Sifelani Tsiko, "Africans, Eat Dog Food!"

Africans: Eat Dog Food!

Sifelani Tsiko

From Black Star News

A New Zealand dog food manufacturer, Christine Drummond, has offered to send dog food to help starving Kenyans. She apparently can’t distinguish the difference between an African child and a puppy—she offered 42 tons of the dog food. Drummond is still locked in the colonial-era arrogance that sees Africans as animals and can be treated in any way the “big bwana” sees fit.

Drummond, founder of Mighty Mix dog food, said she wanted to send the first shipment to Kenya in March. She said the relief food she intended to send, NZ's Raw Dry Nourish, used the same ingredients as Mighty Mix dog food biscuits. “The first plan was to send dog biscuits and change the vitamins,” Drummond said, but she changed plans when she realized there were too many starving children in Kenya. Instead, she added, she produced a powder that she says just needs water added to form a sustainable meal.

Drummond said she came up with the aid idea to send dog food for hungry Kenyan children after she spoke with a New Zealand woman whose daughter had just returned from a village in Kenya. Her plan was to distribute the food through the Mercy Mission charity, based in Kenya, and promote it as a "nutritional supplement" rather than dog food. New Zealand doctors supposedly said it was okay, accordingly to a published account.

Mighty Mix dog food agent Gaynor Siviter, told a New Zealand reporter: “The dogs thrive on it. They have energy, put on weight. It's bizarre but if it's edible and it works for these people then it's a brilliant idea. It beats eating rice.”Kenya is currently suffering from five successive droughts. Needless to say, Drummond’s offer has been roundly denounced in newspaper columns and article throughout Africa. “Our children aren't puppies, madam,” declared a headline in Kenya's main newspaper, The Nation newspaper. Readers sent a chain of letters protesting against this racism. “For us Kenyans, it's a racial insult,” Julius Kwea of Nairobi said, in a published remark. “Kenyan kids are not so desperate as to eat dog food,” Kenya government spokesman Alfred Mutua said. “The offer was very naive and culturally insulting given the meaning of dogs in our culture,” he said.

“This is the time when Kenya needs leaders like Mugabe,” a Kenyan commentator said, referring to Zimbabwe’s leader, who has distributed formerly white-owned lands to landless Africans. “Leaders who can come out strongly and say ‘No’ to aid that does not respect the dignity of Africans. Kenyan children are human too and I think Mugabe was right in telling off western countries not to choke Zimbabweans with food they didn't need. If we don't stand firm, Europeans can play dirt things to our people.”

When racism rears its ugly face in the food aid business, the Western media is either silent or will move quickly to excuse blatant incidents as isolated cases. Even international relief agencies have buried their head in the sand and have adopted the its-non-of-our-business approach.

“I have so much heart for Kenyans,” Drummond said, in published remarks, trying to back off the controversy she caused. “I want to apologize to the government for what the media has created. I never intended to offend anyone.”

Yet, she still justified: “The powder consists of dried beef, mutton, garlic, kelp and other products, is full of energy-boosting nutrients. I eat it myself.”

There are many causes of hunger in Africa and these include land rights and ownership, diversion of land to non-productive use, drought, increasing emphasis on export-oriented agriculture, inefficient agricultural practices, war and others. Western countries and their conveyors of food aid have increasingly moved into solving hunger in the conventional sense–donating food is such a way as to perpetuate poverty and dependency in a way that Africans do not readily realize it. Now comes the ultimate insult: The offer of dog food.

Tsiko is The Black Star News’s Southern Africa correspondent based in Harare, Zimbabwe.