Kenyans showcase indigenous foods at global meeting in Italy

Thursday September 27 2018

Food conference in Turin, Italy

Participants sample Kenyan foods during the Terre Madre, Salone Del Gusto, (Mother Earth, Exhibition of Taste) conference in Turin, Italy. PHOTO | RACHEL KIBUI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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As the debate on the effects of climate change continue, calls have been made for countries to promote the use of indigenous foods.

The calls were made recently during the Terre Madre, Salone Del Gusto, (Mother Earth, Exhibition of Taste) conference in Turin, Italy that brought together indigenous women.

The indigenous women’s conference on ‘Indigenous People’s Food Systems and Climate Change’ was among the many that were held during the ongoing Terre Madre conference.

The meeting was attended mainly by women from Kenya, Latin America, Tanzania, North America and India among others.

Participants expressed their commitment to combat the effects of climate change as a way of creating a better world for future generations.

A participant at the Terre Madre, Salone Del

A participant at the Terre Madre, Salone Del Gusto, (Mother Earth, Exhibition of Taste) conference in Turin, Italy samples Kenyan food. PHOTO | RACHEL KIBUI | NATION MEDIA GROUP


The conference brought together thousands of people from 160 countries across the world, with discussions revolving around safe food access.

The event is the brainchild of Slow Food International, a non-governmental organisation that promotes food that is good, clean and fair.

Kenya was represented by stakeholders from different organisations led by Nakuru-based Slow Food Kenya.

The Kenyan delegation got an opportunity to showcase some products especially from small scale farms.

The products included indigenous foods such as yams, cassavas and honey.


Other Kenyan products that were exhibited and sold included dried mangoes, stinging nettle and dried pumpkin powder among others.

But it was not only about the food expo. Kenyans had a chance to cook local cuisine and sell to the visitors while some of it was given freely for tasting.

Under the ‘Ark of Taste’ forum, Kenyans cooked chapatti, mukimo, beef stew and kachumbari as a way of putting the local cuisines on the international platform.

Besides, the Kenyan team took time to learn from other countries on issues pertaining to food and agriculture.

These issues included value addition so that food fetches better prices, food preservation and the need to eat better and healthier foods.


During a press conference, Slow Food leaders called for youth involvement in agriculture as a way of ensuring food security all over the world and combating the effects of climate change.

“We need to teach all children the value of farming globally and use schools as avenues to combat the effects of climate change,” said Alice Waters, the vice president of Slow Food International.

The organisation’s president, Carlo Petrini called for regulation in food consumption, especially meat, as a way of ensuring food security for all.

Margaret Tunda

Margaret Tunda speaking at the indigenous women's conference in Turin, Italy. PHOTO | RACHEL KIBUI | NATION MEDIA GROUP


During the conference, women from indigenous groups were urged to come together and fight against their common challenges globally.

This is especially so in the wake of the massive effects of climate change, which has posed challenges especially to people who for many years have lived in or close to forests.

During thea conference, the women called for access to justice and proper links between them and their respective governments.


Kenya’s Margaret Tunda, who moderated the session, said women from minority groups are currently undergoing a lot of suffering owing to the effects of climate change.

While there are some effort by governments and other stakeholders to combat the effects of climate change, Ms Tunda noted, some of the actions are more harmful than useful.

She told the gathering that in Maasailand for example, there have been efforts to cross breed the native Red Maasai sheep with the Dorper sheep from South Africa.

However, the challenge with the Dorper is that it has to feed more and requires more water too.

“The Red Maasai sheep is very tolerant to drought unlike the Dorper, but our people have been convinced to cross breed it with the South African breed for reasons I do not understand,” she told the gathering.

Kenyan chef Ezekiel Mwathi

Kenyan chef Ezekiel Mwathi (right) who spearheaded the preparation of Kenyan cuisines in Turin, Italy. PHOTO | RACHEL KIBUI | NATION MEDIA GROUP


She was speaking during the 2018 Terre Madre conference, an event that is marked every two years to celebrate food, people and create awareness on access to good and safe food.

Other challenges addressed included access to traditional seeds that are resistant to pests and diseases. These seeds are also important in the sovereignty of any country.

“But the entry of multinational companies into the seeds market is slowly causing us to lose the seeds that our forefathers used to grow,” said Abby Fammartino, a panellist from Organ, USA.

In another forum, Daniel Wanjama, the founder of a Gilgil-based non-governmental organisation, emphasised on the need for small scale farmers to conserve seeds.


“Our seeds are our future and we must do all we can to ensure that we do not lose our sovereignty to multinational companies that aim at making huge profits,” he said.

At the indigenous women’s meeting, the issue of access to land featured prominently.

As it turned out, the issue of access to land for women is not just an African problem but also a global one, especially among indigenous societies.

The women said they have preserved some traditional knowledge regarding agriculture and other issues, but these have been ignored in the wake of increased modern technology.

“The forestry departments, for example, will not consult indigenous people when there is a fire outbreak, yet we are rich in knowledge pertaining to how our forefathers fought massive fires,” said Tupak Nguabugo of Ecuador.