Circumcision Ceremonies and Harvesting

Posted on August 5, 2010


It’s the beginning of August, which in Kenya means maize harvesting, and–because it’s an even-numbered year–circumcision ceremonies. On almost every drive I take out to the field, I’ll see several groups of adolescent boys, running along the side of the road and singing. Several days before the actual ceremony, boys go to the homes of their relatives and ask them to give money, or an animal, for the party. The evening before, the family has a huge celebration. They slaughter a cow, the whole community shows up, and everyone dances a lot and gets very drunk. The next morning, the boy, who has mud all over his body and a cow’s stomach hung around his neck, is circumcised.

There are conflicting opinions on this ceremony among Kenyans. There is consensus, however, that there a lot more drunk men running around the villages than usual, and that causes problems. Our farmers don’t want to plant beans for the short rains season, because they say drunk men will trample the plants. They’re also worried about their maize getting stolen, because theft goes up around this time. The only person I know who is going to benefit from this ceremony is a farmer named Christine, who plans to sell one of her cows at a healthy profit–cow prices spike at circumcision time.

I don’t have any photos of a circumcision party–yet–but I’m supposed to go to one this weekend. I do have lots of photos from harvest–I’ve been visiting some of my favorite farmers and learning about the entire harvest process, which is quite complicated. After cutting down the maize stalks, they have to dry before you can shuck the maize. Then, the cobs have to dry before you can take the kernels off the cob. Then, the kernels have to dry. It all takes a few weeks.

On Friday, a farmer named Razoa and her group members showed me how to shuck maize from the stalk. Needless to say, they were about five times faster than me.

Here are some photos from harvest, including my shucking attempts (courtesy of Ibrahim, my driver, who I am teaching how to use a camera):

And here are some photos from Sipi Falls, Uganda, a beautiful spot on the flanks of Mt. Elgon, where I went for the weekend recently to do some hiking:

Posted in: One Acre Fund