Njahi, Lablab bean
Njahe, also known as lablab, is a very important local crop for the Gikuyu people in the central part of Kenya. Njahe is a small black bean with a small white spot that has a particular significance for the Gikuyu as it is associated with fertility and the female reproductive system. It is said that at one time it was used in a ceremony for the cure of excessive menstrual bleeding, and today pregnant women eat dishes based on this bean especially after giving birth. At one time the beans were also used as a means of divination, and it is not by chance that the name derives from the name of a mountain, Mount Kenya (Kīrī Nyaga in the Gikuyu language), considered the dwelling place of God in the indigenous religion of this community.
It is women who cultivate and sell njahe, so the beans constitute a fundamental part of their diet. The beans are cooked and consumed in various ceremonies and events in the social life of the community. During matrimonial negotiations, njahe cia athoni (a dish traditionally prepared with bananas and njahe) is served. Prior to infibulation (female circumcision), girls were served njahe and ngima ya ogembe, a kind of porridge made from millet meal, water, and oil.
The conservation of this crop in the areas around Nairobi is under serious risk due to the expropriation of agricultural lands and the abandonment of local varieties and practices in favor of the cultivation practices of the colonizers.Back to the archive >