Category Archives: aficans

To Be Agronomic…

This is actually the only real physical book I took back with me from the classes I took at University of Ghana and Ashesi University in the Spring semester of 2007. This book is Managing Agrodiversity the Traditional Way edited by Edwin A. Gyasi – the professor of the course I took with him, Sustainable Agriculture in the Developing World – and Gordana KranjacBerisavljevic, Essie T. Blay, and William Oduro. This course, a graduate-level class in the Geography department at Legon, was only attended by three students that whole semester – two of us from America (including a white woman from Northern California) and a young Ghanaian woman. It’s troubling, at best, that matters of agronomy, food security, and sustainable land management are not attended to by more students, particularly right in Afrika. But I consider it to have been a great honor to have studied the contemporary thought around sustainable development with Prof. Gyasi.

That is the man himself, during our field trip to Aburi Hills, where we visited Ebua Danso’s farm, the one I mention three posts down, where organic agroforestry impressed the hell out of me and blew my mind. And Ebua Danso wasn’t a master, world-renowned organic Afrikan farmer because of something he learned in a Western-oriented agronomy program somewhere. He was simply reproducing the beautiful and effective methods of traditional, local farmers in Ghana and elsewhere in West Afrika. I come back to all this subject matter and these past events in my life as I reflect on being a raw vegan/ fruitarian, an Afrikan, and a revolutionary concerned with food security, sustainable and plentiful food production and transport, and justice. Raw Vegans/ fruitarians like me eat a lot of tropical fruits and nuts. Bananas produced for the Bonita, Dole, and other big US corporations that maintain banana republics in Latin America – I eat them. I live in North Jersey, just outside NYC where I work and conduct all my business. And I enter the market and select all sorts of tropical fruits that were grown many thousands away, in the very tropics I am native to (and would probably rather be most of the time). If the Afrikan situation was correct, I would be there today with no looking back, doing work, being free, eating right off the land and most likely growing most of my own food. I know activists here in NYC that want to do something like establish organic herbal gardens in Cameroon which will grow medicinal herbs to be exported to the US. Yet the cost of such transport, and the relationship of cash-cropism – an economic practice I approach with some ire – might not be overturned in such an arrangement.

It is likely very impractical to imagine, at this point, a world which, in concern for the pollution and waste of intercontinental food trading – and realizing the injustice of cash-cropism imposed on the (tropical) third world by the (temperate) first world – moves to locovorism, where everyone is eating locally-grown whole foods. In New York state or New Jersey, what do we grow that I dig, apples? A lot of salad crops, yes? Many sorts of berries? Well, that is excellent and I eat the local varieties of those, and have visited apple farms in South Jersey, where I was impressed and felt my innate desire to be a rural, food-growing, simple-ass man, reinforced. But me, I eat a whole lot of tropical fruits. I eat citrus grown in Florida, avocados grown in California (as well as a lot of salad greens), pecans grown in Texas, as for this country. I eat avocados from Mexico, too, Ecuadorian bananas, Brazilian cashews, Chilean blueberries, Peruvian cacao beans, Canadian hemp-seed, Spanish unpasteurized almonds, even New Zealand Kiwis. And that’s certainly not all I eat. I feel concerned about being a non-locovore, a man eating from the global kitchen assembly line established long ago by European mercantilism and colonialism, the antecedents of contemporary cash-cropism. I don’t even eat fair-trade bananas (not even organic).

Does one like me just keep going this way? Agronomy is one of my many, many interests. I’m an urban-ass person, something I can’t apologize for because I was born into that, though I have friends who have moved on from that, and at least tried to dedicate more of their lives to agronomy and food security issues. In the meantime, I suppose we must be advocates for, aside from revolution, or in until its occurrence, clean-green-energy means of international shipping and sustainable locovorism to the extent that it is possible and practical. Surely those in cities and towns with land should say fuck a lawn, and grow food on their free land. Lawns are the invention of retards. Food security is undermined by lawns. Whenever I get a true place of my own, best believe I’ll be growing food on it like a hardcore farmer. But it could be the case, some day down the line, and within the context of repatriating, that I just move to the tropics, to Afrika, where everything grows, and grow durians, pineapples, avocados, mangos, oranges, cashews, cacao, and all that good shit, alongside other Afrikans, a beautiful sista, some little ones, sweating under the palms and sipping fresh juices by the sea (or in the valleys). Ah, to aspire to the good life…

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On Being Vegan in Ghana and Nigeria

I landed in Accra on January 7, 2007. I’ve been a vegan since I was 15, starting back in 1999. My trip was a rare opportunity to use my grad school fellowship money to get out of New York City and its winter, as well as the winter of the anemic and ideologically whack Africana studies department at my university. As a person steadily rising in Pan-Afrikan consciousness over the previous year-and-a-half, my journey was a chance to express and cement my commitment to Pan-Afrikanism and my love and solidarity for Afrikan people. It was a chance to directly study the conditions of Afrikan peoples on the continent. As an Afrikan of Nigerian descent, it was a chance to visit family last seen over ten years ago and barely remembered. As a profoundly alienated Afrikan youth in urban Amerikkka, it was a chance to connect with my own people more deeply and perhaps find more community. It was a chance to be totally immersed in societies where everyone looked like me.

On landing, a friend of my uncle retrieved me from the airport and delivered me to a very loose contact of his, a family of a mother, her three young children, and their grandmother at a house in East Legon. The first thing I ate in Ghana (I was a vegan, not a raw vegan while I was in Afrika, because had not yet even considered raw veganism) was some organic oatmeal I brought with me. I had fasted for a long time between taking off at JFK and landing in Accra (on a long but descent non-stop flight via North American Airlines). The family’s attitudes were accepting of my veganism and there was no drama about it. I stayed with this family for the first two-and-a-half weeks, until I got a place in a hostel right up the road, a hostel full of Ghanaian students, not an international hostel.

My initial experience being a vegan in Ghana was an overall nice one. I had to buy a gas canister, gas stove, and some pots and utensils for storage in the outdoor kitchen area of the hostel, with which I cooked meals all the time. I regularly ate the locally grown brown rice (which had to be thoroughly washed as it was maad soily), as well as local gari (cooked cassava meal), with vegetable and bean stews I made. I also regularly steamed plantain very frequently. I introduced some very expensive cereal-and-soy-milk eating (sourced out of the downtown foreigner-oriented, Arab-owned grocery stores like Koala Market and Max Mart). I didn’t do this long, though. But mid-way through my five-month semester in Ghana I began to get lazy, even perhaps somewhat exhausted, with cooking all the time, so me eating cereal and even peanut-butter and jelly very late in my stay happened more frequently.

Also towards the end I identified two vegan restaurants in Accra. One was called just “Vegetarian Restaurant” or something. It was very close to the Airport and “37” bus depot. And I think they may no longer be there because they posted notices that they would be leaving at the end of May, around which time I was either in Nigeria or returning to Amerikkka. The other restaurant has a name I forget. It was near Nkrumah Circle and across from one of the biggest and most prestigious internet cafe’s in town, whose name I also presently forget. This restaurant is run by Hebrew-Israelites from Amerikkka. Any Rasta or serious vegetarian in Accra knows what I’m talking about. When I’m reminded of the names of these establishments I will correct this post.

Towards the end, especially the last month or so, of my stay in Ghana, I became much more heavily reliant on these establishments for my food. For even a very poor traveler from Amerikkka like me, all the food was really cheap. The “Vegetarian Restaurant” near “37” was the better of the two restaurants, with much lower prices and much tastier, and completely traditional, Ghanaian vegetarian meals. The restaurant near Nkrumah circle served a lot of rice dishes, veggie burgers, and so on. Their food was rather salty and sometimes oily, while the food at the “Vegetarian Restaurant” was very starchy and fatty. I would eat my favorite, fufu with groundnut or palm-nut soup, all the time and voraciously. I think that sort of eating was part of why my immune system began to weaken by the last month of the Ghana tour, and I was getting sick, feeling flu-like for some time.

I never took any malaria meds or what not while in Ghana. All that stuff is overratted and toxic, especially if one is already an Afrikan and one keeps the immune system strong. And I was stung by every mosquito in West Afrika. No problem. Before heading to Ghana, I looked into natural preventatives of malaria, like garlic and lemon oil. I didn’t deal much with lemon oil. I had some oregeno oil and I think echinacea something with me. Didn’t use them much. And I was supplementing with vegetarian multivitamins and multiminerals throughout my stay.

In the second week of April, I went to Nigeria. I flew the 45 minute flight from Accra to Lagos, was picked up by my father from the airport, spent the night at a Lagos hotel, and flew the hour flight from Lagos to Port Harcourt, Nigeria, where I spent the week. This was during the chaotic and corrupt gubernatorial elections Nigeria was trying to hold, though things never went as bad as they got in Kenya this past month. My cousins on my father’s side, who are some of the coolest Afrikans around, were all cool with and intrigued by my veganism. They considered it progressive and intuitively understood it as a way of obtaining the best health. I ate lots of fruit while there. I made, and was made, vegetable stews, served with Nigerian-style fufu, a Kalabari yam/plantain dish, and rice. I had salads. I did alright overall in Nigeria and ate better than I had in Ghana, where at the time I was beginning to get lazy, eat cereal, and go to restaurants.

Going back to Ghana to finish out the semester, I ate the roadside baked yam and plantain pieces, with dry-roasted salted groundnuts, for lunch often. I had bananas on my way back home. I had my brown-rice-stew-and-plantain meals mornings and evenings. The grandmother in my initial host family sometimes made me copious groundnut stew which I would freeze for days and eat with brown rice. And so on.

I got my produce primarily from Medina Market, the big open-air market north of Legon. I got some of what I used for my sauces at the downtown supermarkets, including Indian-style sauce bases, occasionally.

After exams were over, I flew again to Nigeria, this time to spend a week in Lagos with my cousins on my mother’s side. My aunt is a caterer, so she made a lot of rice-and-bean meals which I could eat. I didn’t cook at all while in Lagos because of this. I didn’t eat too many fruits either.

By the time I returned to Amerikkka from Nigeria at the end of May 2007, I think my immune system was exhausted from eating so much cooked food, ultimately more cooked food than I had been eating in Amerikkka before I left for Ghana. I wish I had considered raw veganism for my whole stay in West Afrika, which would have made everything more convenient and simple, and left me much healthier. Which I will expand on in my next post.

But I thought it was important to share my experience being vegan in West Afrika, which was not without its challenges, but was for the most part pretty easy. The bulk of the challenge came in doing it alone, and trying to cook every single time I went to eat, which I eventually got lazy and exhausted about. The only person who challenged me for being vegan was this stupid, stuck-up, narrow-minded jerk from the geography department at University of Ghana.

While in West Afrika, fitness-wise I did lots of calisthenics and walked as much as I could in the nice hot sun, which some Ghanaians thought ridiculous, but kept me very fit and ready to jump right into Kung Fu not long after I returned to New York.

There needs to be more resources for vegans and raw vegans in Afrika, so I hope this little contribution helps.