Kenya has been approved by Unesco to be listed in the Register of Good Safeguarding Practices after fifteen years of collaboration between scientists and communities, including school children.
According to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), the listing strives to safeguard intangible cultural heritage, which distinguishes people and communities based on their history, ethnicities, languages, philosophy and values.
“In Kenya, traditional foodways were under threat due to historical factors and the pressure of modern lifestyles. Local foods were looked down upon and were associated with poverty and backwardness,” Unesco said via a statement.
“Understanding that a decline in food diversity and knowledge would have serious ramifications on health and on food and nutrition insecurity, in 2007 Kenya committed to safeguarding related practices and expressions. Two main initiatives were launched, in collaboration with scientists and community groups.”
Initiatives promote traditional foodways
Researchers first noticed a reduction in the country’s dietary diversity in 2007. They blamed it on a shift in lifestyles and the proliferation of low-nutrition convenience foods, but they also claimed colonialists encouraged locals to dismiss their traditional food sources.
“Finally came rigorous promotion of the foods. For the second initiative, Unesco in partnership with the department of culture and the international and national museums of Kenya, and in consultation with community leaders, initiated a pilot project to identify and inventory traditional foodways in partnership with primary school children to raise awareness about the threat to traditional foodways.
“Both initiatives have since led to other related activities carried out independently by local institutions, and several similar initiatives have been launched among other communities in Kenya, Ethiopia and Burkina Faso.”
In February of 2021, Unesco also included the registration of North African dish couscous to the the intangible cultural heritage list.
“The official inclusion recognises the North African dish, known and loved by many, as a shared cultural treasure. Other variations of the dish made their way elsewhere and can be found in countries such as Brazil, Italy and Malta,” the Morocco Embassy in South Africa said via a previously-released statement.
“Beyond knowledge and practices related to couscous, Morocco has three other collective entries on the UNESCO list, namely date palm practices and knowledge, falconry and the Mediterranean diet.”
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