Is meal replacement the future?

The last few weeks I had the opportunity to test Huel (pronounced similar to fuel, as it is fuel for your body 😉 ). Huel sent me a test package with 1,75kg of their vanilla and 1.71kg of their unflavoured/unsweetend powder. I wanted to test Huel since I am quite busy at the moment with writing my thesis and am sometimes struggling to find affordable, fast, nutritious and vegan food on the go. I also really like the mission of Huel to “make nutritionally complete, convenient, affordable food, with minimal impact on animals and the environment”.

After trying Huel for several weeks (usually 4-5 times a week), I can say that it met my expectations. It is really easy to prepare and tastes good (especially the Vanilla flavour). I did not really like the unflavoured version, but when I mixed it with vanilla (2:3), it tasted very good (and also not too sweet like the vanilla one). The consistency is also very nice, like a normal shake. However, if you have a mixer, you should use that for preparing Huel as I sometimes had a few clumps when only preparing it in the shaker (moreover you could then add some fruits to make it even tastier 😉 ). I think Huel is a really good meal replacement that you can use 1-2 times every day. If you would want to, you could even replace all meals with Huel. Personally, I would not like to do it as I enjoy eating out with friends and I like good and varied food. I found that especially replacing breakfast and/or lunch with Huel is quite handy when I am working or studying in the library, as it is fast, nutritious and very cost effective. Usually I would need to pay at least 6 EUR for a meal and with Huel a meal costs me less than 2 EUR and is probably more nutritious and better for the environment. Also you can get very creative with Huel and e.g. use it for baking pancakes or making normal smoothies by mixing it with fruits etc.

One of my main reasons why I wanted to try out Huel was due to environmental and ethical considerations. I like about Huel that it’s 100% vegan and gives me the nutrients (26 essential vitamins and minerals) that I need in the most efficient way. Moreover, CO2 emissions and packaging are reduced. Thus, it has the potential to solve the global problem of feeding 9 billion people in a sustainable way. However, it is of course still nicer to eat normal food, cook with friends, and take a proper lunch break from work. Occassionaly it is really handy if you are very busy and want to have a nutritous and environmentally friendly meal. Tell me if you give it a try and send me a comment with your experiences. 🙂

Life in a township

The most eye-opening experience that I had in South Africa was my visit to a local slum. A researcher named Yondela, who also lives in this informal settlement, showed a few friends and me around his home Enkanini. Enkanini was established in 2006 in Stellenbosch when underpriviledged people claimed this land and made it (illegaly) to their home.

As we walked through the mud we saw children playing in the dirt and annoying their mother while being on the toilet. Although the government set up a few toilets, most toilet locks were broken, which made it difficult for the mother (and other women) to have some privacy. Moreover, apart from the unhygienic reasons, these toilets are also a safety issue for women as they are often molested there. As we continued our walk we past by some small local shops and a waste collection site, which had one container and lots of trash all around it as well as in the nearby stream. Most people looked at us curious and greeted our guide Yondela. All the self-made shacks were constructed in a unique way, one even had a small garden with plants in tires and the shack’s wall was made out of earth filled tires for increased insulation. As we continued to the top of the hill we saw a promising sight – there were many solarpanels on top of the shacks! This was the main reason for our visit, we wanted to ask Yondela about how it is to live in an informal settlement and what possibilities there are to improve the livelihoods of these inhabitants. The solar panels represent a big improvement for Enkanini’s inhabitants as they provide enough electricity for a household to power a refridgerator, some lights and a mobile phone, which fosters education and access to opportunities via the Internet. The residents pay a installation fee for the solar home system and then a monthly fee of R150 for the use of the system. The iShack organisation is responsible for the operation and maintenance of the solar panels and has installed since 2007 over 700 solar home systems. There is a high demand as many of Enkanini’s 2,500 households are on the waiting list to obtain their own systems. The solar panels are a major improvement as Enkanini’s residents do not have access to electricity and often cap illegaly electricity lines, which causes fires in the settlement.

Enkanini (informal settlement in Stellenbosch)

Enkanini (informal settlement in Stellenbosch)

The iShack project improves the livelihoods of the local inhabitants as well as the sustainability of the informal settlement through various different measures. Besides the solar panels, the in 2010 established organisation shows the inhabitants how to construct their shacks in a more energy-efficient way through sustainable “demonstration” shacks that are built from leftover or recycled materials as well as an innovative layered wall construction for better cooling and insulation. Moreover, biogas digesters are installed in the bathrooms to turn human solid waste into biomethane for cooking. Furthermore, the iShack project tries to improve the rain water and grey water collection systems.

