December 26, 2019

Behind the Aroma - Episode 2 (Camels, Culture and Economics)

Abubakar, U., Mohammed, F., Shehu, S., & Mustapha, R. (2010). Foetal Wastage in Camels Slaughtered (Camelus dromidaris) at Maiduguri Abattoir, Borno State, Nigeria. International Journal of Tropical Medicine, 5(4), 86–88. doi: 10.3923/ijtmed.2010.86.88
Basker, D., & Negbi, M. (1983). Uses of saffron. Economic Botany, 37(2), 228–236. doi: 10.1007/bf02858789
Bathaie, S. Zahra & Mousavi, S. Zeinab. (2011). Historical uses of saffron: Identifying potential new avenues for modern Research. Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine. 1. 57-66.
Bell, S. (2013, May 19). Australia, home to the world's largest camel herd. Retrieved November 25, 2019, from
Cavish, C. S. (2018, September 21). China's Camel-Milk Mogul. Retrieved November 20, 2019, from
East Africa's booming camel trade. (2016, November 26). Retrieved November 20, 2019, from (n.d.). Retrieved from
Faye, B. (n.d.). Camel meat in the world. Camel Meat and Meat Products, 7–16. doi: 10.1079/9781780641010.0007
Fulton, A. (2017, May 3). The Secret History of the World's Priciest Spice. Retrieved from
Gebissa, D. T. (2015). Husbandry Practices and Utilization of Camel Products in Borana Zone of Southern Oromia, Ethiopia. Science Research, 3(4), 191. doi: 10.11648/
Genome sequences of wild and domestic bactrian camels. (2012). Nature Communications, 3(1). doi: 10.1038/ncomms2192
Harari, Y. N. (2019). Sapiens: a brief history of humankind. London: Vintage.
Hirschey, M. (1998). How Much Is a Tulip Worth? Financial Analysts Journal, 54(4), 11–17. doi: 10.2469/faj.v54.n4.2193
Jones, B. (2018, August 27). Camels - Quartz Daily Obsession. Retrieved November 20, 2019, from
Kadim, I., Mahgoub, O., & Mbaga, M. (2014). Potential of camel meat as a non-traditional high quality source of protein for human consumption. Animal Frontiers, 4(4), 13–17. doi: 10.2527/af.2014-0028
Kurtu, M. (2004). An Assessment of the Productivity for Meat and the Carcase Yield of Camels (Camelus dromedarius) and of the Consumption of Camel Meat in the Eastern Region of Ethiopia. Tropical Animal Health and Production, 36(1), 65–76. doi: 10.1023/b:trop.0000009520.34657.35
Largest population of camels in the wild. (n.d.). Retrieved from
Mailath, G. J., & Postlewaite, A. (2002). The Social Context of Economic Decisions. SSRN Electronic Journal. doi: 10.2139/ssrn.335760
Masry, E. E. (2018, February 20). The House in Which a Camel Grunts. Retrieved November 20, 2019, from
Mmnguez, P. G., & Argemi, A. R. (2014). Economics Breeds Culture. SSRN Electronic Journal. doi: 10.2139/ssrn.2436817
Oyuela, A., Nierenberg, D., Walla, K., Walmsley, T., Munch, P., Payne, E., … Cardeli, L. (2018, May 14). Camel Meat and the Global Exchange of Food Cultures. Retrieved from
Pigière, F., & Henrotay, D. (2012). Camels in the northern provinces of the Roman Empire. Journal of Archaeological Science, 39(5), 1531–1539. doi: 10.1016/j.jas.2011.11.014
Saffron War. (2015, April 27). Retrieved from
Schmidt-Nielsen, B., Schmidt-Nielsen, K., Houpt, T. R., & Jarnum, S. A. (1956). Water Balance of the Camel. American Journal of Physiology-Legacy Content, 185(1), 185–194. doi: 10.1152/ajplegacy.1956.185.1.185
Scotti, A. (2018, May 28). Camel milk is the latest dairy trend rising in demand across the world . Retrieved November 25, 2019, from
Smith, B. (2017, October 6). These Giant Invasive Beasts May Actually Be Good for the Planet. Retrieved November 25, 2019, from
Storr, V. H. (2014). Why culture in economics? The Review of Austrian Economics, 27(4), 495–503. doi: 10.1007/s11138-014-0284-6
The Camels of Arabia: A Day at the King Abdulaziz Camel Festival. (2018, March 20). Retrieved from
This is the World’s Most Expensive Spice. (2017, May 7). Retrieved from
Top countries for Camel Meat Production. (n.d.). Retrieved from
Why Saffron Is So Expensive. (2018, April 7). Retrieved from
Zibaee, S., Hosseini, S. M. A.-R., Yousefi, M., Taghipour, A., Kiani, M. A., & Noras, M. R. (2015). Nutritional and Therapeutic Characteristics of Camel Milk in Children: A Systematic Review. Electronic Physician, 7(7), 1523–1528. doi: 10.19082/1523

