In the Field

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Food Friday: Liberian Style Jollof Rice

By Meg Carter, ChildFund Sponsorship Communication Specialist

Much of the news coming from Liberia recently has been tragic, with the Ebola virus claiming thousands of lives. But there’s much, much more to Liberia than the virus. Let’s take a moment and learn about Liberian cuisine, which combines traditional West African and Southern Creole techniques.

Most meals are prepared in a single kettle over a three-stone fire. Liberians also have a long tradition of baking pastries. Their bakeries are noted for sweet potato, coconut and pumpkin pies; sweet potato cookies, peanut cookies, cassava cakes, pound cakes and spice cakes.

Jollof rice is a favorite meal, and it originated with the Wolof population of Senegal and The Gambia and has spread to other African countries. The recipe varies according to locally available ingredients.

INGREDIENTS:

Jollof rice

Jollof rice is prepared many different ways in West Africa.

¾ cup palm oil or peanut oil

1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined

½ pound chicken, cooked

½ pound smoked pork, cut into 1-inch chunks

½ sweet onion, finely chopped

½ cup bell peppers (green, red, yellow and purple), finely chopped

1 or 2 Scotch bonnet or habanero peppers, seeded and finely chopped

½ teaspoon fresh ginger, finely chopped

2 cups tomatoes, chopped

12 ounces tomato paste

1 quart water

1 tablespoon sea salt

6 sprigs fresh thyme

2 cups short-grain white rice, prepared as directed on package

 

DIRECTIONS:

Pour ¼ cup of oil into a large saucepan. Sauté shrimp, chicken and smoked pork on medium-high heat until slightly brown. Remove from the pan.

In the same saucepan, add the rest of the oil and sauté onions, hot peppers, bell peppers and ginger on medium-high heat. Add tomatoes and reduce to medium heat. Simmer for 5 minutes; then stir in tomato paste, water, salt and thyme. Add the meat and shrimp to the mixture. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes on low.

Lift the meat, shrimp and tomatoes from the sauce with a slotted spoon, and stir prepared rice into the sauce. Serve on a platter with the meat and shrimp in the center. Serves 6-8.

This month, ChildFund’s blog is celebrating the harvest and traditional foods of the countries where we work. On Fridays in October, we’ll share recipes. If you try one, take a picture of your dish and share it with us on our Facebook page

Renewing Interest in Agriculture

watering banana field

Nkazimulo (left) demonstrates how to water her banana fields.

Nkazimulo, 25, is a Zambian farmer who was orphaned as a child and had to quit school to support her younger siblings. With help from ChildFund Zambia, she was able to train for a career in agriculture. In Zambia and other African countries, young people have increasingly abandoned the traditional job of farming, which presents a problem because these nations’ economies depend on agriculture. But men and women like Nkazimulo are helping turn this trend around. Read more of her story.

In October, ChildFund’s blog is celebrating the harvest and traditional foods of the countries where we work, as well as the importance of nutrition and agriculture.  

Food Friday: India’s Tomato-Apricot Chutney

By Meg Carter, ChildFund Sponsorship Communication Specialist

Indian cuisine is noted for its samosas, curries, biryanis, vindaloos and kormas — rich, complex and savory dishes. ChildFund staff members at our International Office in Richmond, Va., went to an Indian restaurant for lunch recently, where we tried a variety of dishes, along with rice and bread (naan) and sauces, such as raita and chutney. A raita is a yogurt-based sauce that often includes cucumbers, fresh mint, pepper, coriander and cumin. It helps quench the fiery spices of some dishes. Chutney, a relish made of spices and fruits or vegetables, can be fresh, pickled, spicy or sweet. The word is derived from the Sanskrit word that means “to lick.”

We’re going to learn how to make a classic tomato-apricot chutney, which is sweet and spicy, a relish that would go well with northern Indian or even Persian cuisine. Eat it with any rice and sauce dish, like a korma or a masala, or flatbreads.

