• Traditional food diets: of Zambia’s ‘matebeto’ and the Ugandan ‘Orugali’ concepts

By Kanyiginya Violet

Lusaka, Zambia


The Matebeto meal that can serve 2 people. Its being promoted to improve and preserve traditional food diets

The Mouth-watering aromas of steaming organic foods pervaded the street environs. The animated voices of the vendors rhymed well with the bustling of the intermittent activities of the night life in Lusaka. Such was the setting as the KRC Food Lab Team joined colleagues to acquaint themselves with street vending in Zambia

The team recently went on a study visit to Zambia to have exposure regarding diets, value addition and the general food system of Zambia.

The KRC team which had hitherto had different interfaces and interacted with street vendors in Fort Portal, utilized different fora to explore the diets and value addition practices in Zambia, including conversations with food vendors, markets, small and medium enterprises, Government bodies and academia. The project is being implemented with financial support from Hivos(A Netherlands Based Development organisation that has worked with KRC for over 17 years)

During the interactions, the team discovered that Zambia’s main food diet was maize. The crop was introduced even before the advent of colonialism in Africa. And when the British came, they promoted it at the expense of other indigenous crops like millet, sorghum and cassava. Most Zambians today consider maize (Nshima) as the main meal and thus other food types have been severely marginalised.

This concentration on one food type has affected the nutrition of Zambians with high incidences of malnutrition and obesity. However, during the learning journeys, the team came across the Matebeto concept. This is a traditional idea where in the past when a woman was going to get married, she would take along all the food diversities eaten in her area and present them to her inlaws in her ‘new home’. Apparently some street restaurants have picked up the idea of having these food diversities on their menu particularly the different vegetables.

A similar scenario has been taking place in Tooro where new eating habits have taken over the traditional Food systems. Most people, mainly the youth have taken up to eating sausages, chips and other similar junk foods and negating the traditional local foods. However with the introduction of ‘Orugali’ initiative, under the KRC Food Lab Project, the local traditional foods are being promoted

The visit to Zambia was therefore to benchmark on how to effectively support the Orugali Members under the Food Lab to promote the traditional Food Diets in Tooro. Similar to the Tooro ‘Orugali’ tradition, Matebeto conceptualises the food diversity.Like the Orugali, the Matebeto encourages Zambians to promote traditional food diets.

The orugali group have a monthly activity of preparing traditional foods in their homes where they invite each other plus the neighbours to sit and share a traditional meal. This is intended to raise a critical mass for the promotion of traditional food diets and preserve them from extinction

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Kabarole Research & Resource Centre

Plot 28 Mugurusi Rd., Fort-Portal.
P.O.Box 782
Kampala Uganda
Telephone: +256-039-274-438
Email: krcuganda@krcug.org