It started with me wanting to reduce the cost of buying banana leaves for cooking. So, last year in April 2020, in the midst of the first Uganda covid-19 induced lock down for the first wave of the pandemic, I asked our Catherine for banana suckers.
Our bunch of matooke
And now in the middle of another lock down we have this fabulous bunch of matooke (green cooking bananas).
We planted four suckers in a plot next to our family home, my late father’s home, in Entebbe; a plot that belongs to my two younger brothers, who are absentee landowners.
The proud backyard gardener, my brother James Malinga.
My brother, in Ateso or cousin, in English, James Malinga, the son of my late father’s brother, is the one who care takes our family home and he is the one who was responsible for ensuring the maintenance of our matooke in-field, until this fabulous harvest.
So, the suckers I got free; the land I accessed free; and a member of my household tended to the matooke without being paid specifically to do so, but rather as he does his normal work.
On multiple fronts this is a great deal!
Economically, for example, it is a great deal if you consider that a bunch of matooke of this size and volume can go for at least UGX 20,000 during these lockdown times and as high as UGX 25,000 in non-lockdown days. Then of course there is the cost of going to the market to buy it and transport it back home.
Malinga and his wife, Setlla, carry our bunch of matooke from the garden to my home.
And by the way, matooke is among the foods that a significant section of Ugandans living in the diaspora long for the most. Take for example, Ugandans living in the Greater Toronto Area in Canada who sacrifice and spend the equivalent of more than UGX 25,000 on one kilogram of matooke.
And they are the lucky ones, because they have Chakula Tamu which imports tons of matooke per month into Toronto.
There is wisdom in advocating for more of us to grow at least some of what we eat; and for public spaces to be utilised to grow food rather than growing non-edible grass only, as is currently the norm. Dig up some of those grass lawns, those cost centres in public spaces and grow food.
Food crops can be maintained in-field in an aesthetically pleasing way as well.