 

tomato onion chutney

This is a tomato-onion chutney we ate at lunch.

INGREDIENTS:

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 tablespoon fresh, grated ginger

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon cardamom

¼ cloves

Butter or coconut oil

1 cup chopped, dried apricots

3 to 5 chopped tomatoes

¼ teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons lime juice

DIRECTIONS:

Mix and sauté garlic, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom and cloves in clarified butter or coconut oil for 1 minute. Add dried apricots, tomatoes, sea salt, honey and lime juice. Simmer uncovered on low heat for 30 minutes, until apricots are soft and the chutney thickens.

Chill before serving. Store tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to three weeks or freeze, if you want to keep the chutney for longer periods.

This month, ChildFund’s blog is celebrating the harvest and traditional foods of the countries where we work. On Fridays in October, we’ll share recipes. If you try one, take a picture of your dish and share it with us on our Facebook page

Livestock Delivers Nutrition and Income

Sri Lankan boy and goat

Vijayakumaratharun, 10, and one of his goats.

By Himangi Jayasundera, ChildFund Sri Lanka

Vijayakumaratharun, who is 10, says that what makes him most sad is seeing his mother cry. It hasn’t been an easy life for Ithayakala, 34, who was abandoned by her husband when her son was very small.

Living in a rural village in the Batticaloa district of Sri Lanka and with little education, her livelihood came from selling the vegetables she grew in her small home garden, plus doing odd jobs and working in rice paddies, seasonal work. But when Vijayakumaratharun was sponsored three years ago through ChildFund New Zealand, one of ChildFund International’s Alliance partners, his mother saw a ray of hope.

“Things have changed for us now,” Ithayakala says. Although she still struggles to make enough money, the strain has decreased. “Almost all of his educational expenses are covered thanks to sponsorship,” she adds.

In addition to his sponsorship, Vijayakumaratharun and his mother have three goats and three cows. Ithayakala sells surplus milk, which supplements their income.

Ithyakala has had the opportunity to participate in ChildFund’s nutrition program, where she learned about growing and cooking nutritious foods for her son. Now, she is a leader and teaches other mothers the same skills. She has also benefited from child protection programs organized by ChildFund Sri Lanka for the community.

Vijayakumaratharun shares with us a photograph and letters he has received from his sponsor in New Zealand. The kea, he points out from a card with several animals from New Zealand, is his favorite. “I want to thank her for all the greeting cards and letters she has sent me. I have learnt new things about her family in New Zealand and about the animals there.”

In October, ChildFund’s blog is celebrating the harvest and traditional foods of the countries where we work, as well as the importance of nutrition and agriculture.  

Food Friday: Mexico’s Chile en Nogada

By Meg Carter, ChildFund Sponsorship Communications Specialist

Chile en Nogada is a seasonal dish celebrating the walnut and pomegranate harvests. The Spanish word for walnut is nogal, and this is a chile relleno topped with walnut sauce. This popular dish also is eaten on Mexican Independence Day (Sept. 16), as it contains the colors of the Mexican flag, red, white and green. There’s also a legend connecting the dish to the signing of the Treaty of Cordoba, which granted Mexico independence from Spain in 1821, so it’s a very patriotic dish to eat.

 

Chile en Nogada

Chile en Nogada. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups walnuts

12 poblano chiles

1 cup unsalted butter

2 yellow onions, diced

4 peaches, diced

2 green apples, peeled and chopped

2 plantains, peeled and chopped

¼ cup raisins

¼ cup citron preserves, chopped

4 cups pork, cooked and shredded

1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon

Sea salt, to taste

1 cup parsley, chopped

1 large pomegranate

1 cup cream

¼ pound queso fresco

DIRECTIONS:

Soak walnuts in cold water for 3 hours, then drain and discard the liquid.

