Updated: Sep 2
Working within food systems design has been a big eye-opener towards the solutions necessary for the thrive of these systems.
Listening to mama (Rachael Njeri) describe how she sources Tesifa Home's food is a beautiful journey through food systems solutions. My current philosophy on efficient food systems is quite simple, 'The shorter the distance between farm and plate, the higher the quality of the food produced and consumed'. That's it. The first thing we did at Tesifa, to embody this principle, is establish a thriving vegetable garden and keep chicken. This ensures that most of our food is freshly picked for our meals and we have all the eggs, and occasionally chicken, we need. That said, some foods such as rice, maize, legumes and cooking oil (we use sunflower oil) cannot be grown on a small piece of lawn sufficiently. So, what happens? How do we still embody the principle? Community. Community is how.
The House mama, Christina, comes from Mbeya, an agrarian town nestled between the Mbeya and Poroto mountain ranges. She has family members who are farmers and they grow exactly the food we need. Foods that are not grown in Tanga. Through her hometown community, we have succeeded at acquiring food right from these farmers. This means that we are always certain about the quality of rice, maize, beans and oil we buy. We also get it at good prices partly because buying directly from the farmer is cheaper than several steps in the supply chain later. One other thing mama Rachael speaks to with joy is that while we get this food at a cheaper price than at the shops, the farmers make slightly more than they would if they sold it to brokers….and this is after a discount; one they give us because Christina is family AND they know what she does and want to support it. Community.
In true mama Rachael spirit, the bus company that carries this food to us also gives us a discount. Again, they too, know about the little souls it nourishes and are happy to support in this way. Community.
In the end, purchase, transport and a few appreciative tokens for the people in between, that keep the process well lubricated, summed up, we get good quality food, for cheaper and in a way that honours its cultivation, transportation and consumption. Community.
Another aspect that comes into play, and I hear it, crystal clear, as mama Rachael describes what we do to the people involved in the Tesifa food system, is necessity. Food is necessary. Sourcing it in ways that ensure high quality is necessary. Sourcing it from places that ensure the best prices we can get is necessary. Getting it to us at the lowest cost possible is necessary. While necessity might be the mother of invention, it most certainly is the father of collaborative action. One of the things that makes some of this necessary is that Tesifa is a young, family and friends funded, Home. While we often have just enough to make what needs to happen happen, it requires some real manoeuvring of resources.
Last year, May, we bought a total of about 600 kg of rice, beans, maize and sunflower oil. All costs included, it came to Tshs 1,500,000 (£520, $650). It is now time to call the farmers and rev the bus engines. The granary needs to be replenished as we go into the rainy season where not much harvesting happens.
We, once more, pull on the chords of the Tesifa village, near and far, to band around another year of sustenance. Asante sana for holding hands with us as we grow.
This is some of the food we have stored that has lasted the last year and they and have kept everything fresh. Each plastic container holds 20 kg each