My grandfather is poor. He certainly lives on less than a dollar a day.

However, at 95 years old, he has never lacked or begged in his nine and a half decades on this earth, despite only attending one year of schooling in the 1930s where he learned to read and write. His self-sustaining lifestyle is the key to his contentment.

When hunger strikes, he strolls to the banana plantation and harvests bunches of matooke for dinner. Adjacent gardens provide sweet potatoes, cassava, yams, and millet. Southward are fields yielding beans, cowpeas, and peanuts. Down the valley, grazing lands host dozens of Frisian and cross-bred cattle that supply fresh milk daily without fail.

About 20 goats also roam his lands, occasionally sold to supplement income for essentials like kerosene, soap, and sugar – though at his age, honey has replaced sugar on doctor’s orders. The farm’s bounty exceeds his needs, allowing surplus sales.

Sugarcane, guava, mango, papaya, avocado, orange, passion fruit, and pineapple trees dot the landscape, providing fresh juices and snacks. Everything is grown organically on a subsistence basis, a way of life he has maintained for 75 years.

With eleven children, including my mother as the firstborn, he sent eight to university by selling cows, goats, and produce each school term. I lived with him from ages 5 to 14, learning to farm, milk cows, tether goats, climb fruit trees, and harvest honey by night.

While classified as “poor” by World Bank/IMF standards due to his meager cash income, my grandfather, like millions of self-sustaining Africans, is truly rich. Despite my decent $12,000 annual salary, I can hardly match his ability to provide fresh milk, food, and fruits for his family.

This is a reality many overlook – not all Africans are impoverished; many simply live differently, self-sufficiently, and content with nature’s bounty.

Innocent Masengo