While the walnuts are soaking, wash and dry poblano chiles. In each chile, make a 1 ½” slit, lengthwise. Fry the chiles in small batches on medium-high heat, turning them until they puff up and turn olive in color. Peel them under cold water and gently remove the seeds through the slit, without tearing the flesh of the chile.

Melt unsalted butter in a skillet. Add onions and sauté until soft. Add peaches, green apples, plantains, raisins and citron preserves. Sauté for 3-5 minutes, then add pork and cinnamon. Add sea salt to taste. Spoon the mixture carefully into the chiles and bake on a greased cookie sheet at 350o for 5 minutes.

Grind the walnuts in a blender, gradually adding cream, queso fresco and cinnamon. Cover the chiles with the walnut sauce and sprinkle parsley and pomegranate arils (fruited seeds) over the top.

Serves 12.

This month, ChildFund’s blog is celebrating the harvest and traditional foods of the countries where we work. On Fridays in October, we’ll share recipes. If you try one, take a picture of your dish and share it with us on our Facebook page

 

How Food Brings Comfort

Uganda nutrition workshop

Food is an important part of community. Here, mothers prepare dishes at a nutrition workshop in Uganda. Photo by Jake Lyell.

By Meg Carter, ChildFund Sponsorship Communication Specialist

Home from an afternoon at the beach, my brothers, sisters, cousins and I would sit crowded on the front porch, still in our swimsuits with our feet crusted in sand, eating ice cream made with heavy cream, sugar, eggs, vanilla and fresh peaches. My first summer living in Senegal, I found a cast-off barrel freezer, bought mangoes from the market and a block of ice and sea salt from the local fishery, then invited my friends to an ice cream party, which brought back those memories from the beach.

Food is far more than just nutrition; it’s also a universal symbol of hospitality. Sharing a meal creates community. Food comforts us when its scent or flavor triggers emotion and memory.

Comfort food is generational as well as geographical. Senegalese children take comfort in a knobby green fruit called corossol, with flesh the color, flavor and texture of custard. Ugandan children scoping out street food choose kabalagala, a deep-fried doughnut made of sweet fingerling bananas and cassava flour. And children in Guinea suck on small bags of frozen bissap, gingembre or pain de singe – hibiscus, ginger or baobab fruit juices.

Food shortages throw families and communities into crisis, and it’s mainly a distribution problem because we have enough food to feed everyone. Food shortages result from climate change, waste or spoilage, poor infrastructure, unstable markets, conflicts, politics and disease.

We rarely consider disease as a factor in hunger, but epidemics dramatically affect food availability. HIV and AIDS, by primarily killing adults between ages 25 and 45, leave the back-breaking labor of farming to the children and elderly. Annual bouts of malaria reduce a farmer’s capacity to plant and harvest. And the Ebola outbreak in western Africa threatens food security through human response.

Children_Guinea

A boy in Guinea eats a snack.

Ebola spread as people moved freely around the Western Guinean Lowland Forest that spans southern Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. This shared ecosystem is home to ethnic groups whose family members extend across all three countries. Borders in the rainforest are unofficial and permeable. Initially, Ebola cases clustered in the triangle where Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia meet. But in time, as the infected sought treatment elsewhere, Ebola was transmitted to every district in Sierra Leone and to all but two of Liberia’s southernmost districts.

An early approach to limiting Ebola involved closing land borders. This tactic threatened thousands with starvation because more than three-quarters of Liberia’s produce comes from Guinea. Sierra Leone cannot cultivate enough crops to feed its population, either, and relies on trade with Guinea.

Also, Liberia quarantined towns and Sierra Leone locked down the country for a time. Because many western Africans lack a reliable source of electricity, they have no refrigeration and must purchase food daily. Otherwise, it perishes.

As World Food Day, Oct. 16, approaches, consider making a donation to our Ebola Response Fund, which will assist families affected by this deadly virus, both now and in the future.

In October, the blog is focusing on the harvest and traditional foods. Stay tuned this month for recipes from some of the countries where we work. 

