An Embu woman digging yams

An Embu woman digging yams


The Embu only started eating sweet potatoes (yams) after a devastating famine called Kibatau, in which the Meru - who had been first affected - had taken nearly all of the Embu's food. The famine also forced the Embu to eat small roots called mirikothe. These root tubers generally survive dry periods much better than crops grown above ground, and yams are now a common feature of the daily diet.

Credit: photo copyright © Cynthia Salvadori (PO Box 45273 Nairobi, Kenya), and reproduced by kind permission. Originally published in the excellent "Peoples and Cultures of Kenya" by Andrew Fedders and Cynthia Salvadori (Transafrica, 1979; reprinted by Prestige Book-Sellers & Stationers, fax 00254 2 246 796). Cynthia's other books include Through Open Doors: A View of Asian Cultures in Kenya (Kenway Publications); the boxed three-volume We Came in Dhows, Stories of the Indian Pioneers in Kenya (Paperchase, Nairobi 1997); and Two Indian Travellers, East Africa 1902-1905, published by Friends of Fort Jesus, Mombasa 1998. She is also the translator and editor of Paul Tablino's Gabra, camel nomads of Northern Kenya (Paulines Publications, Nairobi 1999).

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