When we first set out to create one thousand food gardens here in Africa, we never imagined the success we would achieve in such a short space of time. It seems we underestimated peoples’ enthusiasm and determination! Over the past few years, through the unstoppable efforts and support of local communities, schools and families, in both rural and urban areas, Slow Food’s Gardens in Africa project has gone from strength to strength: Since 2010, more than one thousand sustainably farmed food gardens have been created in 26 African countries. This momentum must continue…
Last month, I found myself in Milan, along with friends and colleagues from across the Slow Food network. We had gathered to officially relaunch the project and announce a new target: 10,000 food gardens.
This expanded initiative is supporting the ongoing efforts by my fellow Africans to promote small scale and family farming that best suits our complex environment. This is at a time when industry-backed monocultures are still being developed; pushing the limits of our soils, climate and natural resources. Slowly but surely however, our growing network is fighting back. For example, in Somalia, after more than 20 years of civil war, a diversity of food crops are now being recovered thanks to the small, diverse gardens established and managed by the Merka Convivium. In other countries such as Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda, school gardens are providing young people with essential knowledge about local crop varieties, seeds and growing seasons; healing a knowledge gap that previously seemed irreversible.
It was with great honor that I took to the stage in Milan, alongside the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization Director José Graziano da Silva and Slow Food Founder Carlo Petrini, to announce our plans for the next phase of the gardens project. The event was also my first official appointment in my new role as Slow Food Vice President – a position that will enable me to support the commitment of thousands of African communities, leaders and activists on an international stage, and encourage and strengthen this current wave of change. In the past few years, we have done much more than simply create gardens: We have created an important network that is growing and working to change Africa, to offer our children a future of peace and justice, and to guarantee everyone access to good, clean and fair food.
This is the moment for Africa to show the rest of the world that we value our rich biodiversity, our land, our culture, our traditions and our natural resources. For us, they represent the future. I am aware that this new target calls for more energy and time from community members, greater knowledge sharing among leaders and increased commitment from the entire Slow Food network in Africa – but together, I know we can do it!