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November 25, 2019

Behind the Aroma - Episode 1 (Breakfast in Africa)

Breakfast in Africa -!ded87


“About the Somali Kitchen.” The Somali Kitchen, N.A,

“Bajiya (Bajiyo).” Xawaash, 16 Sept. 2011,

Bedford, Ed. “Kentucky chicken Somali-style.” San Diego Reader, Accessed 18 November 2019.

Carrington, Daisy and Tom Page. “Special brew: Africa's love affair with tea.” CNN, 17 Jul. 2015.

Cruz, Jean-Francois. “Fonio: a small grain with potential.” LEISA Magazine, 2004, pp. 16-17.

D'Andrea, Catherine A., et al. “Early domesticated cowpea (Vigna unguiculata) from Central Ghana.” Antiquity, vol. 81. no. 313, 2007, pp. 686-698.

Delistraty, Cody C. “The Importance of Eating Together.” The Atlantic, 18 Jul. 2014.

Dovlo, Florence E., et al. Cowpeas: Home Preparation and Use in West Africa. IDRC, 1976.

Dunbar, Robin I. M. “Breaking Bread: the Functions of Social Eating.” Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology, vol. 3, no. 3, 2017, pp. 198-211.

DW Documentary. “The Dark Side of the Tea Trade.” YouTube, uploaded by Full Documentary 2018, 26 July 2018,

Ferdman, Roberto A. “The world’s biggest tea drinking nations.” The Atlantic, 21 Jan. 2014.

Grigg, David. “The worlds of tea and coffee: Patterns of consumption.” GeoJournal, vol. 57, no. 4, 2003, pp. 283-294.

Harlan, Jack R., et al. Origins of African plant domestication. De Gruyter Mouton, 1976.

Imtiaz, Saba. “Tea in the boiling city.” Roads and Kingdoms, 02 Jan. 2013.

Ivester, Sukari. “Culture, resistance and policies of exclusion at World Cup 2014: the case of the ‘Baianas do Acarajé’.”Journal of Policy Research in Tourism, Leisure and Events, vol. 7, no.3, 2015, pp. 314-324.

Lima, Vivaldo da Costa. “The Ethno-scenology and Ethno-culinary of the Acarajé.” Vibrant – Virtual Brazilian Anthropology, vol. 7, no.2, 2010. pp. 236-248.

Phillips, Dixon R., et al. “Utilization of cowpeas for human food.” Fields Crop Research, vol. 82, no. 2-3, 2003, pp. 193-213.

Rashid, Nazifa. “British colonialism in East-Africa during nineteenth century.” IOSR Journal Of Humanities And Social Science (IOSR-JHSS), vol. 19, no. 3, 2014, pp. 08-11.

Reid, Chelsea A., et al. “Scent-evoked nostalgia.” Memory, vol. 23, no. 2, 2015, pp. 157-166.

Renne, Elisha P. “Mass Producing Food Traditions for West Africans Abroad.” American Anthropologist, vol. 109, no. 4, 2007, pp. 616-625.

