Growing Veg & Herbs in Southern Africa

Market, Durban, South Africa

Market, Durban, South Africa. photo by mister-e, flickr creative commons

Botswana is hot, dry, and sandy; hardly an ideal place to grow produce.  Zimbabwe, our neighbor to the east, was known for years as the breadbasket of Africa because of its fertile land and friendly growing climate.  Botswana might as well be as far from Zim as Kenny G is from real jazz, considering the differences in climate and soil.  The Khalahari desert is a stone’s throw away from our location in the capital city Gaborone, and covers a decent tract of land in this small-ish country.  One can imagine with this type of climate, agriculture has not had a bountiful history in the narrative of Botswana.

Botswana has a high incidence of HIV among its population.  Nearly 30-40% of the adult population is infected with the virus or full blown AIDS (acronyms sound like shouting… right?).  The people of Botswana are fortunate to have ACHAP in action, which is a public-private partnership that provides its hiv/aids population with medicines.  Anti retroviral treatment (ART) is taken by people who have a high enough level of the virus in their system to warrant their use.  These medicines allow individuals infected with hiv to live longer, healthier lives.  ACHAP is the partnership between the government of Botswana, the Gates Foundation, and the pharmaceutical firm Merck that provides the people with these drugs.

While anti retrovirals are effective in increasing the lifespan of people living with hiv and an important evolution in human adaptation to the virus, a nutritious diet is also essential to a healthy immune system.  I’m not a doctor, nurse, nutritionist, dietician, etc., but I can tell you from my life experience (all 25 years of it) that eating fresh vegetables as part of a balanced diet does make an impact on one’s physical and mental well being.  Eating well can boost the immune system and raise one’s energy levels.  Fresh vegetables also taste better than those shipped across oceans and down miles of pavement.  This is because the further from the field vegetables travel, the more the natural sugars turn to starches and lose their sweet juicy flavor and nutritious value.

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