Joining the Celebrations in Mau Forest

This year I was invited to attend my first Terra Madre Day event in my home country Kenya, after three years away studying at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy. Organized by Slow Food Central Rift Convivium, a busy day lay ahead of me. I woke before dawn ready to spend my entire day deepening my knowledge of the food and cultural traditions of the custodians of Mau Forest, the Ogiek community.

Ogiek is a forest dwelling community that mainly depends on forest resources for food, shelter and livelihood. They hunt and gather wild fruits for food with certain plants also used in their traditional medicine. With the forest being the main resource they depend on, they have established traditional conservation measures that are passed down from generation to generation, such as selective hunting.

I arrived at Marioshoni Primary School in Elburgon Kenya, the event venue, early in the morning to be greeted by a huge banner with words that proclaimed, “Terra Madre (Mother Earth) Day Celebrations.” Tables were arranged around the space to present different traditional foods, including Presidia products such as Mushunu chicken, Lare pumpkin and Mau forest dried nettle that were once relied upon by the local communities. The Ogiek community introduced some of their foods including deer meat, wild fruits and honey, confidently wearing traditional outfits made primarily from animal skins.

The event aimed to encourage different communities to be proud of their cultural diversity and food sovereignty and to make use of that for increased food and nutrition security at a household and community level. It also gave a voice to indigenous communities and educated the general public on the role played by these communities in protecting our environment against the dangers of greedy, private interests.

Grasslands dotted with tree stumps, neat fields of wheat and maize and large tea plantations, have rapidly replaced the once thick Mau Forest. The impact of the massive deforestation and logging of indigenous trees has adversely affected Kenya’s agricultural sector in many ways, including causing several rivers to dry up permanently. Indigenous tree were planted during our Terra Madre Day celebration to recognize this, and to encourage communities to plant more trees to secure a promising future for generations to come.

Students from various schools participating in the local school garden initiative also came along to the event, showcasing their activities and educating the communities on the principles of sustainable agriculture. It was commendable to see the enthusiasm and knowledge these students have gained through the program, and the extension from their school into the community.

A range of like-minded organizations and NGOs also came along to show their support, and representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture spoke about their commitment to promoting local foods.

The event was a great success, bringing together around 630 people to show that traditional products still have a place in our communities and the commitment of our Terra Madre food communities to protecting and promoting them with pride.

For more stories on the events that took place around the world on Terra Madre Day stories, visit:
old.slowfood.com/terramadreday

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