August 29, 2010

Beer is the Cattle of Women: An article on Karamoja

Good Morning all! I would like to introduce you all to Baby Joja. The first ever baby named after me!! I think I alluded to this but I wanted to touch on it again. Mainly because I'm so honored and thrilled!!

This is Tubo and Carrie's little girl. While in Kaabong I'm normally just Nakiru. But people that know my Western name, call me Joja. Joe.. Ja.. So baby Joja is one of a kind! I doubt there are any other baby Joja's in Karamoja. If you can correct me please let me know... I'd love to start a Baby Joja archive. Taking over the world one baby Joja at a time...

Today's post started out as highlights of an article by Kelsey Needham Dancause, Helen A. Akol, and Sandra J. Gray called "Beer is the Cattle of Women:  Sorghum beer commercialization and dietary intake of agropastoral families in Karamoja, Uganda", Jacob brought up last night. It has turned into something a bit more. I hope you find it as fascinating and troubling as we did.

I would like to point out that this article is not stating that beer is bad or wrong, nor am I stating that beer in and of itself is bad. This article points out that drunkenness is an ever growing issue of concern in Karamoja, where beer alone is often the only caloric intake for the day (for both adults and children) and its impact on children and a society.
In Karamoja, cattle has been "currency" for years. But things have been shifting.

On our last visit many of our friends, who have been disarmed, have now had all of their cattle stolen.

They are now without arms and without cattle.

Since my first contact with Karamoja, alcohol has been a problem. Here is a recent and eye opening article, "Beer is the Cattle of Women"  by Dancause et. al, that points out that alcohol has not always been so prevalent, and that confirms our fears that it is a rampant issue especially among women and children. I would love to see this study broadened to include breastfeeding mothers.

As it stands now, upon first impression a person could miss all of the "beer" stands and the fact that most people are drinking most of the day. Upon further inspection, you find that most money given to people goes to buy "beer" to "fill the stomach". When given a choice, many (but not all) people would buy "beer".

Also, it is typical to see pregnant women drinking beer or giving beer to infants. Their reasoning is that it is better to give the child something to fill its stomach so it won't have to think about being hungry.

This article gives some great insight into the cultural implications of this issue.

Here are some highlights of this article: 
*"Karamoja sub-region of northeastern Uganda is characterized by intense heat, sporadic rainfall, periodic drought, and environmental upredictability." (Dancause et. al, 1)

*"In Akoro, the great famine of 1980, 60% of children under age give reportedly died due to famine in one territorial section (Biellik & Henderson, 1981), and Karamoja has received emergency food relief every year since (Gray et al., 2003; Munghinda, 2009; WFP, 2005)." (Dancause et al., 2)

In Kaabong people tell us they suffered the most in 1979- though their years could be off due to no calendars and lack of literacy etc.

* The study points out that nearly all women take part in some kind of brewing to compensate for drought and loss of cattle, and that this is common in Sub-Saharan Africa. (Dancause et al. 2)

*Before 1999, beer sales were not evident**, but that by the year 2004 women were the main providers of beer as cattle was increasingly lost. "Furthermore, brewing and drinking provide respite from the monotony of daily life and stress, a brief period of sociability and cheer".  (Dancause et al. 2)

                          **(Amazing fact!)

* "During 2008 and 2009, skyrocketing food prices, food shortages, and global acute malnutrition rates bordering on emergency levels have culminated in what the World Food Programme identifies as a 'severe humanitarian crisis' in Karamoja (WFP, 2009)." (Dancause et al., 3)

*"Beer, dregs, or both were consumed on 83 out of 98 days of both adults and children..mothers offered to their babies and young children, who sometimes drank appreciable amounts." (Dancause et al., 3)

*"Women who had little else to feed their children reported that beer helped kids sleep and forget about their hunger." (Dancause et al. 4)

*"Women who brewed their own beer had currency to purchase foods... and when it was available milk.  Those who worked for other brewers were usually paid in beer and dregs rather than in currency..." (Dancause et al. 4)

*"Children were left at the homestead and were often alone the entire day, with no food but the dregs from the night before.  This had implications for children's nutritional intake..." (Dancause et al. 5)

*"The World Health Organization's 2004 Global Status Report on Alcohol (WHO, 2004) estimated that Uganda had the highest per capita absolute alcohol consumption worldwide, mostly because of heavy consumption of indigenously brewed alcoholic beverages." (Dancause et al., 5)

*"Most women spent part of their profits on beer and many were inebriated when they returned home, neither motivated nor physically able to prepare a meal for children who had been left alone at the homestead. The danger of lighting cooking fires after dark because of raiding compounded this situation. Thus when a woman was engaged in casual labor for the entire day, her family was dependent upon what she brought home from the trading center, and this was usually dregs and beer." (Dancause et al., 6)

* "While dregs can be a good source of nutrition, particularly of protein, comparisons of filtered and unfiltered beer and estimates from commercial brewing suggest that the selected mineral and B-vitamin content of dregs is low." (Dancause et al. 6)

Here's to learning more about the world around us, and taking action.

On this note- I hope to post the final posts from our summer visit to Karamoja soon. Missed the last ones? 
Uganda Trip 4: Around Town
Uganda Trip 3: Does a Skirt Fill My Stomach?
Uganda Trip 2: Karamoja From Above
Uganda Trip 1: Take Off and Team

Around Kaabong

This Monday I am going to start taking a course: Perspectives, at our church. I've heard great things about this class and look forward to learning a lot!!
Have any of your ever taken Perspectives? If so what were your thoughts on it? Anyone want to go with me if you're in the area?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is very alarming. Gosh - I truly can't imagine being at a point of relying on beer to sooth me and my child from hunger pains. This is NOT a solution. What can be done? Love you Sis in Love

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