From March 28 to April 6, Slow Food president Carlo Petrini traveled across Kenya and Uganda to visit local projects of the Slow Food and Terra Madre network: community and school gardens, Presidia, food communities and some of the many convivia bringing the network to life in this part of East Africa. Along the way he was able to give lectures at universities and conferences and meet with the press.
This series of journal entries by Carlo Bogliotti and Franceso Impallomeni, who accompanied Petrini, reveal some of the local initiatives and warm welcomes they encountered along the way. As Slow Food prepares for its sixth International Congress (Turin, October 25-29), which will bring together representatives from 150 countries and focus on “the right to food”, they offer an insight into our activities in East Africa.
Click here to read the first installment.
March 30 – From Nairobi to Nakuru
The hectic metropolis of Nairobi is left behind as Petrini and his group head into the rural areas they will spend most of the trip visiting. Traveling towards Nakuru, they stop two-hours down the road in Gilgil to visit the Fiwagoh school garden. This orphanage is run by the Seventh-day Adventist Church and offers a home and education to around 200 children, with a particular emphasis on teaching agricultural skills through an onsite school farm. Despite its location in the dry area around the Elementeita salt lake, the school has a good rainwater collection system for irrigation that allows students and teachers to cultivate many crops. The fresh produce is used in the school kitchen, while any surplus is donated to neighboring communities. Unexpectedly, an Australian volunteer visiting the mission - who is aware of Petrini’s visit - invites the kids to practice a sensory education activity from the Slow Food kit To the Origins of Taste. A small sign of how our expanding global network collaborates and shares knowledge.
After a quick lunch offered by the community, the group leaves for Egerton University in Njoro. Petrini speaks to around 300 students of agricultural sciences, food sciences and tourism who respond enthusiastically with a long series of thoughtful questions, displaying their enthusiasm for the important roles they will play in the future local food system. The desire too see Egerton University collaborate with the University of Gastronomic Sciences is shared by Petrini, the Chancellor of the Kenyan university and the Dean of the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences. That evening the group finally arrives in Nakaru, full of visions of the beautiful landscapes cross during the day, including a spectacular view of the Rift Valley.
March 31 – From Nakuru to Elburgon
The next morning the group sets out early for Lare where a Presidium has been established to protect the cultivation of a local pumpkin. Lare lies near the Mau Forest, the largest mountain forest in East Africa, in a region that has suffered greatly from changes in rainfall patterns in recent years, with heavy repercussions for food security. Adapted to semi-dry conditions, the Lare pumpkin is one of the crops that can be relied upon to continue giving high yields during these times, yet it is threatened by commercial varieties. The community welcomes Petrini warmly with a gathering at two homes and introduces him to the local agriculture and food biodiversity by taking a stroll through the nearby fields. The Lare pumpkin production-chain is also explained during the visit - from the selection of seeds, to the milling of grated and dried pumpkins to obtain tasty flour. A group of the Presidium women serve an unforgettable lunch of traditional dishes at their Slow Food Hotel – a small, humble locale that is playing an important role in the Presidium project.
The group departs in the afternoon rain to travel onto Michinda Primary School in the Elburgon hills, to visit another exemplary school garden project. Launched in 2005 thanks to the initiative of Samuel Muhunyu, Kenyan delegate at Terra Madre 2004 and now the soul of the movement in Kenya, the Michinda garden was one of the first to be supported by Slow Food. Around 50 children, of the school’s 400 pupils, participate voluntarily in the project which won a national award for best school garden.
The visit is another opportunity to celebrate, with students performing songs, dances, and poems, presenting the sustainable farming techniques they have learnt and offering tastings of their produce in local dishes. Before planting a tree at the school, Petrini checks the growth of trees planted in 2007 by students from the University of Gastronomic Sciences during a study trip. That evening, driving back to Nakuru, the group reflects on the great success of Michinda as an example for the Thousand Gardens in Africa project.
The journey continues! Stay tuned for Part 3 next week…