Catching the Gardenitus Bacillus

By TD Fuego

In these times of gloom and doom amidst economic crises, natural catastrophes and the rising costs of commodities, it is very rare to come across anything that cheers one up. The exception came last Friday (15-Apr-11) courtesy of the intrepid Nicholas Rainer of l’express. His report entitled “The kids are all right” is the sort of news that warms the cockles of your heart and fills your mind with hope for the future.

According to my friend Kesraj, there are basically three types of Men. The first does, the second does not whilst the third just watches the first two. After reading Mr Rainer’s article, I am convinced that MMM MP Kee Chong Li Kwong Wing (KCLKW) is definitely one of the first category.

Whilst others are just been talking incessantly about food security, he has taken the lead and gone ahead with his K-Force Foundation (KFF) to help put into practice a programme, if copied elsewhere, will revolutionize the way we deal with the subject. In essence, KFF will finance the Mouvement pour l’Autosifisance Alimentaire (MAA) to teach 95 young boys and girls from the Barkly/Chebel areas to grow their own vegetables.

With the help of its volunteers, the MAA aims to provide the youngsters with technical training, compost, seeds and seedlings as well as watering cans to help them start doing their own bit towards food self-sufficiency. Eventually, the MAA hopes that parents will join in the project. When you consider that a tente bazaar can cost up to Rs 500 a week these days, this is no pipe dream, but a realistic expectation that the project will be a success with the whole family.

The Gardening Bug

Gardening is probably the only hobby that gets us out of the house into the open fresh air, provides for much needed physical activity in our mostly sedentary lives and rewards us with money-saving, fresh produce for our consumption. But, like most good habits, it is best learnt early in life, when the mind is more receptive to new ideas.

Many of my generation still grow their own vegetables to a lesser or greater extent because, due to necessity, they were taught how to when they were still young. In my own case, because of health problems, I sadly had to give up the potato patch a few years ago. But, I still grow my own spice herbs in flower boxes, because these do not involve any digging that my arthritic limbs cannot undertake.

I learnt the art (yes, believe me, it is an art) of growing things from my dad, who was a keen gardener and planteur. Starting when we were mere tots, he taught my brother and me how to make a flowerbed, space the seeds and seedlings and the amount of water to give each type of plant. In those days, the only fertilizer used was the manure that derived from the cows and goats that were kept by almost every household in our village. And, pesticides were unheard of. Consequently, the family consumed good, organically grown, wholesome stuff.

Once you have caught the grow-your-own bug, it becomes an incurable disease for life.

Thus, having experienced the joy of this art at an early age, it was natural that wherever I lived in the world, I kept a vegetable patch in my garden. And, whenever I happen to be near a fruit and vegetable market, I cannot resist the urge to visit it for the sheer joy of feasting my eyes on all the lovely garden produce with their myriad shapes, sizes, colours and smells.

Our own Central Market is a showpiece of all these attributes, and much more. When I was working in Port Louis, my mate Lenny and I made it a point of taking a trip there once a week to savour a roti Maraz followed by a walk through the aisles. What joyous moments amidst the hustle and bustle of the City!

KCLKW: A reference for others

As I said, good habits are preferably learnt when we are still in our formative years. I can only hope that other MPs and NGOs will follow in the footsteps of KCLKW and the MMA and organize similar projects to the one in Chebel and Barkly.

In my previous article (MT 08-Apr-11), I had expressed a wish that the authorities would encourage the entire population to get back to working the kitchen garden of yore. What a better way to start than teach our children to do this through micro-programmes like Chebel/Barkly. Not only will this keep them away from some of the dreadful scourges that afflict our society today, but also help them become better, healthier, productive citizens of tomorrow.

Bravo, Mr Li!

The amateurism of the MPIT 

I just could not end without commenting on the recent inanities at the Ministry of Public Infrastructure and Transport (MPIT).

Sometime last year, it proposed certain changes that would supposedly make our roads safer. Amongst the measures announced, it was decreed that, henceforth, all vehicles should have a yellow plate at the rear and white plate in front, both with black numbering.

This measure was to take effect as from 01-Aug-2010 but, because of lack of these plates on the market, it was postponed to 01-Feb-2011, and then to 01-Jul-2011. Challenged in Parliament by MP Satish Boolell last Tuesday (15-Apr-11) to prove how this measure would contribute to safety on our roads, the Minister of MPIT capitulated and announced — all with a straight face — that, from now on, only brand new vehicles will be required to have the new number plates. As for existing vehicles, this would be on a voluntary basis.

For goodness sake, what an amateur way to run a government department!

* Published in print edition on 29 April 2011

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