Traditional Foodways

This is a participatory tool that captures the whole range of local foods of a community, how food is sourced in the landscape, prepared and consumed and the roles of the household and community members involved. The tool is one of four publications on the study of traditional foodways in Kenya produced between 2010 and 2012.

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In what context is this tool useful?

Researchers can use the tool when the diversity of foodways and related knowledge about nature is at risk. While this research was initially conducted within the Eastern Pokot and Isukha communities of Kenya, it can be adapted to fit the needs of other communities around the world. It aims to:

• Identify and inventory traditional foodways by assisting pupils in these communities to document their foodways of everyday life and those associated with ritual, social practices, and festive events.

• Encourage these communities to appreciate and transmit their traditional food practices.

• Prepare a practical manual on how to identify traditional foodways through fieldwork, which can be used in future studies in other communities in Kenya and beyond.

• Raise awareness about the dangers threatening the diversity of its traditional foodways and related knowledge about nature.

The manual serves as a guide for the study of both traditional and non-traditional foodways worldwide.

Results achieved

The research led to the creation of four publications detailing the unique traditional foodways. These publications:

  • Created a variable tool to facilitate local perspectives on sustainable use and conservation.
  • Documented information that provided a seasonal calendar of species and food crops.
  • Became baseline information for monitoring agricultural biodiversity and producing food nutritional guidelines while contributing to Kenya National Biodiversity Strategic Action Plan.
  • The tool registered as a Good Safeguarding Practices by the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage at its sixteenth session (online, 13 to 18 December 2021). It is recognized as a programme that best reflecting the principles and objectives of the Convention.

The Project targeted young people and worked with 2 primary schools in each of the two Communities in Kenia: Muraka and Shihuli Primary Schools in Isukha; and Churo and Chemolingot Primary Schools in East Pokot. Teachers and parents helped school children document information about the various foodways within their community, developing a manual which provided the school children with a step by step procedure on how to identify, document and inventory traditional foodways of their communities, covering aspects such as: types of traditional foods; traditional foodways seasons; harvesting and preparation methods; preservation methods, nutritional values; as well as associated rituals.

The experiences of school children in using this draft manual in Isukha, a mixed farming community, and East Pokot, a livestock keeping community have been used to produce the Booklet, “A Practical guide to documenting traditional foodways: Using lessons from Isukha and Pokot Communities”. The guide can be adapted to different communities in different contexts.