The dark green narrow-leaved African nightshade at the centre of an agro-ecological project in Kenya
Adoption and signing of the Presidium protocol has taken place today at Loboi Cultural Centre in Loboi location. Endorois Bogoria kisochon is the ninth product nominated Slow Food Presidium in Kenya.
This local variety of African nightshade, spontaneously growing in Baringo County, a semi-arid area in the former Rift Valley province, has a special cultural and nutritional significance to Endorois, one of the minority ethnic group in Kenya. The Endorois community inhabits the Lake Bogoria banks, a forested area rich in kisochon plants. These vegetables have been crucial in the past for food security: during the lean period (between planting and harvesting of the grains such as sorghum and millet), the kisochon was ready for harvesting in the forest. Thanks to its good levels of iron, vitamins, calcium, beta-carotene, proteins and fibres, the plant helps to prevent various illnesses and in general to improve the immune system.
The plant is facing extinction as in particular the young generation dislike its bitterness and perceive it as a poor person’s meal. Moreover, in 2000 the Government allowed the introduction and promotion of ‘improved African nightshade’ through the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO), creating a lot of competition with the autochthonous variety. Plus, the wide use of chemicals on the surrounding farms affects soil fertility, hence the viability and growth of kisochon.
On the occasion of the launch day of the new Presidium, activities have included a “Food (kisochon) experience”, which consisted of preparing and cooking kisochon with its traditional accompaniments in a traditional way, as an opportunity for learning and exchanges in the presence of Cooks’ Alliance Kenya member Lucy Njeri Githieya.
Sharon Kosgei, Endorois Bogoria kisochon Presidium member, stated: “Kisochon has been our food and our heritage since time immemorial. Its link to our culture has been strong and unshakable until the improved varieties of African nightshade were introduced in our community. Today we have every reason to smile as we are seeing its comeback as part of our heritage and cultural food traditions. It will not only mean reviving our taste but also the knowledge and skills used in its preparations. Long live Slow Food Kenya for making this happen.”
Samson Kiiru Ngugi of Slow Food Kenya added: “Kisochon like many other wild leafy vegetables has the potential of being domesticated by the Endorois community – a means to make this variety of black nightshade more accessible as a food security crop and to preserve it as a food source for the community in the face of increased challenges as a result of climate change.”
Around 30 gatherers of the Slow Food Communities Sandai Endorois Agro-ecology and Bogoria Endorois Beekepers are working together on the Presidium to ensure that this variety of African nightshade continues to be a staple food in the local diet. These leafy herbs are harvested mainly by women and youngsters as they graze the livestock, at weekly intervals. Picking is done very early in the morning or late in the evening by hand, to ensure that they are consumed fresh with all the nutrients. Kisochon cannot be eaten raw, but it must be cooked before consumption. It is in particular used to prepare a special side dish for ugali (millet flour dish).
People use the whole black nightshade plant including young shoots, leaves, fruit, and root to make medicine.
Slow Food Endorois Bogoria kisochon Presidium is realised thanks to the project “”Foster community-led initiatives in East Africa by enhancing agroecological productions and market access in response to the global crisis” financed by Agroecology Fund. Its strategy relies on the Slow Food methodologies: Presidia, Earth Markets and the Cooks Alliance whose reference framework is agroecology, whilst allowing for the adaption to the individual needs of each farming community, with the intention to improve their livelihoods. The collaborative concentrates on practice by supporting farmers in promoting their agro-ecological products at markets and sensitising consumers on the benefits of these products. Subsequently, it will continue to work on advocacy locally and globally for long-term change.
Slow Food, with Slow food Uganda, Slow Food Convivia Association of Kenya, Women Development for Science and Technology (WODSTA), Programme Intégré pour le Développement du Peuple Pygmée (PIDP), relies on its local branches, notably in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), in order to enhance market opportunities (Earth Markets and Cooks Alliance), strengthening food value chains (Presidia) and raise awareness of the importance of choosing these cultural agroecological healthy foods.
The Agroecology Fund is a multi-donor fund that supports just and sustainable food systems. Such systems promote the wellbeing and human rights of small farmers, Indigenous Peoples and their communities, replenish soil and water resources, and help mitigate climate change.
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