By Honourable Saka
For those of you who work in the health sector, maybe you might have realized the unusual manner in which many of us Africans have been dying younger in recent times. Others who have been following many funeral announcements in the various media would appreciate what I am talking about. Apart from the fact that modern Africans now die younger, perhaps the other scary development we face is that there are currently too many kinds of ‘incurable’ diseases which have come to stay with us than it used to be more than 50 years ago, despite the so-called ‘advancement’ in medical research.
Why do so many children below age 10, wear glasses due to poor eye sight, when as a matter of fact our grandmothers and our forefathers could see perfectly well without wearing glasses? So I keep asking myself: what exactly is wrong with us in this modern world? Why do we keep living with such illusions that our ‘healthcare’ systems are getting better in our modern times, when the opposite is rather the case?
Meanwhile a couple of years back, Africans were living in good health. People were living much longer than today. In many cases, dying below the age of 80years in Africa was considered to be “abomination” (unnatural) and many would usually express a shock upon receiving such news.
But today, about 70% of all deaths and funeral announcements here in Africa have been dominated by people in their 30s and 40s or at best, very few in their 50s. Shockingly, nobody seems to be concerned about this dangerous development. From the streets of Lagos, through Accra, Lusaka to Cairo, it is business as usual as if to say, seeing many of us die below age 50 is a normal thing. After all, we are always too busy, chasing more money that none of us has time to take a second look at this dangerous trend we’re currently living with.
Well, for me, this has been one of the major issues that has been bothering my mind almost every day and night for the past few years as l continue to wonder why many African in our modern times are seriously dying younger than our forefathers did.
Fortunately, I have been able to discover some of the reasons which I am willing to share with the African people. I believe that if these issues are taken serious, we could do something to change this unfortunate trend. So I made the effort to ask a grandmother some questions, hoping to get answers for our current generation.
Why did our ‘illiterate’ forefathers live longer?
In order for us to understand why we the modern ones are dying younger, it is imperative that we take a look back and ask ourselves the reasons why our forefathers lived longer. If this understanding could be established, then we could find a way out for modern African.
A Short Conversation With Grandmother
A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of chatting with an old woman in her late 80s. I took the opportunity to ask some ‘funny’ questions in my determination to identify the root causes of the problem. As patient as she was, grandma was able to help me out, bearing in mind she was dealing with a young man who wanted answers to save his generation especially the youth from dying younger.
So my first question to grandma was: ‘Why did you as a person and many in your generation live longer’?
She replied: “my son, it was because of the eating habit we had during those times when we were young. Most importantly, the quality of food we ate was far better than what you people eat these days”.
So I asked again: why then are we dying younger now?
She replied: “My son, the problem is still because of your eating habit today. You people of today don’t eat well at all! Besides, the quality of food you eat today is very, very dangerous! What you call food today are in fact chemicals! That is why everyone is dying much younger”.
At this point, l missed a heartbeat. So l leaned back and asked again: “Grandma, what did you mean when you said my generation eats chemicals? I thought we’ve been eating ‘balance diet’ all these while”.
“Well, you see my son, let me tell you a short story, she said. Many years ago, there were no fertilizers. In fact every food we ate was naturally well cultivated and well-prepared. Food stuffs on the farms were allowed to grow naturally. For instance, our yam was as sweet as the sugarcane. But today, the yam you eat has no taste, she continued. We did not spray our foodstuffs with those dangerous chemicals which you modern people have been pouring on your crops every now and then.
At that time, any fruit or food you find on the market or at home had a real natural taste”, she paused.
Moments later, she continued: “Our pineapples, pawpaw, and all the fruits we had at that time were naturally ripped on the farm before they were harvest for consumption. In fact, one could sense the smell of pineapple from a distance of 100 meters and beyond”.
Then in our neighbourhood, she narrated: when a woman was preparing chicken soup for instance, everybody in the neighbourhood could smell the aroma of that soup from a far distance. We could all sense that yes, indeed that woman in that house was preparing chicken soup. Most importantly, the taste of the soup was as wonderful as the aroma, she added. We ate local dishes such as ‘ebunabunu’, ‘mportomportor’, we ate our yams and cocoyam with palm oil (red oil) and avocado. I am told palm oil is very good for the eyes. In short, there were many kinds of food we ate during our time but your generation don’t like to eat these kinds of food. Your people want ‘ready-made’ food, she explained.
“Your stew is no longer green like our time. Even the kenkey your mothers cook today, they wrap it with polythene bags, so the food doesn’t absorb the nutrients from the leaves which we used to wrap the kenkey. Meanwhile l know the polythene itself is dangerous especially when heated together with the food. But your people still do it every day and they don’t see anything wrong with it. To be honest, I feel very worried about this”, she decried.
Nowadays when they boil rice, instead of them to cover the pot with a silver lid, they choose to use black polythene to cover the food. They claim the polythene bag absorbs the steam.
But they don’t realize that the heat in the bag also releases some dangerous chemicals from the polythene into the rice”, she added.
“Also nowadays, your pineapples are all green even though you claim it is ripped. Today’s pawpaw, when they are ready for harvest, they are still green. Your pineapple has never been yellow before like we used to have during our time. Yours is always green. Worst of all, they have no flavour and not taste.
You cannot sense a ripped pineapple from a distance any longer”, she concluded.
“So my son, a lot of things have changed overnight and this explains the reasons why there are currently too many diseases around. Your generation need to change the nature of food you eat. The chemicals in the food is simply too much but you can’t see it with your eyes”, she explained.
“In fact, the most dangerous aspect of your food is that, apart from the fact that the food itself is of poor quality, you people don’t eat early at all. You go to work and come back at 9pm. So even at 10pm you’re still eating ‘fried rice’ and chicken. Oh, it’s a pity. It is dangerous my son”! She lamented.
“But before I forget, my son, you know during our time, we did a lot of exercise as well. Remember we walked every day to the farm. We climbed the mountains. The good thing was that this was some form of exercise. Believe me; we did a lot of body exercise out of this. Our men were riding bicycles to work every day. But today you modern ones are lazy. You don’t walk any distance. You don’t climb any mountains like we did every day when we walked to the farms. All you do today is jump on the cars and before you blink twice you have hopped down at your destination. You don’t want to use your bodies any longer. But this is not too good. That is why many of you often collapse just like that. It is something your people must examine carefully”, she concluded.
What Can We Learn From Grandma’s Line of Thought?
After listening to the old woman in her 80s, explaining the logic and the mystery behind why the modern African die younger, I began to wonder the irony of life. But seriously, if our ‘colonial’ and ‘illiterate’ grandmothers knew all these things, why is it that our modern, over-educated young ones don’t seem to have any clue about why our people are dying younger in such large numbers?
It is high time the African people begun to take a second look at our eating habits and most importantly the quality of food we eat today. As far as our health is concerned, I think Africans must rather invest in quality of food rather than relying on chemicals to merely produce plenty of ‘deadly’ food which come with long-term health implications. It is time we go back to the colonial era where Africans ate natural and high quality food.
This is the only way we can live longer as our forefathers did. These so-called modern foods and our current bad eating hobbits are only helping us to dig our own graves. A word to the wise they say is enough.
Long live ‘modern’ Africans.
Honourable SakaThe writer is the project coordinator for the Project Pan-Africa (PPA), available at: www.projectpanafrica.org. PPA is grateful to Itech Plus and all media partners who supports his vision for the African youth. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org