Tag 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.

 

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Network news: Dr Peter Mansfield

The best remedy: good nourishment and congenial circumstance

Tuberculosis made the news again in March, when the WHO announced that inadequate treatment across the world was enabling drug-resistant strains of the germ to multiply. 

Dr Peter MansfieldDr Mansfield recalls reading about the village of Papworth Everard in Cambridgeshire. The policy of the day  was to relocate families afflicted with TB in settlements designed to restore them. Papworth was one, opened in 1917 and active until about 1970. He writes:

“Residents there were much blessed, particularly for the times. Their homes were airy, bright and spacious. All had gardens. The schools were generously designed in the same way, with rest periods during the day for those who needed them. There were factories, too, providing similarly congenial work for the breadwinners. And the Settlement had its own hospital.

“So why did Papworth close as a Settlement, and become an ordinary village with an extra-ordinary heart hospital? For the best of all reasons – it cured people. So did the other Settlements around the country, aided of course by improved public hygiene, nourishment, and pharmaceutical treatment. So we ran out of candidates to resettle.

“Drugs were by no means the primary driver. The Settlements had grown out of a movement for Garden Cities, begun about the same time. Salt, Leverhulme and Cadbury can be credited for their Model Villages, but the Garden Cities Movement recognised the need everyone (not just employees and the sick) has for congenial living conditions, which would prevent TB and other public health scourges in the first place. Letchworth and Welwyn were the only two to be built, but they led to the New Towns movement along similar lines. Many more of these were spawned, the best known being Wythenshawe in Manchester and Speke in Liverpool. Basildon and Milton Keynes are just two large modern settlements originating in these ideas. This impulse eventually led in 1961 to the Parker Morris Standards for the construction of houses, now incorporated into the Building Regulations.

“The Settlements proved dramatically that TB is a disease primarily of nutritional and environmental disadvantage. Well-founded bodies dealt decisively with TB on their first encounter, usually marked by a small calcified nodule in the lung called a Ghon focus. For most people this is a source of immunity far more effective than BCG vaccination. Provided it is created against a background of good nourishment and congenial circumstance, nothing more comes of it.

A message to make drug companies quake

“TB never went away. Throughout the 60s men could be found living on the street who proved to have TB, and mens hostels were a fertile recruiting ground for chest hospitals. Feed these men and find them a life, and the disease paled away.

“We should be ashamed that these simple hygienic benefits have not by now filtered down to everyone. Drug firms may quake at the thought of their products losing their grip, but we need not. It is just another reason to appreciate, grow, buy and eat the very best that we can.”