Melissa Browning, Ph.D.
Atlanta, Georgia USA

Melissa Browning is a theologian, ethicist, and activist who studies congregational and community-based responses to injustice. Melissa teaches at McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University where she is the Assistant Professor of Contextual Ministry. For the past 17 years Melissa’s study and fieldwork has been tied to East Africa. Her recent book, "Risky Marriage: HIV and Intimate Relationships in Tanzania," builds on a year of fieldwork completed in Mwanza, Tanzania where women were asked to re-imagine Christian marriage as a space of safety and health for women. Melissa is also active in death penalty abolitionist work in Georgia and is an ordained Baptist minister.

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General

On how to grow veggies in a sack…

By on May 3, 2010

shapeimage_2-1This past weekend, I took a break from my research to help plan a permaculture event with the Diocese of Victoria Nyanza. For this event, we hired a facilitator from Catholic Relief Services to come in and teach us how to grow veggies in maize sacks or old tires. This type of gardening is important in cities like Mwanza, where plots are small and there is no room for a proper garden. Here, most people live on the hills surrounding the lake and don’t have the flat land needed for traditional farming. Yet, most everyone here came from somewhere rural, so they have the needed skills for gardening, they just don’t have the space.

For this seminar, members of our HIV/AIDS support group were invited to attend at no cost. This was a particularly important event for this community because people living with HIV/AIDS need to take their medicines with food. Good nutrition is of upmost importance. And for many in Tanzania who are HIV positive, poverty resulting from their illness has severely compromised their food security. These kitchen gardens are easy to maintain and can provide an important source of nutrition. And of course, with enough sacks of veggies, you can even start a small business.

When thinking about development, sometimes the simplest methods are the most effective. A project that builds on existing knowledge (such as knowledge of agriculture) is a great place to start. As a city girl whose tomatoes have always come from aisle 9 at Kroger, I am often sad that so much has been lost. My grandpa was a farmer, but I have no real knowledge of how to make things grow. Fortunately, the same is not true for most of my friends here in Mwanza. Here, we don’t sell produce indoors so we’re still connected to the earth where food grows.

Personally, I left inspired. I think there’s a kitchen garden in my future. But it will have to wait a bit since you probably can’t grow one out of a suitcase.

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