By Svend Løbner 13 Jan 2022 |

"Can you really enjoy such a varied diet?"

Mission East teaches the Mara people in Myanmar to grow varied crops and prepare nutritious food. The activities create hope and shines a small light in a land overwhelmed by darkness.

You are what you eat. The well-known pun is also applicable in Myanmar. For here the Mara people in the Chin state eat mainly rice and are often unaware of the many nutrient-rich crops that can be grown or picked in the forest.

Therefore, they do not get the necessary vitamins and minerals, which affects the children the most.

Children and pregnant women lack nutrition

According to the UN, nearly 30 percent of preschoolers show signs of miscarriage. They are simply too small for their age. Seven percent of preschoolers are severely underweight relative to their height. And more than half of pregnant mothers have anemia, which has serious consequences for both their own and their unborn children's health.

Brand new eating habits are needed. Mission East teaches how to grow alternative crops according to modern agricultural methods and takes the people on expeditions into the forest to find nutritious mushrooms, fruits, nuts and other nutritious crops.

Making money on the new dishes

We teach the people to cook with the new ingredients. Because if you can grow different crops, you also need to know how to cook them.

"It became an eye opener for me to be able to make such a varied diet from the basic foods available here in our local area," exclaimed a participant in a Mission East course in cooking.

Some participants experimented with baking different types of bread. One of them prepared food according to the new recipes and sold the dishes in the village, thus supplementing his income.

Small lights in a dark situation

"These are small lights in a country going through a dark period," said Koen Louter, Mission East's program manager responsible for Myanmar.

"Although Myanmar is no longer on the front pages of the newspapers, the country has ended up in a difficult situation where the division between the military regime and the protest movements is greater than ever. But in the midst of this, our partners continue to serve the local community with great courage and determination to ensure variety in the crops, so that the soil is not depleted, and so that the population gets a good and nutritious diet,” concludes Louter.

Facts: Lots of good food

At the Mission East course recently, participants learned how to prepare and store:

  • Aloo paratha - pancakes
  • Puri - small wholemeal buns dipped in sauce.
  • E-cha Gway - deep-fried donut
  • Palata - grated cabbage that can replace rice
  • Tempura - chicken, banana, squash onions and leaves fried in batter
  • Pickling of lemons, bamboo, mustard leaves, tea leaves
  • Juice made from bananas, papaya and pineapple
  • Tea blend - lemon, mint or ginger
  • Wine made from pineapple
  • Drying or fermentation of bamboo shoots
  • Preparation of sauce, papaya salad and banana chips