Food for thought & local tourism support
In the last issue, we saw that responsible tourism is about “making better places for people to live in and better places for people to visit.” Here we’re going to look at something that can help accomplish both aims at once: buying local. The focus of this article is food, but the same logic applies across the board, to handicrafts and souvenirs, to day trips and longer
excursions. But before whetting your appetite with some Swahili delicacies, let’s take a quick look at why buying and eating local is so important to destination economies. Short and
simple supply chains that narrow the gap between farm and fork assist in retaining more money in the local economy and generally result in better incomes for farmers who have more control over prices.
Whilst this is important in developed countries, it is even more important in developing parts of the world where many more people depend on incomes from agriculture to support their families. Integrating local farmers and ﬁshermen, along with other small businesses, into tourism supply chains is increasingly seen as a way to combat poverty and enhance inclusive
economic growth at the destination level. Money spent at local independent shops and restaurants is likely to be recirculated in the local economy in support of other local businesses, thus multiplying its eﬀect and at the same time having a positive impact on local job creation. And the great thing is, supporting local independent shops and restaurants is a win-win situation. Indeed, savoring local ﬂavours and trying new delicacies is the best way to gain a culinary sense of place. And now to whet your appetites: the Kenyan coast is the home of Swahili cuisine which has Indian, Arabic and African inﬂuences.
Specialties include mild curries and vegetable dishes laced with coconut, sweet treats such as mahamri (a donut-like pastry made with coconut milk and cardamom), and plenty of street food snacks such as samosas and bhajia (thinly sliced potatoes
dipped in a spicy batter before being deep-fried). And of course, there’s plenty of freshly caught ﬁsh from the Indian Ocean
Most hotels include ﬁsh on their menus, but don’t be afraid to ask where it came from and whether by choosing it you are supporting the local ﬁshing community. If staying somewhere with a kitchen, why not ﬁnd out when and where the local ﬁshermen land their daily catch? The ﬁshermen will nearly always gut and clean the ﬁsh for you, so you just need to cook it
and enjoy. Deciding to have several meals away from the hotel in small locally-owned restaurants is also a great thing to add to your holiday plans.
Money spent at local independent shops and restaurants is likely to be recirculated in the local economy in support of other local businesses.
This can sometimes be a daunting experience if concerned about language and/or hygiene standards, but it is generally a great experience and something that will give you an insight into local tastes and indeed local life. For those who enjoy a BBQ back home, why not also check out one of Kenya’s favourite foods – Nyama Choma (grilled meat) – with beef, chicken, and goat often on the menu. If staying in self-catering accommodation, or just looking for some healthy snacks, checking out the local fruit and veg market is a fun and colourful thing to do. Again, this can be a bit daunting, especially if used to shopping at supermarkets back home but go with an open mind and an idea of what’s currently in season, and you’re sure to come away with some fresh and tasty bargains! If unsure about prices, ask a few diﬀerent vendors before deciding who to buy from.
Even if you’re not usually very adventurous when it comes to food, ﬁnding popular local eateries and markets is often an adventure in itself.