Cash-strapped Kenyans get nutritious relief from matumbo

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“Matumbo ni nyama.”

It’s a street proverb that compares matumbo (offal) to meat.

Matumbo, it seems, offers the millions of poor Kenyans who cannot afford to buy high-priced beef or goat meat a false sense of gentrification.

No one knows this better than Hannah Atieno, who has been selling matumbo since 1994 at Shauri Moyo market (Burma), Nairobi.

Matumbo flew away from the pans.

“People love matumbo because it is cheap compared to meat,” says Atieno, noting that this popularity has since attracted many people to the offal trade.

Official price data for 16 consumer items shows that the price of the matumbo rose the highest at 61% with one kilogram retailed at an average of Sh260 last year compared to Sh161 in 2011.

The price of meat, according to clinical nutritionist Henry Ng’ethe, has generally increased.

Data from Kenya’s National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) showed the price of bone-in beef registered the second highest increase, with one kilogram averaging Sh436.7 last year, a jump of 53% compared to 285 Sh a decade. earlier.

The increase in the price of meat is both an indicator of growing demand as people’s disposable incomes increase and their appetite for delicacies increases.

“Matumbo is the only ‘meat’ people can afford, they are economically stressed.

“Even if you have Sh500, you don’t have unga or whatever, you’ll still eat matumbo because it’s cheaper,” Ng’ethe explains.

However, he says this also reflects the drop in supply, as the farmland on which people used to raise cattle shrank due to the subdivision.

“People have really subdivided their ancestral lands, which means it is very difficult to keep a lot of animals.”

Around towns, farmland paved the way for real estate, and the little that was left was mainly used for dairy production.

There is also the problem of the drought which has cut off the water and the feeding of the livestock. In addition, many young people do not embrace farming and want white collar jobs.

“The population is increasing, animal husbandry is decreasing and county governments have done little to support agriculture,” says Ng’ethe.

Although agriculture grew 4.8% last year and was the mainstay of an economy ravaged by the Covid-19 pandemic, its contribution to the national cake rose from 34% to 21% after the examination of the size of the economy. this month.

The service industry in urban areas has grown at the expense of agriculture, which means that the country’s food security is threatened.

More than two million people in 13 counties face famine as drought ravages northern regions. Cattle are dying from lack of water and pasture.

But matumbo may be popular with the poor as a cheap version of beef, but even those who can afford red meat avoid it for health reasons.

Atieno says she has a lot of clients who don’t eat meat due to lifestyle-related illnesses such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

Ng’ethe agrees, noting that the popularity of matumbo has increased as people have become more nutrition conscious.

“Matumbo is also nutritious. Remember, this is where most of the nutrients are absorbed, in the gastrointestinal tract, ”he says, adding that the digestive system which includes the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine and anus is also rich in protein.

“Matumbo is very thin, he doesn’t have a lot of fat. The worst part about some other meats is that you will get a lot of cholesterol, more so if it is fatty.

But people also prefer matumbo for its taste “especially if it is very well cooked”.

If it is not well done, it can be a stop.

When Atieno started his business in 1994, a kilo of matumbo was selling for 40 Sh.

“At that time, there weren’t a lot of people selling matumbo. Those who were selling were around 10.

But today, she estimates that there are more than 3,000 people selling matumbo in the Burmese market alone.

“There are no jobs. Those who finish school come to do this work. It’s the young girls and boys who do it, ”she says.

Cutthroat competition means that traders have to do with lower margins.

Atieno says they get between Sh10 and Sh20 per kilo after buying it from Sh180. “You have to sell a lot to have a good return. ”

Last year they bought a kilo at Sh150 and sold it at Sh170.

But the matumbo market can be volatile. For example, a few weeks ago there were so many matumbo and many went wrong.

However, there has been a shortage in recent weeks. “There are clients who haven’t had one for two days.

She says that when the matumbo arrives at the market at 6 a.m., much of it is taken by hotels which buy 30 to 50 kilos.

“At 8 am, a lot of people (salespeople) have finished working, they just want to go home,” Atieno explains.

But there are days when you can get matumbo in the evening.

In Burma’s many market restaurants, one of the most popular dishes is matumbo, which tends to go with many “saucers,” an extra slice of ugali that customers get for free.

As the economy has grown, incomes have increased and the number of middle class families has increased.

Moreover, tastes and preferences have also changed, with many people preferring white meat mainly for health reasons.

A study carried out in April 2019 by the Kenya Markets Trust Society (KMTS) showed that chicken is the most consumed meat among the high income and middle class.

“A study on the end-market trends for meat in Kenya,” explained that the popularity of chicken among these income groups is due to their increasing sensitivity to health as well as safety.

Meat consumers are also concerned about the authenticity of the products, with some fearing red meat for the possibility of eating wild animals.

Quality, safety and household size reduction are other factors that increase chicken consumption.

With volumes of studies showing a correlation between red meat and lifestyle diseases such as cancer and obesity, many people have ditched beef, goat meat and other red meats for chicken. and fish.

Other items whose prices have risen the most rapidly, according to the Economic Survey 2021, include English potatoes which increased by 41% to sell for an average of Sh 67 per kilo from Sh 47 in 2011.

Last year’s price, however, was a reduction from Sh71 in 2019.

The price of the Sukuma Wiki increased 35% to retail at Sh 49 per kilo from Sh 36.

A kilogram of maize grain, the country’s staple food, retailed at 49 shillings, after increasing by 38 shillings in 2011.

The changes in consumer spending have had far-reaching ramifications for the economy, as there are early signs that spending is already down, with some items seen as out of reach.

The entrepreneurs were quick to seize the opportunity as they invested most of their money in food production.

Between 2009 and 2018, food manufacturing recorded the fastest job creation with 68%, according to the statistical summary for 2018.

Low-income households spend almost half of their income on food and non-alcoholic beverages, meaning that food price increases hit them hardest.

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