Temple, Victor J. and James Bassa. “Proximate chemical composition of Acha grain.” Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, vol. 56, no. 4, 1991, pp. 561-563.

“The history of tea.” YouTube, uploaded by TED-Ed, 16 May 2017,

Troisi, Jordan D., et al. “Threatened belonging and preference for comfort food among the securely attached.” Appetite, vol. 90, n.a, 2015, pp. 58-64.

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November 18, 2019

Hikma 360: Trailer

We believe people should consume safe and appropriate foods and there should be no hidden information in the food market. Based on our pursuit of symmetric information in the halal food market, we have developed an application that will provide information that will help stakeholders understand their food market better.

ECVOntario, SEDRD, University of Guelph

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September 16, 2019

Mom’s Kitchen

I remember Mom’s kitchen, the way it was 20 years ago. The space was not that much, only enough room to hold a medium sized refrigerator, an L-shaped counter top that held the stoves and fitted a small-sized aluminum sink where all household dishes were cleaned, lots of overhead shelves, a grinding machine that uses an installed sharp plates within its grinding box to chop and blend large quantities of food material, stone tablets for manual grinding, and a back door to a tightly packed pantry, built by Dad to hold all the extra kitchen essentials.  This kitchen space became the classroom for my life education, and when I reflect, I am surprised by how much I learned. Respect, loyalty, love, care for myself and others, patience, perseverance, diligence, hard work, name it, my mom taught me all without having to say anything, in her dingy, cramped 2-in-1 kitchen and pantry.

Blood leafy vegetable 

I may have been through school several times, but none of the education I have received has been as effective in teaching me life values as was my experience growing up slicing onions and washing dishes for Mom. I am a hard worker, I spend 60 hours every week doing what I do, but I learned all this way back. Mom instructed – chill the drinks, mop the floors, clean the sink, empty the trash, peel the yams, hand-grind the melon seeds, hand-blend the pepper and tomatoes, clean the dishes and dinner table, drop-off items to the family friend 3 miles away, and be back in time to pound the yams. You know how. Dad gets upset when dinner is not served at 6 pm. There were no electrical kitchen machines, so I think back about it now and shudder. What I must complain about today is nothing compared to what I went through in Mom’s kitchen, yet I did them all then cheerfully, sometimes singing along.

My first day in graduate school, the graduate coordinator remarked: “Here we judge students not only from their aptitude and grades, but by the complete and efficient use of all their senses. The ability to use your hands, smell and sight, while not losing track of all that’s going on around you, makes you successful in this field.” * I smiled to myself as I mastered my senses in Mom’s kitchen. I learned to smell the burning soup before it started burning, I knew the amount of salt I was adding by the way it felt between my thumb and index fingers, I could tell the meat was cooked just by looking at it. I remembered Mom making different meals without a cookbook nor recipe to follow, and whenever she repeated the dish, it always tasted exactly like the previous one–so tasty and delicious, I would always ask for more. She managed to pull off this feat with no measuring spoons nor cups, just by the efficient use of all her senses, just as my chemistry graduate counsellor encouraged me to do 20 years later.


Twenty years ago, I learned the power of healthy eating. Mom made everything fresh–no processing, no preservatives. We had a house garden where we grew tomatoes, peppers, several herbs and leafy greens like dandelions or wild lettuce, Amaranth (**efo tete), water leaf, basil leaf (**efinrin), bitter leaf (**ewuro), **amunututu, and a host of others. We would pick up quantities required for only one day, and leftovers are usually consumed the next morning for breakfast. I can comfortably say I never had any processed food while living at home. I did not even know what it meant at the time. Our meat was delivered by the butcher as per schedule, fresh from the slaughter house and we would prepare them as soon as they came in, with spices and herbs handpicked from the backyard garden. We had a chicken coop where we raised chickens from where we got a constant supply of fresh eggs. We would have a chicken dinner when we thought one of the chickens was of age and egg production has considerably slowed down. We would slaughter them ourselves, moisten them in boiling water, pluck their feathers, salt them to remove excess blood, and cut them ready for cooking. It was a delicate process with which every family member was part of, and these activities made our family time together even more enjoyable. For my home then, the idea was that it had to be fresh to be healthy, and for a very long time this was the practice.

