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Unhealthy eating habits blamed on unploughed land

Written by Zizo Zikali

Land in the Eastern Cape, once ploughed by villagers and the source of fresh produce, is now used either just for grazing purposes or is going unused altogether.

Residents of these areas, who once lived off their land – following a healthy diet complete with a good amount of fresh vegetables and produce – are now becoming increasingly unhealthy as their diets are no longer balanced.

Research conducted among a group of residents in Flagstaff and Lusikisiki town in the Eastern Cape showed that people no longer farm their fields and work at growing vegetables all year round.

Ndabisukile Zinto (57) at Holy Cross location in Lusikisiki says he owns a garden where he plants vegetables. However what he produces does not sustain his family for the entire year, and so he has stopped ploughing his 2 hectares – the amount of land allocated to every resident by the local chief.

“Each resident is allocated land wide enough to build a house with a garden and a field with land to be used for ploughing. However nowadays we do not make use of the field allocated for ploughing and the land is being used only for grazing. People have become lazy and our children now attend schools so no one seems interested to use the fields for ploughing. This has resulted to us eating all these oily foods that make us sick. I am now living with diabetes,” Zinto said.

His wife Nomvuselelo Zinto (50) agrees that when the vegetables from their garden are finished, they resort to buying them in town. But often the produce in town is too expensive because it is brought in from other areas, and the added transportation costs make them unaffordable.

“My monthly groceries include 20 kg of mealie meal, 10 kg of rice, and a bag of potatoes, 5 litres cooking oil, 12,5 kg flour, soup, cabbage and variety of meat. I always ensure that there is enough meat because my husband loves it. The drivers charge us a lot of money for our groceries,” Nomvuselelo said.

Lindile Ndayi, Non Communicable Diseases Manager at the Qawukeni Local Clinic, says their data collection is informed by the District Health Information system programme which works on specific patient health conditions.

“Obesity is a result of an unhealthy lifestyle leading to chronic conditions. We do not have specific statistics for obese patients because it is a lifestyle disease of people who don’t get proper exercise and fail to eat a balanced diet, leading to other health problems. If a person fails to maintain a healthy lifestyle, it can result in conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, asthma, chronic pulmonary disease, strokes and many other conditions,” she said.

“The advice that we give to our patients is to eat balanced diet. What I have noticed, people in our communities eat lot of starch, braai meat and almost no vegetables. They have stopped ploughing their fields to get fresh produce,” Lindile Ndayi said. – Health-e News.

An edited version of this story was also published by Health24

About the author

Zizo Zikali

Zizo Zikali is our Eastern Cape based citizen journalist who also heads news at Inkonjane Community Radio in Flagstaff. Under her leadership, the news team is receiving recognition from local government and is the defending champion for Alfred Nzo District Municipality Annual Award for Best Innovative Current Affairs Programme. Zizo has over six years experience in community media and worked for organisations such as Voice of Tembisa FM from 2011-2014 and Inkonjane community Radio since 2014. Her educational qualifications include an Advanced Radio Certificate from University of the Witwatersrand obtained in 2016 and a Human Resources Management qualification from the Durban University of Technology obtained in 2008.