Accepted paper:

Introduced species and commodified diets. The case of fish and fishing in Lake Naivasha, Kenya

Authors:

Gabriele Volpato (University of Gastronomic Sciences)

Paper short abstract:

Introduced species and livelihood commodification are transfiguring African landscapes and foodscapes. The consumption of introduced carp, tilapia, and catfish by internal migrants settling around Lake Naivasha (Kenya) in search of employment is exemplary of this change.

Paper long abstract:

In the last twenty years, the population of the Lake Naivasha basin (Kenya) has swollen following waves of internal migration that brought together tens of thousands of people from different ethnic backgrounds, who settled as market-oriented small farmers or employed in the floricultural industry around the lake. In the new context, these migrants are forced into a commodified diet rather composed of the cheapest staples available in local markets (i.e. cabbage, potatoes, maize). Animal proteins largely come from fish sourced in the lake, mostly common carp, tilapia, and catfish. The three species have been introduced in the lake in the last fifty years, catfish as late as few years ago. The process of fish inclusion into migrants' diet has been influenced, among other factors, by culture and knowledge, with those migrants already familiar with fish and fishing (e.g. the Luo from Lake Victoria) driving demand for fish and teaching fellow workers and neighbors how to cook and appreciate it. At the same time, they had also to adapt their fish consumption and preferences to the species introduced in the new environment, and as well had to change the way of cooking, which shifted (due to lack of firewood) from smoking to deep-frying. While becoming increasingly reliant on capitalist relations for their livelihoods, migrants to Lake Naivasha are also unwittingly adopting a commodified diet based on invasive species which are themselves, like capitalist relations, transfiguring African landscapes and foodscapes.

panel P014
Unsteady food in a migrant Africa [Anthropology of Economy Network]