Monday, 26 August 2013

Food glorious food

For the next few days I am going to post short blogs about aspects of my recent visit to Kenya where I attended the Ministerial Session of the Conference after a few days visiting different areas and seeing some of the work of the Methodist Church.

Today I am concentrating on food, the food I shared with generous hosts and some of the food that is grown in the areas I visited. Every meal included fruit: bananas, pineapple, water melon and avocado often just picked from the tree.

 Other common filling foods are yams, potatoes and in some areas rice. Rice is grown and sold in the area south of Embu where people can be seen working in the extensive rice fields.

Working in the rice fields
Other staple foods are less familiar. In the area around Meru arrowroot is grown and is cut up and cooked in potato sized chunks. The boiled arrowroot is nutritious and filling and is often part of a meal or taken as a snack.

Maize is ground, mixed with water and cooked to make ugali. Ugali is eaten with a sauce which may contain beans or meat. Traditionally it is eaten with the hand, rolled into a ball and dipped into the sauce.

Potato is often made into mukimo or irio. The mashed potato is mixed with whole maize kernels and either peas (irio) or green leaves (mukimo) and is served with a stew of meat or vegetables. Stewed meat might be beef, chicken or goat and fried fish is also popular.
Chapatis are also served as an accompaniment to meat or fish and they are thicker and more moist than those served in Indian restaurants here.

Tea is normally made with a lot of hot milk and sugar and is known as chai, coffee is also commonly drunk as are a variety of fizzy cold drinks such as Fanta and Coca Cola.

In rural areas it is often the mother who is expected to grow food to feed the family and this can be difficult, especially if she has little land. It is very important for people to learn good techniques in food production and this has been recognised by the Methodist Church in the Kaaga Circuit near Meru. Kaaga was the place where the first Methodist missionaries to the area had their home and the houses they lived in can still be seen and are in use, some of them provide accomodation for women and men who come to be trained at the Bio-intensive Agricultural training centre.

Here the women are taught methods of growing food which do not require a lot of land. In this picture arrowrot is being grown in a sisal bag. Organic methods of fertilising the crops and of pest control are taught.

 The centre also teaches people how to care for livestock on a zero grazing basis. The cows, pigs or goats are kept in pens that are carefully designed to enable the animal to be healthy and contented where grazing is not available.

The manure from the animals is used to produce bio gas and people are trained to do this for themselves. This is a picture of the production area for the gas.

This is a good example of the church coming alongside others in order that they can glimpse something of the love of God

The centre also has fish ponds and people are taught how to make their own pond and grow the fish. There are 2 types of fish in the tanks; cat fish and talapo. The cat fish are unable to breed in captivity so the 
centre is now designing and making a hatchery. Eggs and sperm will be harvested from the adult fish and fertilised in the hatchery.

This is a photograph of Olive, the manager of the centre, with the hatchery in its very early stage of development.

Tea and coffee are grown extensively in Kenya and some of the tea plantations north of Meru work with a local fair-trade registered factory.
Tea plantations

The principles of sustainable agriculture are described on the sign outside the factory.
The Methodist people in Kenya are thankful for the food they eat and before drinking tea or eating for some-one will always be asked to 'pray for the tea'. Food is not taken for granted here, in times of drought the impact is severe for many people, but in good conditions the land can be bountiful, The glorious food is dedicated to the glory of God.

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