Later in life, my parents decided to have a reduced meat-based diet, so we sought plant alternatives. Our religious beliefs must have played a role in this decision. As Adventists, we conformed to the Jewish dietary kashrut law and ate kosher foods. Adventists and Jews both believe only certain animals should be eaten and there are strict guidelines according to shechita laws for their slaughter. My parents, however, maintained that flesh was permitted for slaughter and human consumption only after the biblical flood, when all plants, seeds, and herbs had been destroyed by water, and as humans, our original diet must have been strictly plant-based. Mom later invented this delicious meat substitute purely from soybeans, and it tasted even better than regular meat. When my mom realized we all loved the soy meat as we affectionately called it then, she limited the meat deliveries to once a week. Afterwards we made lots of soy variations – soy pancakes, soy buns, soy bread, etc. You see, my Mom was a class apart when it comes to culinary skills, and she always found amazing ways to make our almost plant diet enjoyable. My parents’ diet now has little or no meat, except for the occasional special family get-together moments or when they must entertain guests, and its usually home-raised chicken, freshly slaughtered and cooked. To this day, in their quiet country home, they preserve their backyard garden, now a lot bigger as they work at it full time. During my last visit before finally moving to Canada, I remember getting bananas and pawpaws, a live chicken and fresh eggs, all from their backyard garden.


Today, food topics have become a mainstay in public attention and discourse. ‘You are what you eat’, we are constantly told. So, popular tags like organic, grass-fed, antibiotic-free, non-GMO, etc. have emerged on our food items. The eggs I buy are organic, free-range, grade A brown eggs raised exclusively from hens that live in an open-concept barn environment where they are free to roam, feed, and nest.’ I have to pay a premium for that fancy tag. The packing goes further to tell me the calories, sodium, and lipid content per egg – phew. My Mom does not know what GMO or lipid means, but she understands that adding chemicals – pesticides, antibiotics, preservatives, or whatever, to food items just messes them up, and messes you up when you consume them. She knew without being an expert on crop genetics that modifying food matter gives them a new identity, and it becomes unpredictable what they will do to the body or the body will do to them. She’s practiced organic consumption for decades before organic foods became so popular. She knows healthy eating can increase life expectancy, maybe that is why at over sixty years, she has enough vitality, freshness, and energy to pass for twenty years younger. And because I would like to have her kind of bubbling health when I get older, perhaps the biggest lesson I should take away from Mom’s kitchen is this – eating healthy means living healthy.

*paraphrased – exact phrase not remembered
**local Yoruba names – The Yoruba are a large national Nigerian group found especially in western/south-western Nigeria and they speak the ‘Yoruba’ language.

Olasunkanmi Olaoye
PhD Student Chemistry, University of Toronto
Guest Contributor, ECVOntario, SEDRD, University of Guelph

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June 23, 2019

The Logic

Electric Vehicles (EV) charging stations and park at the University of Guelph

Imagine a conversation among three individuals about global issues. The three individuals are Dara (intellectual), Ade (futuristic), and Monday (fatalistic).

Dara: Hello friends. I am happy you agreed to meet. It’s been a while – busy attending conferences. I just arrived from a workshop in Kigali.

Monday: No qualms Dara. It has been predetermined that we will meet today.

Ade: By who? Assuming I didn’t schedule it in my calendar, Alexa and Cortana will not remind me. Thanks to artificial intelligence (AI).

Monday: What is AI when everything is based on the intelligence of the developer and the desirability of the data?

Dara: To corroborate your point (Monday), the GPS in my car tells me to turn left when I am supposed to turn right.

Ade: Interesting! I told the Uber driver that drove me here to stop the GPS because it added five kilometres to the journey. I know the way better.

Monday: I once heard that Google’s facial recognition can not differentiate between a cat and a dog.