How To Make Ethiopian Injera

Photos by Jake Lyell and words by Sara Woznicki, ChildFund Digital Marketing Specialist

This month, ChildFund is focusing on the harvest and traditional foods in the communities where we work, so check here often in October to find recipes and more. Today, we look at Ethiopia. The basis for Ethiopian cuisine is injera, a large flatbread that has a sponge-like texture similar to a pancake. Here’s more about injera and how it’s made:

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Peace: The Cornerstone of Stable, Healthy Societies

Senegal children

Senegalese children march in a parade on the Day of the African Child in 2014.

Sept. 21 is the United Nations-designated International Day of Peace, celebrated throughout the world.

By Meg Carter, ChildFund Sponsorship Communication Specialist

When I first moved to Senegal, I learned a local language. For official business we spoke French, but in the field we spoke Wolof, the language of teranga, kalante and jamm — hospitality, joking kinship and peace.

When greeting someone in Wolof, the answer is always “peace, only peace.” How are you, how’s your household, and your work, your farm, your herds, your day (or night), how’s the family (just double-checking) and, ending the ceremony, are you all in peace? Jamm’ rekk.

Life in Senegal was peaceful. Senegal’s first president, a famous poet and war hero, was Catholic and part of the Serère population in a predominantly Muslim, Wolof land. Léopold Sédar Senghor, who served as president from 1960 to 1980, transformed his nation into an exceptionally tolerant and democratic society. A visionary in human and economic development, Senghor led Senegal to independence.

Years later, I lived in neighboring Guinea, where joking kinship also reigns. Studying Pular there, I immediately recognized the ritual response: jam tun, only peace. Guinea’s recent history has been much more turbulent than Senegal’s, and the U.N. designated the country in its Human Development Index as one of the world’s 10 least developed.

Lacking peace, a country struggles to educate its children. It can’t provide health care, employment opportunities for youth, infrastructure or public services, safety and security, or a stable economy. Since a country and its peoples have no future without peace, peace is a human right.

Each summer, the Fund for Peace publishes a Fragile States Index (FSI), scoring countries on 12 socioeconomic and political indicators. Overall scores fall into four categories: Sustainable, Stable, Warning and Alert. A county’s FSI level often tracks closely to its HDI tier: Very High, High, Medium or Low.

The HDI measures health, education and income (adjusted for inequality) at a moment in time, while the FSI predicts future conflict. Factors such as the number of refugees, uneven economic development, the flight of educated citizens to other countries, economic decline and poverty, human rights and external influences are all taken into account to determine a country’s status in the Fragile States Index.

Over the past decade, Belarus and Indonesia — countries where ChildFund works — experienced the most notable improvements in the world. Senegal, on the other hand, shows the worst long-term performance. In 2007, Senegal was on par with Brazil. Then the country tumbled 55 places and, in the 2014 report, is now at the Very High Warning level. Why? Refugees from the conflicts in Guinea and Mali, emigration of Senegal’s educated populace, political competition and demographic pressures, such as drought, flooding, food and water scarcity and chronic malnutrition. Guinea, trapped at High Alert, is unlikely to improve. Ebola has devastated the nation’s precarious health system and damaged its economy.

Please consider sharing your peace with a child in Guinea or Senegal.

Antonio, a 10-year-old Translator

Antonio of Puebla, Mexico

Ten-year-old Antonio and his mother.

Reporting by ChildFund Mexico

One day, Antonio felt terrible, suffering stomach pain. He needed to go to the hospital, about a four-hour drive from his home village, Huehuetla, in Mexico’s Puebla state.

It turned out the problem was appendicitis, and despite the long trip, Antonio’s operation was successful. He was able to get to the hospital with the help of ChildFund Mexico, in which he’s been enrolled since he was 2, and the support of his sponsor. Antonio is known for his smile, his good grades and his teaching skills. Yes, even at 10, he’s a teacher.

Antonio speaks two languages — Spanish and Totonaco, his community’s language.

