A young learner at one of the many lush gardens cared for by students at Mwandege Secondary School, Dar es Salaam, 2009. Pic by F Macha
Africa is filled with eternal wonders.
The rich continent is a sweet, giggling giant. Most things about it are magical, generating millions of cash from tourism and business. Her wealthy ground has enriched millionaires with mineral deposits. South Africa and Congo – the two countries that have had most bleeding histories are like pregnant mothers. They contribute most of the world’s 75 per cent of global platinum, chromium and diamonds. Congo has seen no peace for over hundred years. The brutal murder of democratically elected Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba in January 1961 was a climax of non-stop, theatre of mass abuse. South Africa has seen most bloodshed. So many other Patrice Lumumbas have been buried here ...Mangaliso Sobukwe, Steve Biko, Sharpeville massacre and Soweto uprising victims; not forgetting the unfair imprisonment of Nelson Mandela for a quarter of a century.
Many mouths have been feeding on Africa’s resources for 500 years. Like pangolin, the anteater (Kakakuona in Swahili); giant mining companies love our minerals. Last year, The East African paper claimed 40 foreign mining companies made 150 percent profit in 2010 while governments only got 40.
But the continent’s resources are not just stones and chemicals.
Whenever I come back home I am so entranced by tasty foods. Delicious meat and fruits and fresh air of the highlands. Unfortunately, our people prefer foods and drinks that have been bottled or artificially manufactured. Take Madafu, the fresh coconut. Forty years ago when I was in school, finding a Madafu seller was easy as locating a kiosk selling Coca-Cola and Chips on any Dar es Salaam street in 2014.
“Coconut trees are dwindling,” Madafu sellers will tell you.
Those days, the ignorant belief among most ordinary Dar es Salaamites was drinking Madafu shall make your private parts swell like mountains. Busha, the Swahili name for elephantiasis (i.e. enlarged testicles) was said to be the outcome of gulping Madafu. Elephantiasis is caused by mosquitos that harm the lymphatic system. Stigma and ignorance makes this the most untreated disease on the East African coast. At least 120 million people in Asia, Africa and other tropical lands are affected.
Lately the amazing benefits of fresh coconut in the developed world has turned fresh coconut juice into a very sought out and expensive drink.
Early this week, I bought a small 100 milligrams bottle for almost three pounds (approx 7,000 shillings!). Fresh coconut has over ten documented qualities. They include supporting the immune system against anti viral, anti fungal, anti parasite, anti bacteria, improving digestion and insulin secretions associated with diabetes. Most external qualities of coconuts are well known to East Africans who enjoy its oil cream for hair and skin.
Madafu is not the only tropical healthy craze, unearthed in rich countries.
Aloe Vera (dubbed the “plant of immortality” by ancient Egyptians) has over 40 uses. So powerful is Aloe Vera that scientists have been looking on its potential to cure the HIV virus and certain cancers. The giant African baobab (Mbuyu in Swahili) is another “recent discovery”...
I regularly purchase Baobab powder mixed with other tropical products (e.g. Moringa from West Africa and Camu-Camu, sweetest substance on earth from Brazil) in a concoction that supports almost everything in the body. Baobab powder is rich. Has carbohydrates, proteins and fats plus numerous minerals: riboflavin, magnesium, potassium. Camu-Camu has 60 times more vitamin C than oranges, for instance.
Next, is Nettle.
When I was in high school at Mzumbe, Morogoro, the regular form of punishment used to be cutting down stinging nettle bushes. Known as Upupu in Swahili, the plant has at least fifteen medicinal uses. You can also boil it as a tea, cook it like any vegetable or add to your fresh salad. We may compare its vegetal quality to Matembele (sweet potatoes leaves) lately rejuvenated in Tanzania. Our ancestors knew all this stuff.
For centuries Nettle was used to treat allergy symptoms and reducing inflammation.
American Professor Andrew Wiel, author of Natural Health and Natural Medicine, claims nettle is the best treatment for allergies. Allergies are a recent phenomenon in Africa due to spreading industrialisation, car pollution, smoke and dust. Urban dwellers tend to have sneezing and chronic flu, despite the heat. Nettle is good for that because it has no side effects like Allegra and Claritin - the prescription drugs.
In Germany, nettle is sold as a herbal drug to treat prostate diseases and urinary problems...Other treatments by nettle are enlargement of prostate, Alzheimer, Arthritis, Bronchitis, Gout (meat and alcohol lovers take note!), Kidney stones, PMS (premenstrual syndrome), Gingivitis, Rheumatism, skin complaints (e.g. eczema, baldness and dandruff), stopping internal bleeding, pain relief, excessive menstruation and generally assisting the immune system.
Like Madafu, Aloe Vera, Baobab powder and Camu-Camu, the list of benefits is endless. These “forgotten” plants are plenty in rich, prosperous Africa. So costly overseas but free and easy to find here.
Also published in Citizen Tanzania- Friday 22nd Aug, 2014.