Ade: They are working on it. Have you heard of Nvidia? Homo Sapiens are intelligent creatures though they want to be Homo Deus as alluded to by Yuval Harari.

Monday: It baffles me how arrogant we have become. How can humans start behaving like the Supreme being? Impossibility!

Dara: I am confused by epistemological and metaphysical reasoning. But for sure we have surpassed our ancestors. As a young man, I never thought we will be able to check email, watch television and video chat with a smart phone, browse the internet in the Amazon jungle, and use autonomous vehicles.

Ade: Yes, the future is here. Whether it is autopilot as asserted by Elon Musk (Tesla) or LIDAR as pushed by Waymo, autonomous vehicles (AV) will work.

Monday: What will people do when cars start driving themselves? And can AV work in Lagos (Nigeria) or Delhi (India)? I don’t understand these inordinate ambitions.

Dara: These are not illusions. AV, digitalization, 5G technology, and the fourth industrial revolution are already a reality. Most devices are digitized, my friends drive electric vehicles (Nissan leaf and Tesla: challenges include wait period after order, lack of infrastructure – charging stations vs petrol stations, and a fully charged Nissan leaf can only travel 250 km).

Waymo is ahead in the AV sector with early riders in Phoenix and Chandler, AZ.

And blockchain technology is creeping in …

Ade: Yes, the blockchain. A distributed ledger that is immutable, decentralized, group managed and enhances trust among strangers. It will curtail fraud in many spheres of life.

Monday: The problem with the two of you is that you refuse to look at the downside of all these innovations and the limitations of man.

Dara: Who told you we have limitations?

Monday: We are mortals and we have limits. On another note, what about the sustainability of electric and autonomous vehicles? They both need lithium-ion batteries and the cobalt is from Congo. Do you think it is ethical?

Ade: The electrification of transportation will mitigate climate change. Research is ongoing on how to replace cobalt with other materials. Moreover, stakeholders are working hard on the reduction of conflict minerals from Congo entering the international market.

Wait till we have electric planes. It will happen in our lifetime.

Dara: Ade, just ignore Monday. He is lagging! Remember that today is Friday. On the issue of blockchain, I heard from a Canadian researcher, Adekunle, explaining the concept at my conference in Dar es Salaam few weeks ago.

He alluded to an idea called crypto-labelling – based on blockchain. I did my research and discovered that he published an article about it in 2016.

Ade: I saw the powerpoint presentation via a friend. He linked opacity and food authenticity. The presentation reminded me of the first time I read about opacity in Nassim Taleb’s book.

Monday: Which of his books? I just completed “Skin in the Game”.

Ade: Can’t remember. All I know is that crypto-labelling is a process that will allow consumers to trace, authenticate, and ensure transparency in their food supply and value chain.

Monday: These are not problems of people in rural areas who grow their own food.

Dara: Now that you mentioned food, I remembered a book “How ethnocultural food reaches our tables” on the challenges people face in terms of the procurement of their culturally appropriate food.

Ade: Great book! I learned about farmers market, community shared agriculture, nexus between immigration and food, global food regime, and the definition of food.

Monday: By the way, one of my friends, Wondimu, indicated that the world is a small place for refugees. Maybe availability of appropriate food affects their destination.

Ade: Destination is a function of many variables including employment and availability of public goods.

Monday: And access to credit. So that it will be easy to buy nice cars and a big house.

Dara: Warning – according to Prof. Saringe “You cannot base your retirement on a property”.

Ade: Thanks Dara. I’m paying today. I hope this café accepts WeChat pay (or Alipay).

Monday: I always appreciate spending time with both of you, but some issues are unsolvable.

Dara: Please withdraw that statement. It will affect your locus of control. All challenges are solvable, we only need to be cognizant of context specificity of the phenomenon.

Ade: Furthermore, the future is unpredictable, but planning gives a shock absorber.

