Suba people who live along the lakeshore make their living from fishing, while further inland they are agriculturalists known for growing finger millet, sorghum, traditional vegetables and fruits. They also practice various crafts including boat-building, basketry. The Suba have embraced trades like sand-harvesting and stone-quarrying, formal trade and transport.

Trade is historically significant as the communities exchanged vital items which they produced with items from other communities which they lacked. Trade fostered friendship and peace with neighbors. Agricultural products, fish, and livestock products were exchanged by barter. Today trade is facilitated by cash. Tourism has potential but is greatly hampered by poor road network in the region.

Source: and Elimu Asilia workshop in April 2015 at Mbita

Traditional Foods

The Suba community have three meals daily (i.e. breakfast, lunch and supper). Eating in between meals (snacking) is common with foods such as roasted sesame and groundnuts.

Cassava tubers, sweet potatoes and amatoke (green bananas) are boiled and eaten with tea or porridge. They are considered as high energy foods. Infants and babies up to 2 years are breastfed or have supplementary foods such as fresh milk, porridge and soup.

Source: Ruth Adeka and Elimu Asilia Workshop with Suba Elders in April 2015

Suba Traditional Vegetables (Ivwa)

The Suba traditional vegetables were mostly planted or collected from Wild. Wild vegetables were eaten during famine. Whenever vegetables were in plenty, they were preserved by drying and stored for upto 6 months for use during drought season or scarcity. Traditional vegetables include:

  • Amaranth
  • Itere (Mlenda)
  • Isaga (Spider plant)
  • Ikuwi (Cowpea leaves)
  • Isusa (Nightshade)
  • Ibirobiro (sweet potato leaves)
  • Amatugamariwa (cassava leaves)
  • Amatau (pumpkin leaves)

The Suba cook their vegetables in mixtures to make a vegetable sauce that is served with ugali (owuita) and meat. A traditional seasoning (Omunyu gwe ekisari) is added to vegetables as a seasoning or tenderizer.

Source: Workshop with Suba Elders in April 2015 and validated in April 2016



Fishing is one of the main sources of livelihoods in the Islands. Suba men use nets, rods (lopo) and boats (owuato) for fishing. The fish is taken to local markets or other towns and also used for domestic consumption.

Source: Elimu Asilia Workshop with Suba Elders in April 2015

Traditional Ugali (Owuita)

Ugali (Owuita) is prepared from milled finger millet and referred to as owuita owe owulwe, from sorghum (owuita owe amaemba), from dried milled maize (owuita owe ewuduma), and from milled cassava (owuita owe amarimba). The ugali (Owuita) is often eaten with meat, fish, sour milk or vegetable relishes. It is considered a high energy dish and a staple traditional food of the  Abasuba.

Source: Ruth Adeka and Elimu Asilia Workshop with Suba Elders in April 2015

Traditional Food Preservation Methods

Sun drying

This is the use of heat from the sun to dry meat. The meat is washed and cut into pieces, then dried in open air. Internal organs of fish are first removed, discarded then cleaned well to dry. Bigger fish is split into two to dry effectively.


Various types of meat are preserved using smoke from burning firewood. The smoke partially grills the meat and enhances the flavor.  Ekyoto is used by the Suba people to smoke fish which can keep for months

Granary (Ekyagi)

Traditional granary (ekyagi) is used by the Suba people for keeping grains such as finger millet, maize and sorghum for future use. The granary wall is made of woven fibre which is smeared with cow dung to keep pests away and prevent loss of the grain. Earthen pots and calabashes are used for storing seed for the next planting season. The seeds are mixed with wood ash which acts as a preservative.

Source: Elimu Asilia Workshop with Suba Elders in April 2015

Traditional Food Containers

Iyuri (Chicken shelter)

This is a woven traditional shelter for keeping chicks to protect them from predators such as eagles

Pong (Traditional grinding stone)

This is used for grinding cereals like sorghum, millet and dried cassava to flour.

Deru (Traditional tray)

Traditional tray smeared with cow dung for winnowing and drying small amounts of cereals. Cow dung seals the holes which prevents loss of small grain.

Ekitone  (Woven container for storing salt)

Traditional salt (munyu gwe ekisari) is mined at Kaksingri. It is used as a seasoning and tenderizer for various foods such as vegetables, meats.

Ewitamu (Pot)

Pot for keeping beer while drinking using straws Pot with two handles and a lid is used for cooking fish (emvua) such as engege, esewu, embuta etc.


Is a traditional woven plate used for serving ugali

Source: Elimu Asilia Workshop with Suba Elders in April 2015