Ngwacì Ya Muibaì
Muibaì is a sweet potato variety traditionally cultivated by the Gikuyu community of Kenya during the pre-Colonial and Colonial era (until the first half of the 20th century). They were mainly cultivated in designated reserves for workers in Colonial masters’ farms located in parts of modern-day Kiambu, Nyeri, Nyandarua, Murang’a and Embu counties. The characteristics of this sweet potato include its white color, low sugar content and long and straight shape.
Ngwacì ya muibaì was normally cultivated during the long rainy season or mbura ya njahi (corresponding to March and April) and the short rainy season or mbura mwere (in August and September). The harvesting took place in July and December respectively. Traditionally, this sweet potato would be prepared by boiling it and serving ot in the morning accompanied by sugarless tea. Ngwacì ya muibaì was mostly consumed during the traditional Agikuyu rite of passage of circumcision. It was believed that the tuber provided strength and intelligence to the young initiates.
Today, this sweet potato variety is mainly cultivated by elderly farmers for personal or family use, and it is not commonly found on the market. Its risk of extinction is linked to it being replaced by higher yielding hybrid varieties and a lack of knowledge about this particular variety, as well as a low available of seed potatoes. The younger generations are much less interested in cultivating indigenous crops, and changes in the eating habits of the Agikuyu community means that more people are consuming processed, modern foods as opposed to traditional foods, meaning that this variety may be lost from the local gastronomy and biodiversity.