Monday: See both of you next month…


Bamidele Adekunle @badekunl

June 12, 2019
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June 2, 2019

The Canadian Compromise: Immigration and Food Access

Over 250,000 immigrants from around the world come to Canada every year seeking a better life which has established our country’s “open arms” attitude. Immigration, or as I like to call it a “new chapter of opportunity” allows families and individuals to live in a country that is safer and more stable than the circumstances they faced back home. Although Canada is trying its best to help settle newcomers, there are still issues between immigration and food access. Factors that have contributed to food insecurity include high immigrant unemployment rates, dilution and misrepresentation of cultural identity, and scarcity.

Immigrants face relatively higher unemployment rates than average which is why they only make up 26 percent of the entire Canadian workforce. This results in financial instability and food insecurity for many immigrant families and individuals. With such low incomes, many immigrants are unable to afford fresh or healthy foods because they are more expensive and are therefore forced to eat unhealthy options such as fast or frozen foods. Food and health are directly related which is why many immigrants face greater diet-related health issues compared to most Canadians. Low paying jobs denies immigrants access to quality foods and fresh ingredients which increases their risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease just to name a few. Paulina Rodriguez who was a graduate from Waterloo in the urban planning program made a very eye-opening statement regarding social justice issues on immigrants and food access. Rodriguez said, “Addressing diet-related health inequalities is a moral imperative, as access to high-quality food is a fundamental human right”. It is almost impossible to balance the costs of day to day life as an immigrant with the costs of healthy eating.

Many immigrants have low incomes and have to sacrifice quality over quantity to survive.

 Immigrants have made Canada the very diverse country that it is today. Although many people from different cultures and ethnicities live in our country, we have not adapted an accurate representation of their foods. Canada offers a variety of options to choose from such as shawarma, sushi, Indian and Mediterranean foods. However, when compared with the traditional cuisine immigrants make back home, our versions of these foods are often comparatively diminished relative to the original food versions. Thus many of these foods are misrepresented and diluted through multiple ingredient substitutions and non-traditional techniques. Authenticity is also a big concern for immigrants as a majority of their cultures are tied to religious beliefs that have specific food requirements such as kosher and halal. Restaurants and grocers in Canada offer little variety of halal and kosher foods which is what immigrants rely on when eating and making traditional dishes. This creates a culture shock for immigrants because they are so used to having these ingredients and foods readily available back home. Immigrants typically would rather adapt and incorporate their cultural identity and traditions rather than conform to the most common Canadian food cultures. It’s important that immigrants continue to keep their cultural identity alive through traditional foods in order to avoid being caught in the melting pot of our country’s food culture. 

Immigrants continue to face limited availability to resources due to scarcity which remains a common issue among specialty and healthy foods across Canada. Farmers’ markets for example, lack cultural diversity because they only grow and sell foods that Canadians usually consume with little regard to immigrant consumption. There are relatively few ethnic supermarkets scattered across Canada and considering over 20 percent of our population consists of immigrants (Statcan, 2016) at least half of the supermarkets should be more ethnically representative. Integration into Canadian communities can be extremely difficult for newcomers because “food plays on identity, highlighting that food is both physical and symbolic: when we eat food, our bodies react to nutrients of the ingredients. At the same time, the food also conveys meaning to ourselves and others about who we are” (Soo, 2010, pg, 1). Lack of availability of cultural foods makes “it difficult for immigrants to feel at home, welcomed, or valued and be able to integrate into and contribute to Canadian society” (Soo, 2010, pg, 2). 

 Popular Asian supermarket with only two locations in Canada: North York and London Ontario.  

It is imperative that our country address the issues immigrants face when coming to Canada for a better life. Food insecurity continues to be a problem due to high unemployment rates, misrepresentation of cultural traditions, and scarcity in specialty ingredients. Providing greater employment opportunities and training for newcomers will result in a stronger and more diverse representation amongst our country’s food industry. We should also allocate more ethnic supermarkets in geographic areas that have large immigrant communities to decrease scarcity. Lastly, it is vital that we provide greater selection and capacity of halal and kosher foods in grocers and restaurants across Canada.



Research reveals immigrants' struggle with food access. (2016, October 18). Retrieved from

Soo, K. Newcomers and food insecurity: A critical literature review on immigration and food security. (2012). Major Research Paper (MRP), Ryerson University.

Alessandra Larosa-Fox, Research Assistant, ECVOntario, University of Guelph.

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March 29, 2019

Three Strong Women: A story of immigration and its challenges

Immigration to a wealthier country offers the lure of a better life which might end up being a façade rather than a reality. As an immigrant, I am thankful for the opportunity of moving to Canada and the lure of a better life has become a reality for me. However, I recently read Three Strong Women and it reminded me that immigration is not always an escape to paradise.

The Journey

The novel begins with the story of Norah, a lawyer and single mother to a young daughter. Norah is a character who carries angst, bitterness, and resentment towards her father. This is why. Norah’s father immigrated to France to study where he met Norah’s mother. Together, they parented two daughters and a son. When Norah’s brother was five years old, her father moved back to Africa with her brother, leaving Norah, her sister, and her mother alone. Norah’s father returned in pursuit of economic opportunities, however, his immigration separated his family causing them immense pain. Norah struggled with the trauma of abandonment and the loss of a sibling. Many families experience this pain when family members migrate to foreign countries and for whatever reason are unable to return to their families. Immigration can be disruptive to the family unit causing lasting emotional and economic damage.

The novel continues with the story of Khady Dhemba, a young widow who was sent off to Europe by her husband’s family to find a distant cousin. Although the author does not disclose the geographic locations, Khady’s excruciating journey most likely resembled the Western Mediterranean route that many refugee migrants follow. With this route, refugees usually pass through Morocco and attempt to climb the Wall of Shame, as it is infamously known. These walls are located in either Melilla or Ceuta- both Spanish enclaves located in Morocco, Northern Africa. In other words, they are constitutionally Spanish but geographically Moroccan (Walls of Shame, 2016). The wall of shame is, in fact, a double six-metre high barbed wire fence in Ceuta and a triple wall in Melilla (Walls of Shame, 2016). In between the parallel fences, there are guards, heat sensors, noise detectors, and infrared cameras monitoring activity between and around the fences to ensure that no refugee makes it through (Walls of Shame, 2016). Khady, like many others, ended up lifeless at the feet of the fence; she never did make it to the distant cousin in France. Khady’s fictional character happens to be the reality of many illegal immigrants who lose their lives on their quest to a better life. Immigrants who lack the knowledge or the financial means to legally migrate find themselves in life-threatening situations in search of the supposed greener pasture.

Fanta, the cousin in France Khady never reached, was born in the Colobane district in Senegal where she lived with her aunt and her uncle in austere conditions. She struggled to receive an education, but eventually became a teacher at the Lycee Mermoz, a school for the children of diplomats and wealthy entrepreneurs. It was at the Lycee Mermoz where she met her husband, a French native. She moved back to France with her husband in hopes of a better life than the one she had known in Africa. She hoped that she would be able to continue her work as a teacher, but to her disappointment, she remained unemployed. French employers would not hire her. That is the unfortunate reality of many educated immigrants, even in Canada. With their degrees and wealth of experience, they drive taxis and clean office buildings, roles that are well below their skill level and professional training. For many individuals, immigration fails to fulfill the expectations and the dreams of a more prosperous life.
Although immigration has the potential to positively change lives, we need to be aware of the challenges it poses. These challenges include difficulty finding culturally appropriate foods which can lead to adverse health implications, a lack of acculturation which can result in social isolation, and the likelihood of underemployment or unemployment which can unfavorably affect economic empowerment. As a country that opens itself up to immigrants, we need to ensure that families are not fractured as a result of immigration as was the case of Norah, that the immigration process is accessible to more disadvantaged individuals so that they don’t have to resort to dangerous means as was the case with Khady, and that migrants can better integrate into the economy once they do immigrate as with Fanta. Let’s make sure that this lure of a better life ends up being a reality for many, rather than the façade it could become for the less fortunate.


NDiaye, M. (2013). Three strong women. London, UK: MacLehose.

