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Just Lunch

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I am on a trip sponsored by the ONE Campaign which is headed by U2's Bono. Bono was not along, to answer that question. I was one of eight political types - four Ds and four Rs - who got to see what groups from small non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to USAID which is a huge agency within the State Department, are doing in Kenya and Tanzania to try to save lives being lost to HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, malaria, and malnutrition.

Zanzibar is to Tanzania as Texas is to the U.S: It used to be an independent country, but now is part of Tanzania; often an unwilling part.

We visited several places where work on reducing malaria was being done. In one village we watched as huts were sprayed with an anti-mosquito solution. This has to be done twice a year and goes along with getting the locals to use bed nets.

I didn't know that only one type of mosquito - the Anopheles mosquito - carries the malaria parasite and only one gender - the female - passes it along to humans and only at one time of day - between about 11 PM and 1 AM. Hence the importance of bed nets.

A Tanzanian doctor was describing this to us, as we were heading toward the village. I was about to wipe my face, neck, and arms with an insecticide-infused towelette. When the doc said they only came out to feed on human blood at night, I began put it away into by backpack.

Then he said, "But, in some cases the mosquitos are changing their habits and coming out earlier." I tore open the packet and vigorously applied the insecticide.

In some places, through testing, treatment and prevention activities like spraying and nets deaths from malaria - especially in children under five years including the unborn - have been reduced from as high as 41 percent to less than one percent.

But, the mosquitos have been around for a long time, and treatment leads to a loss of immunity which, in turns, leads to dreadful outbreaks about every 20 years. The last was in 2000, so researchers are working toward a malaria vaccine which can be distributed in the next seven to eight years.

The next day we visited a small farming village which is utilizing such "modern" techniques as planting rows of seeds (instead of just throwing seeds and letting the wind decide where to plant them. They are collecting rain, and well water at a high spot and using gravity to irrigate their crops through drip lines.

And, finally, they constructed a small hut with pieces of charcoal trapped between two rows of chicken wire. The structure was about eight feet by six feet by six feet high. They then used a different cistern to drip water along the top of the charcoal "walls" which evaporated on the way down, providing cool storage for their harvested vegetables.

They harvest at night - it's too hot to do it during the hours when the sun is highest - and the largest amount of spoilage occurs in the hours between harvest and the crops being trucked to the local for sale.

By the way, there is no running water and no electricity in the village. However, this contraption was coupled with a cold storage locker in the town which used an single air conditioner to produce, in effect, a refrigerator in which the crops could be stored for two or three days.

The effect of all this work was to increase the earnings of villagers dramatically. A kilo of tomatoes went from about 30 cents to the local equivalent of a dollar.

We asked a farmer what, if any effect, the increase in earnings had on his life. He told us that he and his family no longer had to wait for the evening meal to eat. With this new-found wealth they could have a meal at mid-day.

They could now afford … lunch.

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