Posted on Wed, July 06, 2011 by Slow Food USA
8 Comments | Categories: Biodiversity, Farms and Farming, School Food,
Slow Food members from all parts of the globe are partnering with African communities in order to cultivate more sustainable and healthy regions. Slow Food USA encourages you to get involved, as several chapters in the US already have.
Want to learn more? Here’s what Samuel Muhunyu, one of the people most responsible for getting the program started, had to say about the genesis of the gardens and the impact they’re already having. We’ll continue to tell the story of how Slow Food members are making a difference with this program through our blog. More contact information and web resources at the end of the post.
by Samuel Muhunyu, Convivium leader and international councilor
African delegations to Terra Madre 2004 were shy and reluctant to share or exhibit their food cultures. They were products of a community whose culture (including food culture) was portrayed as inferior by religion and education systems. In the event they saw and heard other food communities proudly talk about their food culture and learned that there is no inferior culture, they are just different. The delegations returned home determined to restore respect for African food culture through promotion of Slow Food.
In the post-Terra Madre event held in Machakos Kenya in 2005 bringing together participants from the East African region, community gardens were identified as immediate entry point for this initiative. Community gardens were not new to Africa since most communities had experience with communal gardening that ensured participation and food for all thereby demonstrating the social strength of Africans in which each of them is “his brother’s keeper”. Several community and school gardens have since been established all over Africa and The Thousand Gardens in Africa program aims at scaling up this successful model.
While each community garden directly benefits 30 to 50 households and school garden 50-80 students, they also benefit hundreds more households through “spill-over” effects. Beneficiaries include young and old men and women living in rural areas and households in peri-urban areas.
Community gardens act as ‘classrooms without walls’ in which food producers learn from each other; learn and educate scientists and sharing between the young and the old. The gardens contribute to household food and nutrition security and surplus products generate income. Community members are able to interact and discuss their aspirations and threats to their livelihoods. It is in these meetings that community members forge alliances to defend their rights, freedoms and biodiversity.
Seed is a common heritage and in these gardens community members are able to multiply, save and share seeds and other planting materials. With support of other collaborators especially NGO’s they are gradually recovering recipes and conducting taste education. Short food chains between the producers and chefs of local restaurants, schools and other food outlets are discussed and developed at garden level.
They are focal points for authenticating efficacy of traditional practices and by involving the youth a number of these practices are being documented. Most gardens are branded with local Slow Food logo thereby giving the movement visibility.
School gardens on the other hand aim at inculcating positive values about food, agriculture and environment in growing youth by providing them with hands-on experience in food production and other livelihood skills. This is in recognition of the fact that the current generation is utilizing land and natural resources on lease from the youth and future generations and that investing in the youth is investing in sustainability and posterity.
Its objectives include preparing the youth for a future as small-scale farmers, conscious of quality in food and respect for biodiversity; to provide them with experiential learning; to demonstrate sustainable organic farming and multiplication of planting materials and small livestock for the community; to supplement school feeding program and to equip youth with leadership skills through interaction with community members in food fairs and environment awareness activities.
Kailer Women Group, Baringo, Kenya
Kailer women group is made up of twenty women aged between 22 and 60 years belonging to minority Ilchamus community in arid Baringo district, Kenya. The Ilchamus are a sub tribe of pastoral Maasai and have little farming experience. The women came together in 2005 to address pressing social and food related problems at a time when their households heavily depended on food aid.
One member, Miriam Lekimariki now aged about 60 years, offered her half acre of land for group activities that included group meetings, demonstration on rain water harvesting and other farming techniques by local NGO. On this garden, members grew local vegetables, cassava, pumpkins, sorghum, millet and a few fruit trees. They also grow herbs and other plants for human and livestock medication and for domestic and farming pests and diseases management. Based on the success of this garden the other group members decided to replicate the model in each household. The members still meet on the 1st garden and commonly they have a local chicken’s project and a donkey cart for drawing water for supplemental irrigation. They are now able to feed their families with limited support from outside. They have regained confidence and dignity for their families and their initiative is now replicated in many other households. The group is member of Slow Food Central Rift convivium and its five members participated as dancers in Terra Madre 2006.
Michinda School Garden, Molo, Kenya
Each year since 2006, Michinda School garden in Molo releases to the world 20 boys properly molded to be responsible food producers or consumers. In the school the boys gain hands on skills in organic soil fertility management and sustainable agriculture. They also rear small livestock that includes rabbits, ducks and local chicken and raise tree seedlings for planting in the school and for sale to neighboring community. Food products from their garden end up in school kitchen. In 2010 the Ministry of Agriculture rated the school 1st nationally among schools with agriculture and environment activities. Among the Slow Food USA members who have visited Kailer and Michinda is Tom Barkin, a Slow Food USA regional governor.
Starting a new garden entails building capacity of beneficiaries in sustainable agriculture and gardens management; providing them with working hand tools and other equipments; providing them with seeds and other planting materials; organizing exchange visits with existing gardens and developing education materials in local language.
I urge the members of Slow Food USA to seriously consider participating in this project as important step towards empowering our people to address the threat on our food sovereignty posed by industrial agriculture, GMOs, Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), land grabbing and agro-fuels.
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