If you are interested in the iShack project, you can check out the following videos.

2-3min video:

12min video:

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Fees Must Fall

Having spent the last three months in South Africa, the main issues that made me experience a potential culture shock and a feeling of uncomfortability have been the ongoing effects of apartheid. Although apartheid ended in 1994, there is persistent inequality, poverty, racism and crime. The recent student protests of the “fees must fall” movement have made these racial issues in South Africa and particularly Stellenbosch more visible to me. The racial insults that various ‘white’ and ‘black’ students say about each other have shocked me. While I agree with the aim of the protests to make education more affordable, some aspects of this student movement are highly controversial. Especially the violence of some of the protesters made me question their approach. In many parts of this country, demonstrators have destroyed and burned university facilities. Furthermore, protestors occupied the library at Stellenbosch and other universities in the exam period and are thus hindering other students from studying. I still do not quite understand these measures, but I assume the aim is to demonstrate to the other students “If we can’t study, then you also can’t”. As a result the security staff on campus has been increased with very intimidating equipment and weapons. The following video shows the violence of the police when dealing with the protestors and explains the reasons for this student movement.

feesmustfallThe amount of violence and racism that comes from both sides, police and protesters, black and white, is shocking to see. The fees must fall movement is about far more than tuition fees, it is about changing the ‘white’ system. Although I can understand the feeling of oppression and injustice of the black students, what some of the movement’s leaders have posted on social media is disturbing as they are even hinting at killing the white South Africans. This excerpt of a fees must fall leader’s Twitter account and Interview with a radical fees must fall protestor illustrate this point. Although the majority of protestors do not agree with this, a black African friend of mine told me “I do not want to kill the whites, but I’m ready for them to leave” as the ‘white system’ has caused severe problems in Africa and injustice.

The current protests are an outcome of South Africa’s major societal problems that result from colonialism, apartheid and an incompetent and corrupt national government. As not even primary education is free in South Africa, achieving free tertiary education currently seems like an unrealistic goal. However, the protests have raised awareness about the persistent inequalities in South Africa and have the potential to make the education system more inclusive. Yet, this noble aim can only be achieved by creating a mutual understanding for both sides of the discussion and facilitating a peaceful and fruitful dialogue between South Africa’s black and white population.

Picture: Mike Hutchings

My encounter with South Africa

As facebook usually gives us this false superficial perfect image, I felt the need to express my true experience with living in South Africa to not only show you all the beautiful landscape pictures. While the landscape, climate and the local people that I have met so far are wonderful, there are some things that would hinder me from relocating here on a long-term basis. The most crucial issue is hereby the persisting extreme inequality between the citizens of this country. One would think that the government ought to have tried a lot to improve this situation after the end of the apartheid regime, but this does not seem to be the case. While the “white” people are enjoying a glass of wine at one of Cape Town’s fancy wine estates or are shopping at the luxurious Water Front, the majority of the city’s population lives in townships and informal settlements. During the apartheid regime the people of the no longer existing District 6 were displaced from their home by bulldozing their houses and were relocated to the Cape Flats, which are now sprawling with townships where these people live in poor living conditions until today. While the city tries to offer through its Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) social housing, at least 1.9 million people are still living in shacks and 35% of Cape Town’s population lives below the poverty line.

Being told by locals not to give money to the beggars, as this will prevent them from going to a homeless shelter, leaves me walking past them with an uncomfortable feeling of pity, helplessness and a pinch of fear. However, being surrounded by predominantly “white” South Africans and expats, the only thing that affects my life in this beautiful bubble is fear. The feeling of not being able to move freely leaves me feeling dependent and vulnerable. Even though I have travelled to other developing countries, I have never before experienced these insecurities as here. I still could not figure out if it is really as dangerous as everybody says or if all of the well-meant warnings are exaggerated, but I guess it’s better to be safe than sorry. This feeling made me grow fonder of our privileged life in Europe where we don’t need to worry about walking alone on the streets or using public transportation. I miss this freedom and independence and feel imprisoned in my privileged bubble which makes me see only the sunny sides of South Africa. Living in the most unequal city of South Africa, Stellenbosch, has shown me the priceless value of democracy and a well-functioning social welfare system.

Nomzamo/Lwandle is a township bordered by the communities of Strand and Somerset West, about 40km east of Cape Town. Retrieved from http://www.unequalscenes.com/strandnomzamo

Nomzamo/Lwandle is a township bordered by the communities of Strand and Somerset West, about 40km east of Cape Town. Retrieved from http://www.unequalscenes.com/strandnomzamo

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