Cha kula Issue 7: Rotten

Publication

Inspired by the Netflix documentary Rotten, this issue of Cha Kula by the Route to Food Initiative, highlights the absurdities in our food systems in Kenya, both historically and in the contemporary moment.

Cha Kula is a bi-annual publication that gives prominence to food as a political issue in Kenya. It calls into question the power dynamics that dominate our food system, which determines who eats, what they eat and who goes hungry

Cha Kula Issue 7

In a world inundated with slogans advocating for healthier and sustainable living, it's easy to overlook the insidious normalization of absurdities within our food systems. What was once considered morally reprehensible or ethically dubious has now become an accepted norm, hidden beneath the shiny veneer of convenience and modernity. As we journey through the labyrinth of our culinary landscape, it becomes imperative to unmask the rotten core that lurks beneath the surface, challenging us to question the very foundations upon which our food systems rest.

Inspired by the Netflix documentary Rotten, this issue of Cha Kula, thus highlights the absurdities in our food systems in Kenya, both historically and in the contemporary moment. In Zahra Moloo’s article, the myth of digital farming, we discover that while there are many apps that promise a "technofix", for farmers, they mask a more insidious reality. Farmers unknowingly contribute to entrenching corporate interests in agriculture by embracing digital platforms. Christine Gatwiri underscores the critical need for effective regulatory measures, improved monitoring, and a comprehensive approach to ensure the safety of pesticides in the food chain. Balancing the necessity of pesticides with potential risks requires continuous evaluation, adaptation, and a commitment to safeguarding public health.

The issue discusses the normalization of unethical practices within Kenya's food systems. It highlights the detrimental effects of government policies, such as the Seed and Plant Varieties Act, which restricts the sharing and selling of uncertified seeds, thereby favoring multinational corporations and undermining indigenous knowledge and seed sovereignty. The article also addresses the vast amount of food waste despite global hunger, the disappearance of local crops due to industrial agriculture, and the proliferation of unhealthy processed foods leading to diet-related diseases.

Silas Nyanchwani paints a stark picture of the unnoticed transformation of Kisii’s agricultural landscape, emphasising the urgent need for sustainable farming practices, climate adaptation, and comprehensive strategies to address the complex challenges faced by the region. Darius Okolla’s piece on food dependency and the symbols of aid reliance among local farmers and pastoralists in west Pokot highlights that self-sufficiency requires coordinated efforts, community engagement, and a shift from aid dependence to sustainable agricultural practices. Dalle Abraham and Hassan Roba opine that it’s time to move beyond stereotypes and embrace a comprehensive understanding of pastoralism for meaningful development in northern Kenya. Pierra Nyaruai notes that there is a pressing need for more comprehensive, inclusive, and effectively implemented policies that can help change the narrative for women as transformation of small-scale entrepreneurial farming will begin with recognising, respecting, and remunerating the invaluable labour of women, and compensating them for their work.

Even in the face of the myriad contradictions and absurdities within our food systems, all is not lost. As consumers, we hold the power to challenge and reshape the status quo, dismantling the rotten core that underlies the seemingly innocuous practices that have become ingrained in our daily lives. By advocating for ethical, sustainable, and mindful choices, we can collectively build a food system that nourishes both our bodies and our conscience, steering away from the normalised absurdities that threaten the very foundation of our culinary existence.

You can now download Cha Kula Issue 7.