Milk comes from heaven
Milk, we know, comes from heaven. How else to explain it? Drink a cool glass of milk (and it has to be in a glass), and the milk quenches the thirst while at the same time reducing the light-headedness associated with dehydration in a way that water just misses out. Put it in a cup, warm this time and the taste is richer, a little thicker and more satisfying. You could add chocolate to this, resulting in comfort. Or better still add milk to chocolate at which point peace breaks out. It is interesting to note that areas where wars break out often do not have enough milk (or chocolate for that matter).
We are born knowing that the best food for a newborn is mother’s milk. At that point you do not need to know that the principal sugar in human milk is lactose and that there are at least 30 other different types of sugars present. You may in moments of reflection note that you are born with few bacteria in your large intestines but somehow these sugars seem to promote the growth of certain lactobacilli bacteria in your large intestines; so preparing you to be able later to digest plant material especially fibre. The amino acids found in milk are naturally in the optimal proportions for human infants. Milk therefore provides a complete meal available on a regular schedule or on demand by a simple cry. For the first six months of life, a baby needs nothing else. Indeed health professionals recommend that nothing else should be given during that period. If this advice is followed the result is a healthy, clever baby free of diseases such as diarrhoea. In the long run, society has an intelligent adult able to contribute to society and choose wise leaders. This last fact must have led in early days for serious competition for milk. The first human being to realise that non-human milk could be healthy must therefore have been a woman.
Like all things first, she must have been African. Realising that her man and his friends could at times behave quite ‘bull headed’ and thick she must have put two and two together and realised that their behaviour was not too different to that of certain animals grazing in the distance. She must therefore after consultation with her sisters, firmly thrown the man out with instructions to get milk from the cow. And so pastoralism began. All over Africa, you find young and old men, moving around with herds of cows and other animals in search of pasture. When bored they fight. If you ask them why, they will reply that it ‘is a way of life’. It is never a good idea to argue with what the boss has told you to do. However there is a conflict in-built into this way of life.
The typical cow designed to move around in search of pasture does not deliver too much milk. To get a litre of milk per day requires a large herd. A large herd requires acres of pasture. Grown men really just want the meat from the cow and possibly school fees. So we have a situation where men take the cows out to pasture everyday, trample on people’s crops, then secretly retire to have some nyama-choma, before returning home late in the evening exhausted - as they would put it - by a hard day’s work. The woman meanwhile struggles to put together a balanced nutritional meal for her children. Health professionals who then have to manage the resulting malnutrition despair. The few politicians who seek ignorant voters are happy. The solution to the problem is to go back and understand the original instruction.
Kenya is sub-Saharan Africa's second largest dairy-producing and dairy-consuming country. Last year we produced 546 million litres of milk. Sounds impressive till you work it out to one litre per person per month. However if the adults stop taking what in the office passes for tea, then those aged 14 years and under would receive half a glass of milk a day. Not bad. This of course assumes that there is rain. We have prayed for rain and now we have too much of it. But we still do not have enough milk. Clearly heaven is a complex place. Easier for men to focus on getting the milk? Simpler perhaps to make an effort to understand and promote women in society? Guaranteed our children would be healthier.