The word for potato in swahili is kiazi (kee-ah-zee). After corn, the potato is the most important food crop in Kenya. When I visited in December, the potato was a part of almost every meal. It is used in various recipes including mokimo, which I learned how to make from one of our clients. The cooking process took the better part of the afternoon over a fire pit, with 3-4 of us helping cut and stir to make the meal, our arms tiring from the constant stirring needed. When we sat down to eat, it was truly a community meal.
Living in a country like the United States where food, particularly processed food, is readily available from restaurants and grocery stores and where kitchens are a norm makes it difficult to comprehend what a daily investment food preparation can be. There are places in the United States that healthy food is scarce, especially for families living in under resourced areas, but, in Kenya, most people rely on local food markets or growing their own crops to put meals on the table.
This is very different than my experience growing up, which is also probably the case for many of you. Can you imagine what it would look like to live in a culture where food takes a lot of time and energy? For our clients, this is a huge concern in providing for themselves and their families.
Food production is changing in Kenya through the programs of USAID and others and will continue to emerge and transform like in the United States during the Agricultural Revolution. This will take time and investment in local business, something that CARE for AIDS is passionate about supporting. Our centers host two seminars a month that train clients in entrepreneurial skills and organized lending groups. We hope that this education and training will prepare our clients to be a part of this growing economy.
Regardless of how you pronounce it, potato or kiazi, hope feels the same in any language.