Hi everyone! Hannah and Madi here- the 2018 nutrition interns working with Farmers Helping Farmers and Queen Elizabeth Scholars.
Monday, May 28 was a very busy, exciting and fun filled day working with the folks at the Naari dairy. When we learned about an all day dairy seminar at the Naari Dairy Farmers Cooperative Society, a key partner of Farmers Helping Farmers (located nearby), the nutrition team seized the opportunity to speak in front of over 500 farmers!
Since the dairy was providing rice to the participants after the seminar at 2 p.m. (with a small amount of beef), we decided to add a small (1/3 cup) of healthy ‘super githeri’ to the meal so that we could reinforce our nutrition messages.
In case you haven’t heard of it, ‘super githeri’ uses whole grain (mpempe) maize, soaked maize and beans to soften them and improve nutrient availability, a 1:1 ratio of maize and beans to increase protein, and at least one green and orange vegetable.
We decided to use a small portion so that the work would be doable in one morning, and would not require more space to cook.
On Sunday, we got the 10 kg of maize and 10 kg of beans from a local market, and spent a good amount of time removing the small stones from the beans before we soaked them overnight at the dairy.
We then spent the morning at the dairy preparing the githeri with our leaders or “champs” from the Joy women’s group. Preparing the githeri was a fantastic but exhausting experience as it involved being surrounded by 10 open pit fires that were constantly billowing smoke into our eyes, the hot African sun beaming down onto our sensitive Canadian skin, and learning to chop numerous kilograms of vegetables without a cutting board (minor cuts and blisters formed!).
Working with the Joy women’s group was an excellent experience: if it weren’t for them, the githeri likely wouldn’t have come together, and would be nowhere near Kenyan standards in terms of taste and texture. The women taught us the ins and outs of Kenyan githeri and were patient with us as we struggled to cut the carrots as thinly and precisely as they were. The women treated us like their pupils and were happy to pose for many photos with us.
The seminar started an hour late-at 11:00 a.m.- so our presentation time was moved from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. When it came time to speak, the group of us filed in to the hall and were very warmly greeted.
The start of our presentation went smoothly and uninterrupted. After our prof Jennifer introduced the session, Hannah stood up and received some laughs when talking about avoiding traditional tea at mealtimes to increase iron absorption.
Salome, one of our Farmers Helping Farmers employees was there not only to help organize the seminar and food preparation, she also was invaluable in translating our messages from English to Kimeru to ensure that everyone in the audience was understanding them. She was an amazing help since she knew the women well and the dairy group.
It was not until Esther, the chair lady of the Joy women’s group stood up to discuss having a 1:1 ratio of maize and beans in githeri did people in the audience start hissing and booing. Traditionally, the ratio of maize and beans is 2:1 in githeri, and although this may not sound like a huge change to us Canadians, I equate it to someone telling me to use whole wheat noodles in my Kraft Dinner for health reasons (not happening!)
It was a great example of how there is so much culture entangled in the food that we eat, and that our food culture is not easy to change. After Jen, our prof, got up and reinforced what Esther had said, those objecting seemed to calm down.
Madi was the fifth speaker to deliver a message on mukimo, which is a dish comparable to mashed potatoes. She again reiterated messages such as using a 1:1 ratio of maize and beans, adding greens, and adding a source of vitamin C to the dish to increase iron absorption. This time it was better received.
After the messages had been delivered, Sarah Muthee, a recent Master of Science in nutrition grad from UPEI, stood up and spoke about her research findings.
Again, people were eager and interested to learn what she had found for results. For both of us (Hannah and Madi’s), it was our first time talking in front of that many people. It was nerve wracking, but also incredibly exciting! It was such an amazing opportunity to reach so many people in the community with our nutrition messages AND let them taste the food as proof healthy food can taste good.
After our presentation wrapped, we served the super githeri that took almost a full day to prepare. There were two lines: one for men and one for women.
It was wonderful to walk around after serving to watch people enjoy our dish, especially the women who would benefit most from the higher iron content.
Overall it was a hit, and we received a lot of positive feedback. All the work and stress was well worth it!