In West Tanzania, kiasili (‘natural’ or ‘original’ in Kiswahili) foods and healing practices have emerged in reaction to new foodways and the diseases they are felt to cause. New foods, too rich in sugar, imported refined palm oil and agrochemicals are causing a surge in ‘new diseases’ such as diabetes and sexual impotency. Foods that are considered ‘natural’, such as honey and ‘indigenous’ chicken are now commanding higher prices, and Herbal Health clinics and the food conscious 7th Day Adventists churches have gained popularity. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork among beekeepers, farmers and herbal healers, this project investigates the contested meaning of the ‘natural’ within the context of changing foodscapes and access to forests in West Tanzania. It asks, 1) against what background is the changing foodscape understood as unnatural, 2) what moves the preoccupation with unhealthy foods and new diseases? 3) how does the kiasili discourse differ from older perspective on the natural and its role in healing and sustaining well-being?
The project is funded by the Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO).