Kikuyu - Economy

The Kikuyu were originally hunter-gatherers, but they gradually adopted horticultural practices. The first crops grown by the Kikuyu were cocoyams, sweet potatoes, bananas, and millet. The cultivation of crops was traditionally segregated by gender. Men cultivated yams and bananas, whereas women grew sweet potatoes and millet. Women also gathered a variety of wild spinachlike greens, tubers, such as arrowroot (taro), and berries. Sugarcane was grown and honey collected from hives in the forest for the production of beer. Maize was introduced early in the nineteenth century and has become a major staple crop. When it is used for domestic consumption, it is usually grown by women, but when it is sold as a commodity, it is more often grown by men.

Many foods have been added to the traditional crops of the Kikuyu. European potatoes, cassava, and rice have been added to the cultivated crops, as well as legumes, which include dwarf beans, cowpeas, pigeon peas, kidney beans, lentils, and garden peas. Today Kikuyu also grow cabbage, tomatoes, onions, carrots, kale, and swiss chard. They season their foods with salt, chili peppers, or curry. A great variety of fruits is grown in the area. In addition to bananas, these include passion fruits, mangoes, papayas, loquats, plums, pineapples, oranges, and avocado pears. Women and children especially enjoy fruits, which they sell in local markets.

Although Kikuyu were formerly hunters, Kenyan game laws prohibit them from hunting today. Meat of wild game (antelope, impalas, bushbucks) and from herd animals (goats, sheep, and African cattle) was the prerogative of men. Pork and fish were prohibited, and game birds and other fowl were eaten only occasionally; eggs were not a part of the diet. Women rarely ate meat and then only when it was handed to them by their husbands. Today meat is served only on special occasions—to celebrate a ceremony, such as Irua (circumcision), or to welcome an important visitor. Cash crops, such as tea, coffee, and rice, were not grown until the 1940s, and, in some areas of Kenya, much later, but they have become an important part of the economy.

Also read article about Kikuyu from Wikipedia

User Contributions:

Wanjiku Wambura
Being a Gikuyu, I think this article is generally informative but I would like to point out two things that seem inaccurate to me.

The first is in your second paragraph where you say that ``They season their foods with salt, chili peppers, or curry''. I think the majority of the Gikuyu will shy away from hot chilli and curries in their diet. Whereas I do admit that a few do enjoy some hot peppers, the Gikuyus in general do not like hot spices but will use mild spices available in the local supermarkets in the form of what is called 'chilli cubes' or 'Roiko'. These in fact have little or no hot pepper or curry in them. They consist of a variety of mild mixed spices including coriander, turmeric, garlic, etc.

The second point is about meat. I think it is inaccurate to say that it is only eaten on special occasions. I think what you meant to say is that slaughtering of a goat/sheep is only done on special occasions. I think Gikuyus from all walks of life will have some meat in their daily diet albeit quantity and frequency will depend on economic power.
maina wa gathoni
i love being a kikuyu in kenyatta university. everything in kikuyu culture is just good.
muriuki maina; karatina university
Fast l recorgnise the work done to try on the NYUMBA YA MUMBI ,history on culture retrival.One of the main issue to say a word was a point where by, l disagree saying kikuyu uses peppers to seasoning ;l suport Wanjiku Wambura on her decision that it was only recentry with coming of the westernised foods that it is used. cattles sheep and goats OCCASINARY SLAUGHTERED in the past but ,TODAY it has almost becomes daily meal, and thus does not mean meat only taken on occasions only.
julia mungai
Am in love with this great Kikuyu culture.proudly Kikuyu.

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: