Africa

Coconuts bear brunt of human desires in Tanzania

Thousands of nutrition-rich coconuts go to waste, as people smash them due to superstitions belief that it brings good omen

Kizito Makoye   | 01.09.2021
Coconuts bear brunt of human desires in Tanzania

BAGAMOYO, Tanzania 

Although coconut serves as a rich source of nutritious food and medicine, many people in the East African country of Tanzania and elsewhere lament its large wastages due to superstitious beliefs that its breaking brings good omen.

Whether a politician starting his political campaign or someone driving a new vehicle, the coconut bears the brunt as it is broken to bring good luck wasting its rich edible kernel or seed, water, and oil.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency on eve of World Coconut Day which is being observed on Thursday Peter Ngeze, a resident of Mlingotini village in the northern Bagamoyo district said smashing coconuts was a senseless wastage of food.

Pointing towards coconut wastage heaped in the middle of a road junction near his home, with Arabic verses inscribed on them, he said when many people go without food in the world, this wastage of food was absurd.

“I don’t believe anything bad can happen to me when I step on it. It’s a senseless waste of food. I wonder why some people waste their time and money to do these nasty things,” he said.

His village attracts people from all walks of life to perform black magic rituals to get wealthy, protect their property, ward off bad luck, and even defeat a political rival in elections. But for all these human needs, a coconut is smashed on the ground.

An elderly traditional healer Omar Ali cracks open a coconut with a machete, drains its juice and fills it with a concoction of herbs, and gives it to waiting female clients to bury it in ground to protect their properties.

“When a coconut is broken and tossed into the sea, it chases away a bad spirit. The sea represents a stronger force than land,” he said.

Coconut is an important crop supporting the livelihoods of thousands of Tanzanians and contributes to environmental protection.

As one of the world’s biggest producers Tanzania produces about 530,000 tons of coconut annually. About 95% of the coconuts in the country are produced by small-scale farmers.

While some people genuinely believe that coconuts smashing does solve their problems, others think it is an unnecessary waste of badly needed food.

“I don’t see the point of breaking a coconut and leave it to rot,” said Ngeze


Politicians smash coconuts to win polls

During parliamentary elections, politicians in the region were seen smashing coconut beneath their luxury vehicles to win polls.

Besides getting food, oil, and water from the fruit, in the Bagamoyo region, locals use every part of the fruit to earn living. They use the husk to make ropes and mats.

In Hinduism as well coconuts are smashed to please gods.

“When we break a coconut, we imply that all our negative qualities are broken and our souls are purified,” said Subhash Patel a priest at the Shree Swaminarayan temple in Dar es Salaam. He said smashing a coconut on the skull of a devotee implies breaking free from the past and surrendering himself to his god.

According to ancient Hindu scriptures, the outer part of the coconut is considered as a persons’ anger or ego, which needs to be smashed, before offering prayers.

The main objective of celebrating World Coconut Day is to create awareness across the globe about the importance of the coconut and its benefits, according to the Asian and Pacific Coconut Community (APCC).

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