We need to carry out feasibility studies on the different stakeholders already involved in this line of business and create a business plan.
However, for the young people I am working with, the basic idea is to introduce them into the world of entrepreneurship and the methods of how they can develop interest in agriculture.
Using fertilizers is not a bad idea, but the problem is how we use them; quantity and quality - Nkwah Azinwi Ngum Click To Tweet
What do you think about using fertilizers and other chemicals on our crops? Does that have any effects on our systems?
Using fertilizers is not a bad idea, but the problem is how we use them; quantity and quality. Most fertilizers contain the same basic materials: nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus and sometimes other nutrients, like zinc, needed for healthy plant growth.
Fertilisers that are designed to kill or prevent weeds are most damaging to our health, as they are known to be the leading cause of cancer. In addition to that, fertilisers can cause water and soil pollution which can lead to other diseases.
We therefore need to use fertilisers mindfully, in order to mitigate the negative effects. It is for these reasons that I strongly advise the use of organic fertilizers. I encourage people to make their own organic fertilizer by simply recycling their organic waste at home. This does not only increase our crop yields but also ensures healthier veggies and saves money.
Have you ever created your own vegetable garden for business purposes?
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