01 02 03 Africa Expat Wives Club: Food Miles, No! Buy Kenyan, Yes! 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

Food Miles, No! Buy Kenyan, Yes!


This blog post is a little ‘off the point’ and I’ve written about ‘food miles’ before but I couldn’t help feeling my hackles rise yesterday when, whilst channel surfing, I saw Tamasin Day-Lewis, a TV cook and food writer on ‘BBC food’ mention the ‘horrible’ foods that are flown thousands of miles to UK at this time of year as ones to be avoided. To put this in context, she was referring to the months of January and February in England being pretty spartan for those trying to prepare local food that is ‘in season’, due to the fact that you can only grow ‘roots’ in these months. She said something along the lines of:

‘There is a strong urge at this time of year to go out and buy those horrible exotic fruits that have been flown thousands of miles to our supermarkets, as one is craving the acidity and taste of them – however, I am quite a puritan about this and try strongly to resist.’

Fair enough? I hear you say.

Also, A Telegraph weekend supplement article by Tessa Boase entitled ‘Shop of things to come’ pronounced ‘Food miles in general’ as ‘going down’ in 2008.

When my sister was staying with us over Christmas, she and her husband exclaimed, as we tucked into beautifully fresh green Kenyan beans at supper time:

‘How lovely, guilt free beans!’

When I asked her what she meant, she said that in England you feel too guilty to buy beans from Kenya, due to the miles they have been flown to get to the supermarket. They are not ‘environmentally friendly.’

Well, I wish people would stop feeling guilty about buying vegetables, flowers and fruits from Kenya and please BUY MORE!!

It seems so unfair that when, current crisis aside, around 60% of Kenya’s population live on less than a dollar a day, that so many people are boycotting their produce and thus doing them out of a livelihood! It seems that in the developed world, people are being brain washed to believe that buying ‘local produce’ is their major contribution to the prevention of global warming – but in fact they should be taking lessons from countries like Kenya who are world leaders in concepts of ‘recycling’ and ‘make do and mend’ and where comparatively people own so very few possessions.

The UN target for developed nations is to give 0.7% of their Gross National Product to developing countries in what they call ‘Development aid’ which is aimed at alleviating poverty in the long term (rather than given as short term humanitarian aid). The Norwegians are leaders in this giving almost 0.9%. In 2004 USA gave 0.16% of their GNP to developing countries, which although seems low as a percentage, was the largest worldwide contribution at $16 billion. The UK gave 0.36% of their GNP in the same year. In fact in the past three years the British Department for International Development has spent over $330 million in Kenya. This money is not given to directly to Governments as ‘budget support’ but they try to do what they call ‘targeted spending’ on projects linked to education, health care, HIV/Aids prevention etc. in developing countries (from what I understand).

I may be a layperson on this subject, but surely supporting economies in the developing world should be encouraged not shunned by people in the West otherwise how are, in this case, African economies ever going to grow?

I also asked my sister what she thought people in UK really felt about carbon emissions, global warming etc and whether they worried about it a lot?

‘Not really,’ she said ‘people switch off a light bulb or buy local produce and then they think that that is enough – they are not actually making serious changes to their lifestyles.’

Well I would argue that rather than feeling guilty when buying imported food and flowers from Kenya (which have been carefully and economically packed onto a freight plane using every available inch of space), please buy more Kenyan produce and do feel good about supporting the people in the developing world who have so little! Instead, why don’t you start feeling guilty about the quantity of stuff you throw in the bin, about the amount of plastic wrapping on everything and the frequent high street purchases that you really don’t actually need?

Food writers and the trendy foodies - please take note…

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