Baby meets Passion Fruit
Last week I watched a film by Geoff Lawton entitled “Food Forests” with five people from Kasankha village where we are working to establish sustainable and highly diversified agricultural systems. First off I should point out that there is no electricity in Kasankha so watching a film at all was a big treat for this group. I made banana bread and we sat down to watch our educational DVD.
Geoff Lawton, an Australian permaculture teacher, took us through how to establish a food forest. The reason I like this film is that it is very visual. It gave my Malawian friends an opportunity to see what food forests look like in a climate not too dissimilar to our own. The rich topsoil of the forest floor had people appropriately “ooing” and “aahing” which left me feeling very good about my decision to spend the morning indulging in a film rather than shovelling manure or planting a tree.
After the film we shared out the loaf of banana bread (which went down very well) and talked about what we had seen. Apart from the depth of beautiful dark soil, what really made its mark on the group was the sheer diversity of food on display. People were particularly curious about passion fruit, partly because I had a bowl of them sitting on my living room table and partly because we planted several hundred of them in the village last year. It turned out that no-one in the group had yet tasted passion fruit. Excited to see their reaction, I cut some up and handed them out to everyone.
They were all surprised by the initial sour taste and pulled faces best described as “biting into a lemon face”. After the initial shock passion fruit proved to be a big hit. One of the ladies had brought her 18-month old son with her. Throughout the film he had made generally disgruntled noises, occasionally challenging Mr. Lawton for the room’s attention, which I must confess made me a little irritable. It was all worth it to see the little tyke’s reaction to passion fruit. He absolutely loved it.
Whenever his mother moved the fruit away from his open mouth he yelled in protest and on several occasions decided that her method of spooning the juice into his mouth was simply not acceptable and downright inefficient. Instead he literally planted his face in the juicy fruit and stuck out his little tough to lap it up. Quite apart from being absolutely hilarious and adorable this little man was proving a valuable point.
Malawian children are often severely malnourished. Roughly 50% of children under-5 experience stunted growth. It crossed my mind that this little passion fruit fiend was making a statement. It was as if he was telling his mother: “Now we’re talking, this is what I need!” Passion fruit, indeed any fresh fruit, is full of micronutrients essential for healthy development. This episode came as an entertaining and very real reminder of the desperate need to diversify Malawian diets and give children the best possible start in life.