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Indigenous African Knowledge Production

Indigenous African Knowledge Production: Food-Processing Practices among Kenyan Rural Women

Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 144
  • Book Info
    Indigenous African Knowledge Production
    Book Description:

    InIndigenous African Knowledge Production, Njoki Nathani Wane uses food-processing practices - preparing, preserving, cooking, and serving - as an entry point into the indigenous knowledge of the Embu and the role that rural Embu women play in creating and transmitting it.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7003-7
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xii)
    George J. Sefa Dei

    Anyone who has visited rural communities in indigenous communities cannot escape the constant lament of their elders about the attempts of the current generation to dismiss or disempower indigenous ways of knowing as “irrelevant knowledge.” The elders’ defence of “indigenous” or customary ways of doing things does not imply that local peoples want to live in the past or that they are only interested in glorifying or romanticizing the past for its own sake. Rather, it is an astute realization that knowledge is cumulative. Knowledge builds on itself, and only the anti-intellectual claims that some forms of knowledge are useless,...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiii)
  5. Map of Kenya
    (pp. xiv-2)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 3-18)

    Indigenous African Knowledge Productionis a product of research conducted among Embu rural women in Kenya between 1993 and 1995. Although the research was conducted almost twenty years ago, very little has changed, as demonstrated in my other research projects (2006, 2007, and 2010–13) and yearly visits to Embu. In all, 200 female subsistence farmers were selected, of whom 177 agreed to participate in the research. Of those, 123 filled out a questionnaire. Seventy-seven of the 123 were also interviewed, during which 14 shared their life histories. No specific systematic method was employed in selecting the participants, because my...

  7. 1 Food Processing: Embu Women and Indigenous Knowledges
    (pp. 19-30)

    My experiences of witnessing and participating in the processing and consumption of organically grown, indigenously prepared foods made me understand a multinational company’s reason for appropriating the imagery of rural women’s food-processing activities. However, that imagery cannot capture therhythmof these women in their food preparation, and the concomitant teachings. During my research I was riveted by their activities. The women were seated on short, home-made stools, surrounded by everything necessary for their work. I never witnessed a single moment when their hands were idle. With rapid movements they would reach for the firewood that was drying by the...

  8. 2 Kenya: The Land, the People, and the Socio-political Economy
    (pp. 31-43)

    Kenya can best be understood in terms of the links connecting its land, people, and socio-political economy. It is a nation of forty-three million people (2012 census) and fifty-two ethnic groups that fall mainly into three linguistic categories: Bantu, Cushitic, and Nilotic. The largest of these groups is the Bantu, to which the Embu community belongs. Some 85 per cent of Kenya’s population live in rural areas, with most concentrated in the fertile southern half of the country. The annual population growth rate of 2.4 per cent (Kenya National Bureau of Statistics 2010) is among the highest in the world....

  9. 3 The Everyday Experiences of Embu Women
    (pp. 44-62)

    In her bookCounting for Nothing, Marilyn Waring queried elements of the United Nations’ System of National Accounts (UNSNA), noting that the indices used in the system consciously negated the positive contributions of women in domestic chores. She used a daily itinerary of four women (three of which follow) to buttress her concerns.

    Consider Tendai, a young girl in the Lowveld in Zimbabwe. Her day starts at 4 a.m. when, to fetch water, she carries a thirty-litre tin to a borehole about eleven kilometres from her home. She walks barefoot and is home by 9 a.m. She eats a little...

  10. 4 Food Preservation and Change
    (pp. 63-71)

    Boxall (1989) shows that in countries where farming is predominantly at the subsistence level, an estimated 60–70 per cent of the cereal and grain produced is retained at the farm. Farmers must conserve enough grain to feed both family and livestock from one harvest to the next. Storage methods have evolved according to local customs and social and economic conditions and have become associated with certain varieties of grain. Newcomers to a community who are unfamiliar with post-harvest activities may erroneously conclude that these methods are inefficient and wasteful compared to mechanized processes.

    Farmers ensure that the grain is...

  11. 5 Gender Relations, Decision Making, and Food Preferences
    (pp. 72-78)

    As we have already noticed, the entire process of food preparation, food preservation, organization, management, and the utilization of indigenous resources is wrapped in governmental, gender, generational, environmental, and language considerations. It is complex and involves decision making, ownership, and control of resources – factors that are sensitive subjects but which cannot be ignored. In order to obtain answers from the women, I had to devise a technique of asking questions indirectly. For instance, one of the questions I asked was, “If you had a problem, could you take some of your beans and sell them?” From the answers I...

  12. 6 Indigenous Technology and the Influence of New Innovations
    (pp. 79-86)

    Kenya’s stone age was characterized by tools consisting of hand-size pebbles and stone blocks, which were later refined to produce crude but usable tools for cutting, digging, and breaking. Evidence of these tools can be seen in Koobi, east of Lake Turkana, an area now occupied by Nilotic people. Other tools such as hand axes and cleavers have been found at Olorgesailie, Kariandusi, Kilombe, Isinya, Mtongwe, and Lake Turkana (Salim and Janmohamed 1989). The Neolithic period is important because some of the tools that are used presently by the Embu people – stone bowls and platters, grinding stones, and pottery...

  13. 7 Removing the Margins: Including Indigenous Women’s Voices in Knowledge Production
    (pp. 87-97)

    Knowledge production is not an exercise exclusive to academia. Unfortunately, within Western knowledge discourse one is assumed to have acquired legitimate knowledge only when it has been received in a formal classroom setting. This concept often causes educated researchers to disregard indigenous knowledges. In most cases, research on indigenous peoples is patronizing, often depicting their culture, knowledge, values, and world views as crude, unlearned, and unproductive. As a result, custodians of indigenous knowledge are reluctant to openly share what they know, particularly when the researcher operates from a Western or Eurocentric bias.

    During my initial meeting with Cucu I sensed...

  14. 8 Contesting Knowledge: Some Concluding Thoughts
    (pp. 98-106)

    Within the overlapping circles of knowledge are questions about the credibility of the generally accepted voices that frame knowledge. Francis B. Nyamnjoh (2004) expressed his reservation about Western constructs of “valid” knowledge, particularly when they are compared to indigenous epistemologies of the African continent. He centred his criticism on the basis that Western constructs of knowledge tend to exclude anything that is not considered to have been established in a rational, objective manner. Thus any form of knowing that cannot be expressed in behaviourist terms is discarded as unreal, metaphysical, irrational, subjective, and in some cases primitive. I propose that...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 107-112)
  16. References
    (pp. 113-120)
  17. Index
    (pp. 121-127)