Nzoia River Reed Salt Kenya
In areas of western Kenya historically cut off from the main salt routes, local communities have developed a distinctive method for extracting salt from an aquatic plant. It is thought that the origins of this practice date back to the 17th century with migrations of Bukusu community from the Congo to the east coast, and have been handed down over the generation since then. The production of reed salt is now very limited due to the demanding, time-consuming process and it has been rapidly replaced by the more convenient imported marine salt brought with British colonization. In addition, large-scale deforestation has caused river levels to drop, with a consequent reduction in marshy areas growing the reeds used to produce salt.
Now only the Bukusu community in the village of Nabuyole in Webuye district, continues to produce salt using the traditional method.
The muchua plant, a type of thin reed, grows in the waters of the River Nzoia in the dry season from September to March. It reaches a height of about two meters and is ready for harvesting when its flowers wilt and the highest leaves are almost dried out Before this the salt concentration is too low.
Bunches of reeds are arranged on stones by the river and allowed to dry, then burned on a slow fire (for as long as two or three days). The residual ash is mixed with hot water, filtered and boiled in a large pan on a fire. When the liquid has completely evaporated, a pure salty mixture is left on the bottom. It is collected, packed into banana leaves and dried under hot ashes overnight. Pepper is sometimes added, giving a spicy flavor to the salt.
The Presidium was created in 2009 following a study on traditional products carried out in collaboration with the University of Gastronomic Sciences. The Presidium aims to help the community to improve the quality of the salt by providing processing equipment, as well as supporting promotional and commercialization activities. The thirty producers, who belong to the Nabuyole self-help group, are preparing production rules.
The Presidium is also working on a project to reforest the area in order to recreate marshy areas where the reed can grow.
Naboyole, Webuye district, Western Province
Presidium supported by
30 producers belonging to the Nabuyole self-help group
Peter Wasike Namianya
tel. +254 711219873