Promoting traditional food is good for nutrition and cu…

Unhealthy ‘junk’ meals was gaining popularity, particularly amongst youthful individuals. This pattern was worrying as a result of Kenyan communities risked shedding their wholesome conventional meals and the cultural heritage related to them, together with language, data, expertise and practices.

This carried the danger of significant penalties. First, it might slim dietary variety. Second, it might enhance the dependence on market meals, which consequently will increase family spending on meals. Third, it might have a damaging impression on individuals’s well being. And lastly, it might deny producers and entrepreneurs of conventional meals (who’re primarily ladies) alternatives to generate income.

To deal with the rising bias in opposition to conventional Kenyan meals, native and worldwide establishments, together with analysis organisations, authorities ministries, non-governmental and group based mostly organisations, and universities rolled out nutrition research on the worth in native meals.

This was carried out in three phases. The first section, 1995 to 1999, prioritised 24 greens out of a complete of 210 in Kenya for detailed analysis and promotion. Prioritisation was based mostly on choice by native communities, marketability and well being advantages.

Phase two (2001 to 2006) targeted on vegetable seed assortment, enchancment and distribution, in addition to growing protocols for cultivation. Researchers additionally documented recipes, carried out dietary analyses, elevated consciousness of the well being advantages of those 24 greens and linked farmers to markets.

By 2003, the tide had begun to show. Traditional greens had been launched in most supermarkets and damaging attitudes had largely modified. Today, conventional leafy vegetables akin to mchicha, managu and saga are commonplace in eating places, road markets and houses. And consuming them now not attracts stigma.

This push to advertise and safeguard conventional meals in Kenya, which I was a part of, caught UNESCO’s consideration. During the establishment’s sixteenth session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in December 2021, Kenya’s efforts had been nominated after which positioned on the Register of Good Safeguarding Practices (Decision 16.COM 8.c.3).

UNESCO’s Register of Good Safeguarding Practices permits states, communities and different stakeholders to share profitable experiences and examples of transmitting their dwelling heritage (conventional meals, within the case of Kenya).

The case for choice

The intangible heritage in conventional meals consists of data, social practices, expertise, language, beliefs and taboos associated to meals. All these represent the foodways of a cultural group. Foodways additionally embody data and practices about producing and utilizing meals, and embody recipes, ornamental expertise, names of meals species and makes use of of meals in ceremonies.

In selecting the Kenyan case, the intergovernmental committee famous that it:

  • led to the safeguarding of foodways and conventional meals
  • promoted conventional meals for wider use for higher well being and livelihoods
  • promoted intergenerational trade of data by together with schoolchildren
  • addressed main threats to the usage of conventional meals
  • was supported by proof.
Swahili sauce with lamb. You can use rooster or fish with this meal as effectively. Image: Supplied

Why it issues

The itemizing of Kenya’s efforts on the Register of Good Safeguarding Practices is a big determination for the nation, and displays the rules and goals of the 2003 Convention on safeguarding intangible heritage.

This signifies that the approaches used to advertise native meals in Kenya may be utilized at regional and worldwide ranges, and may function a mannequin for safeguarding meals cultural heritage.

Years of analysis have proven that these uncared for conventional meals are extremely nutritious. They are additionally a part of the native meals tradition and are tailored to native environments.

Nutritional and cultural worth

The leaves of the spider plant, for instance, give many times extra vitamin A than cabbage. Vitamin A is vital for pores and skin, eyes and common progress.

Another essential plant is leaf amaranth, which provides as much as 12 instances the quantity of iron and calcium, and almost twice the quantity of fibre as cabbage.

The leaves of cassava, a serious vegetable in central African nations, are wealthy in proteins. A single serving, or 100 grams of the leaves, can present as much as thrice the advisable every day consumption of vitamin A in kids and adults.

The fruit pulp of the baobab can provide as a lot as ten instances the quantity of vitamin C as an orange, by weight.

Insects, akin to flying termites, and birds, like quails, are a serious supply of protein, and plenty of communities have developed expertise for trapping them. Other essential native meals embody mushrooms, of which there are a whole lot of edible sorts. A lack of data about them is rendering them unusable.

The excessive nutrient content material in conventional meals and greens means they may help alleviate malnutrition. In Kenya, for example, stunting in children below 5 years in 2008-2012 was at 35.3%, happening to 26% by 2014.

Additionally, many growing nations, together with Kenya, are battling a new problem – the rise in non-communicable illnesses like cancer and heart diseases. Traditional greens present excessive antioxidant exercise and may be helpful for stopping these illnesses.

When a species loses its worth in a group or society, it’s prone to disappear. When the species is misplaced, it takes with all of it its related intangible cultural heritage. Promoting indigenous meals promotes conservation of species (and biodiversity), which is sweet for the planet. It additionally slows or halts cultural erosion. DM/ML 

This story was first published in The Conversation

Patrick Maundu is an ethnobotanist on the National Museums of Kenya.


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