His gift is being a translator for his mother and grandmother, especially when they need to go to the doctor.

Antonio knows that his family members, who speak only Totonaco, have a hard time communicating with Spanish-speaking doctors. So when he accompanies his mother and grandmother to clinics, Antonio is able to tell them what the doctor is saying and respond to the doctor in Spanish.

He also teaches Spanish and Totonaco in the community.

He starts the Totonaco class for children by saying:

“Tlen.” (Hello.)

“Pastakgasinil.” (Thank you.)

Antonio’s family is poor, but they have better access to health care and nutritious food through ChildFund and the local partner organization. In return, the family members volunteer their time and skills to help others.

Antonio says that he wants to major in math in college, and he dreams about owning a store, earning money to help his family.

He adds: “Hasta chale,” goodbye in Totonaco.

Read our story from Saturday about the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.

Celebrating Bolivia’s Indigenous Cultures

Bolivian children

Bolivian children, enrolled in ChildFund’s programs, wear woven cloth made in their community.

By Meg Carter, Sponsorship Communication Specialist

Every continent is home to languages, cultures, histories and beliefs dating to pre-colonial times, which we often place under the umbrella of “indigenous cultures.” In many countries, indigenous populations fall into conflict with rulling governments and majority populations, and other times, their languages and traditions gradually disappear through assimilation. Poverty and isolation are other common challenges.

Aug. 9 is the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, a day to recognize and honor these ancient cultures. Let’s take a look at Bolivia, one of the countries where ChildFund works. The Quechua and Aymara proudly trace their origins to the Incan Empire. Nearly three out of four Bolivians belong to one of 37 native peoples. The country’s population speaks 42 languages, and two extinct languages also have been discovered.

Bolivian mother and child

A Bolivian mother and baby.

Many of Bolivia’s indigenous groups believe in reciprocity, particularly in nature. According to their traditions, when people fail to live in harmony with their environment, their bodies weaken, their spiritual well-being decreases, and the crops they depend on start to fail. The country’s diversity extends to its crafts, music and cuisine.

Bolivian women weave cloth by hand on wooden looms, using hand-spun and hand-dyed fibers. They produce rugged cloth in distinctive colors with wild cotton, twisted together with agave or wool from the family’s herd of alpaca, llama or other animals.

Some regional textile patterns date back more than 1,000 years, featuring Incan designs. Images of stone carvings at temples grace everyday apparel: ponchos, bolsas and bolsitas (large and small drawstring bags), chumpi or ch’uspa (hand-woven belts or bags), unku (tunics), monedero (purses), and ch’ullo (knitted caps).

In the evenings, people play flutes fashioned from aquatic reeds, creating a fusion of Incan chants and Spanish dance tunes. Traditional musicians favor pan pipes and quena (a flute with notched ends), accompanied by the charango, a small, 10-stringed instrument resembling a ukulele.

Along with corn, potatoes and beans, quinoa — a grain rich in vitamins and minerals — forms the basis of Bolivia’s indigenous diets. Known as the lost crop of the Incas, quinoa is traditionally prepared in soups, stews, sweet or savory fritters and spiced drinks.

Below is a simple recipe for p’isque, the Quechuan word for stew.

P’isque de Quinoa (serves 6-8)

Ingredients:

1 cup water

1 cup broth (chicken or vegetable)

1 cup quinoa

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup julienned onion

1 cup peeled, chopped tomato

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 cup milk

1 cup soft mild cheese, shredded

4 eggs

Directions:

Combine water, broth and quinoa in a saucepan; bring to a boil, then cook over medium heat about 15 minutes, until the liquid is completely absorbed.

In a separate pan, sauté onion in butter until soft, stir in chopped tomato and cumin and cook to a sauce. Reduce heat. Add quinoa and milk. Stir in cheese. When the stew reaches the boiling point again, add the eggs and continue stirring until fully cooked.

Serve with boiled potatoes and/or chunks of roasted chicken.

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