In the Bol market, the shopkeepers sell fish with thick skin, large thorns and crooked face, scrawny yellow vegetables and pale eggs with traces of earth and straw. Although the city is on the shores of Lake Chad, one of the largest in the world, there is little variety of food and these languish in the sun.
Amid the bustle of the market, I am struck by a woman leaning on a plastic that displays her products on wicker trays. Drawn by a flash of turquoise, I go over to ask. “It’s spirulina algae,” he explains, pointing to the blue-green stones that have hypnotized me up to there. “It is good for digestion.” Folded in half, at the edge of the lake, the women collect this seaweed, which contains 60% protein. They filter it using a sieve and put it to dry in the sun. Then they crack it into a powder or large plates, like those of the market woman, which they call “dihé.”
Désirée Nguékadjita is the founder of a women’s cooperative in N’Djamena, the Chadian capital. She and her companions transform and sell local foods. “In this workshop, we produce baby flour from locally grown cereals. We use sorghum, fonio, corn, rice and soybeans. Fonio has iron, calcium, and magnesium. To reinforce the flour in vitamin C, we add tamarind. Spirulina and moringa contain a lot of iron and are good for children, ”he explains. Behind her, five or six women spin baskets full of cereal and dispose of the remains of earth and other impurities they find.
The fonio, now so fashionable in Spain, is a cereal that belongs to the family of “ancient grains”, which have not been modified throughout history. Although its size is small, its flavor is delicious and, despite being a cereal, it is suitable for people with celiac disease because it is gluten-free. In Chad it is grown in the south and center of the country and is used mainly in porridge and porridge.
Many nutritious foods are grown and produced here, but not everyone knows about them. We organize information sessions so that people understand that in Chad there are also good products that they can consume, ”Desirée tells me. “Many people suffer from malnutrition in this country, but if mothers and babies ate well, we would not have this problem. When we started to manufacture flour for porridge, we did it to attack the problem of malnutrition ”. The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) supports the Desirée cooperative to produce and distribute fortified flour in the most affected neighborhoods of N’Djamena.
About 13% of children in Chad are acutely malnourished and require supplemental treatment to recover. Adequate nutrition during the first 1,000 days of life -from gestation and until the baby reaches two years of age- prevents child malnutrition, the consequences of which accompany life.
Back in Lake Chad, on the front lines of climate change, the women of Méléa are planting a forest to slow the advance of the dunes towards their crops. In the arid and cracked land, the trees that grow best are acacias with imposing thorns and moringas. “Moringas grow fast and we use the leaves for cooking. As we have planted many, we sell part of the production in the market ”, explains Zara while shredding a leaf between her fingers. Cutting down trees for cooking is a common practice in Chad, but moringa is not cut because it brings benefits of many kinds. That is why they call it a “miracle tree”.
The Druid women of the Sahel throw extraordinary ingredients into their pots. Ingredients of impossible colors, with almost magical properties and, above all, capable of contributing to ending malnutrition in one of the most affected countries in the world.
Maria Gallar Sánchez He is responsible for communication for the World Food Program in Chad. Through the NUTRIDAS campaign, the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) brings us the stories of four women who fight against malnutrition in Chad.