Category Archives: Food

Working for the common good: Ketumile Masire,1925-2017

Emily Langer in the Independent has written an obituary of Ketumile Masire – a statesman who described himself as ‘a farmer who has been drawn into politics’.

A summary with added links and photographs

Masire herded cattle before enrolling in a primary school at 13 and receiving a scholarship to attend a high school in South Africa that trained many leaders of the first government of independent Botswana. When his parents died he supported his siblings, becoming a headmaster. He later earned a Master Farmers Certificate, and having saved enough money to buy a tractor,  became a BBfarmer, using modern agricultural techniques.

Botswana cattle

He served on tribal and regional councils and was a founder and secretary-general of the Botswana Democratic Party, now the country’s leading political party. He once travelled 3,000 miles of the Kalahari desert to attend two dozen meetings over two weeks.

After serving as minister of finance and development planning and Vice President, Ketumile Masire became President of Botswana (1980-1998): roads and schools were built, healthcare improved, access to clean water expanded, farming techniques advanced and life spans extended.

The discovery of diamond reserves had transformed the country’s prospects and Masire continued to use the revenues for the public good after the death of his predecessor Seretse Khama.  He became ‘a model leader in a model nation on a continent where poverty, corruption and violence had crushed the hopes of many for stability and prosperity’. 

After leading Botswana through a drought that persisted for much of the 1980s, he shared the Africa Prize for Leadership awarded by the Hunger Project in recognition of the food distribution efforts that helped the country avoid starvation during the crisis.

Though South Africa was Botswana’s major economic partner, Botswana opposed apartheid. “He had to walk a fine line in a really rough neighbourhood,” said Chester Crocker, a former US assistant secretary of state for African affairs. “He had to get along with everybody, without sacrificing his principles.”

After leaving office, in addition to tending the cattle on his ranch, Masire advised other African leaders and chaired an international panel that investigated the Rwandan genocide of 1994. He made important contributions to peace efforts in Congo and, more recently, Mozambique. He established a foundation which seeks to improve agriculture, governance and children’s health in the region.

He once said: “We have a saying in Botswana: A man is never strong until he says what he believes and gives other men the chance to do the same. I am proud to say without a doubt – we are a strong democracy.” 

A more chequered account of his life is given in Wikipedia.




Lambeth patients, doctors, nurses and local residents create food-growing NHS gardens

A food co-operative set up by a GP surgery is helping patients to grow food in Lambeth, one of London’s most deprived boroughs. Set up in 2013, the Lambeth GP Food Co-op includes patients, doctors, nurses and local residents who created a network of food-growing NHS gardens.

On 23 March, it launched a new venture with Stockwell GPs – building gardens at their surgeries. The initiative – inspired by the work of food co-ops across the UK and abroad – started at three GP practices, with initial funding of £160,000 from the clinical commissioning group and Lambeth Council.

As part of the project, 11 GP surgeries across the borough have turned unused outdoor space into gardens where patients can grow fruit and vegetables. The produce is sold in King’s College Hospital via a market stall, a joint venture with Medirest, the hospital’s catering supplier.

Preparing the raised grow-boxes used for growing food near Lambeth surgeries. Read more here.

As well as helping patients with long-term health conditions, the co-op aims to influence food procurement within the NHS, serving both an economic and a therapeutic purpose. Its long-term aim is to encourage NHS hospitals to buy locally sourced food by drawing on community capacity to grow food in an urban environment, engaging patients in the management of the co-op. The patient group makes decisions on what is planted, what happens to the produce, when meetings are held and whether they should get involved in other food-growing activities.

The benefits of gardens and gardening on health are highlighted in a report by the King’s Fund. These include reductions in depression and anxiety, improved social functioning and wider effects, including opportunities for vocational development.





News from Tokyo for apple growers, bakers & those who value independent shops


The dwindling number of independent shops on most high streets has been well recorded and deplored; not so the concerns of apple growers.

In December 2011 a group campaigning for fair prices for food producers asked: “Which will we lose first – British milk or British apples? In February 2012 on the same site: “Bramley apple growers hit now . . . bring on the adjudicator!”

Pippa Woods of the Family Farmers’ Association asked: “Why did the British apple industry collapse and what future it has now? This is in connection with why we do not see many English apples in the shops.”

Andy Gilchrist, chairman of the South Lakeland Orchard group, who is a retired  agronomist and was involved in the apple industry, gave the following answer:

“In 1970, over 2,000 farmers grew about 150,000 acres of apple orchards. Forty years later, less than 500 fruit farmers are growing about 50,000 acres. So the “collapse” is a loss of 67% of English orchards, and 75% reduction in the number of English fruit growers” – read on here.

Having recently enjoyed the wares of Granny Smith – atakeaway’ overlooking Setagaya Park, which specialises in four delicious varieties of a raised fruit-rich apple pie – and coffee:

Dutch Crumble

Classic Rum & Raisin

English Custard and

French D`Mande


I wondered if this independent shop could offer a model for us. Granny Smith manager Asami Matsuo, asked if the idea might spread in Japan, answered, “We haven’t had a pie boom yet, so maybe it’s time.”

The writer would like to see apple focused shops in every town and village  which could also incorporate apple-based products made by growers such as Hereford’s Dragon Orchard, which offers juices, ciders and  chutneys.