Audrey Maretzki, Professor Emeritus of Food Science and Nutrition, narrates her experiences building a nutri-business cooperative with women of the Kikuyu and Kipsigis tribes in Kenya. She recounts an encounter with indigenous knowledge when an elderly woman, who grew maize and finger millet (wimbi), contended that if you have two little boys and one was fed on wimbi and the other on maize, the one fed on maize would be big and fat, and the one fed on wimbi would be thinner and more wiry. If they fought, the wiry little boy would knock over the maize-fed boy; a vivid example of the nutritional superiority of an indigenous grain and the way that information was curated and conveyed.
Maize: known in many English-speaking countries as corn, is a grain domesticated by indigenous peoples in Mesoamerica in prehistoric times.
Wimbi (Finger Millet): an annual plant, native to Africa and widely grown as a cereal in the semi-arid areas of both Africa and Asia.
Kipsigis: the Kipsigis are a Nilotic pastoralist ethnic group in Kenya’s Rift Valley area. Currently, the community practices farming and they are famously known for growing Kenyan green gold tea.
Kikuyu: Kikuyu is the Swahilized form of the proper name and pronunciation of Gĩkũyũ although they refer to themselves as the Agĩkũyũ people.
- When you go to the store to buy food, do you know where it comes from? How much of the food you eat is grown or produced locally? What kinds of foods do you eat each day? Are these foods nutritious? What is the importance of eating a nutritious diet?
- Compare your diet to that of your grandparents. What accounts for the differences in the way you and your grandparents eat? Do you think your diet is more, or less, healthy than theirs?
- What does it mean to be a subsistence farmer in Africa?
- Why do you think the percentage of malnourished children in rural Africa continues to increase when that percentage is decreasing in many other parts of the developing world? What does Food Security mean? What are the various aspects of food security?
Discussion Topics related to this video
- What does the story of the two boys, one who was fed maize and one who was fed wimbi, illustrate? Why are such stories important?
- Wimbi (finger millet) was at one time, the most commonly cultivated grain in East Africa, as well as being the most nutritious. Today, maize production far exceeds that of wimbi. What do you think accounts for this shift in production. What crops would you grow if you were a woman farmer in Kenya?
- Have you ever had an "aha moment"? Describe a time when something happened to you that radically changed your thinking about a certain topic or gave you a great idea.
Related Indigenous Knowledge topics for further exploration
- Wimbi is very nutritious and has some special properties like the ability to produce even at high altitudes and under erratic rainfall conditions. Individuals and communities learn about wimbi from their parents and pass it down to their children. Can you think of any examples in your own life where you learned something useful by hearing it from older relatives and only later were exposed to the scientific rationale underlying the traditional knowledge you had acquired?
- Think about the town you live in and what products/services are available to you there. Is there any product or service that you think you could add to the current community business environment? Try to think about some ways you could start a business using the information you have acquired about your town and what you think might improve the quality of life of its residents.
Kikuyu newspaper: Muigwithania
The first Kikuyu newspaper now revived on the internet.
- Maize [Wikipedia]
- Finger Millet [Wikipedia]
- Kipsigis People [Wikipedia]
- Kikuyu People [Wikipedia]
Women's NutriBusiness Cooperatives in Kenya - A Prologue
by Audrey Maretzki, African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition, and Development, volume 9, number 8, November 2009