Walls of Shame: The Spanish-Moroccan border. (2016). Retrieved from

Olaitan Ayomide Ogunnote, URA, ECVOntario, SEDRD, University of Guelph

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February 23, 2019

The Resilience of Somali Bantu: Explained through the lens of food (in)security

Jareer Weyne or Somali Bantu, as they are neologized, is a distinct, ethnic minority group in Somalia who are believed to comprise of aboriginals of the horn of Africa and decedents of ex-slaves brought from Southeast Africa. They were treated as outcasts, facing constant discrimination, marginalization dating back through the centuries.

Geographically, they inhabit the most arable and fertile region of Somalia, that is in between the two longest rivers of the country, Jubba and Shabelle, along the banks of these rivers and valleys surrounding them. Towns under this region include Jilib, Jamame, Kamsuma and smaller villages surrounding them. They populate these areas due to the fact that the other Somali groups who are predominantly pastoralists found it inhabitable due to the infestion of disease-carrying bugs such as the tsetse fly that killed many of their livestock especially cattle, goats and sheep. The other reason is that Somali Bantu groups were cultivators and usually grew crops and the conditions in these areas were favourable for their occupations. They are therefore sometimes referred to us the ‘Reer Goleed’ which is roughly translated as the people of the bush.
Muufo - flatbread from fermented corn dough

They typically practice mixed farming and grow crops such as corn, several varieties of beans, sorghum, sesame, all at subsistence level. Some also farm vegetables and fruits such as tomatoes, onions, pawpaw, mangoes, and banana.

The traditional dishes of this community contain more grains and vegetables, fresh fish from the rivers and less red meat since they barely rear livestock. One of the popular dishes is Cambulo – A mix of corn, or sorghum and beans, steamed together, drizzled with sugar and sesame oil.
Soor served with fish stew

Another popular dish is Soor (grits), a grounded cornmeal that is boiled in water and allowed to solidify, served with vegetable and/or fish stew. It is a variation of the Italian Polenta, and the Kenyan Ugali.  Muufo, another delicacy of the Somali-Bantus’, is a flatbread made of fermented corn flour dough, baked in a cylindrical-shaped charcoal oven, the Tinaar. The dough is usually stuck to the inside walls of the oven and allowed to bake for some minutes. It is also served with vegetable and/or fish stew.

Fish stew

Plantain is another household side dish among the Somali Bantus. Unlike, the other Somali groups who heavily consume bananas, this community grow and eat plantain prepared in different styles; some roast it, others fry it up and all serve it as a tangy side dish for their grits and cornbread.

While these dishes were traditionally unique for the Somali Bantus, the other Somali groups started appreciating them and, in these days, they are very common household items for all groups in Somalia.

When the civil war broke out in the early 1990s, the Somali Bantu like the other minority groups were especially vulnerable to attacks, lootings, and rapes as they were easily identifiable due to their distinct physical appearance and dialect. They were, therefore, more negatively affected than many others during the civil war.

As a consequence, many fled to neighbouring countries, especially Kenya, seeking asylum. Many of these settled in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp, a complex that hosts the largest number of Somali refugees. Dadaab, unlike their previous vicinities, is semi-arid and dry, with inadequate rainfall, hence it is unfavourable for farming. Since there were no water bodies nearby, this also meant that there could be no fishing activities. Those conditions forced them to evolve their diet to whatever was available.

In the camp, apart from the food insecurity and diet challenges, the Somali Bantu group faced regular threats from bandits, as well as continued segregation and marginalization from their fellow Somali refugees. They were subjected to this robbery since they lacked sufficient protection that the other groups enjoyed.

After about a decade of these rampant challenges and persecution, many of them were eventually resettled in the United States. Today, members of this group many of whom reside in Lewiston, Maine, are attempting to revive their culture and traditional food by creating a farming and food truck co-operative, where they serve Somali Bantu dishes prepared from harvests picked from their farms.

Luqman Osman, URA, ECVOntario, SEDRD, University of Guelph, Canada
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