Only the Wealthy Can Afford Healthy
Tanzania — Student VolunteeringUniterra
After almost two months of arriving in Arusha and starting my job at Mount Meru Sustainable Land Ltd., I have become very settled and content with my life here. However, as the weeks went by I started to feel unsure about development work.
Coming to Tanzania, I was fully aware of my job requirements and what my role would be. I am a business development officer who manages Mesula’s communication and marketing activities through the use of various social media outlets. My day to day activities include the creation and uploading of discussion posts, price and product lists, and posters and leaflets for Mesula’s products and events. In my first month of work, I assisted in the Mesula mobile market three days a week. The mobile market is one of the company’s main distribution channels. We would drive about thirty minutes to international primary schools within Arusha to deliver and sell our organic products to parents and teachers.
Reflecting back to my first mobile market, I remember feeling very uneasy in the environment I was in. I was not prepared to see a school where 90% of the students and teachers were Caucasian, while the grounds keepers, cleaners and assistants were locals. Of course I had known I would be travelling to an international school where many of the students would not be local, however, I felt uncomfortable realizing that the benefits of Mesula’s work could only be accessible to people who could afford it. The fact that Mesula strictly targets middle to high income families was very clear and I was reminded of the quote: “anyone who proposes that organic food is available to the masses hasn’t lived in the reality of the masses.” Looking around at the 20-acre rural campus with 3 trampolines, 2 tennis courts and an extravagant swimming pool, I had formed many questions about my work here, my company and about development as a whole.
I wonder, are the wealthy the only people who can access the benefits of eating organic products? Is it worth it to switch from agriculture to agribusiness if it is not inclusive? Is it possible for all financial classes in the local community of Arusha to access necessities such as natural foods? And if yes, is it possible for Mesula to remain financially sustainable? What would it take?
Mesula’s goal is to support the economic sustainability of smallholder farmers in producing organic products and to promote the benefits of organic farming within the community. While Mesula does a great job of this, I believe that the price and channels of distribution make accessibility very limited to those who really need it. Organic farming requires more resources and, therefore, higher prices are charged for the products. Also, farmers deserve to be paid equitably for the hard work they put into yielding healthy produce. Market and government regulations prevent companies such as Mesula from making healthy products easily accessible, as foods that diminish your health are much more affordable. What needs to be done to solve the issue of organic food prices is complex. We can start by encouraging people to be more knowledgable about their health, the earth’s health and the future. I hope to discover more about organic consumption throughout my time here.