A full week of teaching, learning, and growing came to an end on Saturday, December 7th, as we wrapped up “Shaping the Future of Food in Africa”. This was more than just an advocacy and capacity-building workshop; it was a moment of intercultural bridge-building that united delegates from seven African countries around one goal: good, clean and fair food for Africa.
Accomplishments of the week
Over the past week Slow Food and Hivos have provided the delegates with the necessary tools for continuing advocacy work in their own countries. Though teachers play a great role in enabling students and giving them confidence to plan and execute future actions, the outcomes are dependent on the students themselves. And through sheer determination, motivation, strength and will, the young delegates from Kenya, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Malawi, Zambia and South Africa defied the long hours of work, difficult tasks and intense content and devoted themselves to the work of the week.
Besides creating an African platform for indigenous and non-indigenous youth leaders committed to advocating for inclusive and sustainable food systems, the delegates from each country created specific national action plans. These youth presented their plans during the afternoon of December 7th, when members of the public and interested organizations were also present. Dr. Arnold Opiyd, Associate Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture at Egerton University, Kenya, reminded everyone: “Kenya is good at planning, but we need to implement what we plan. So let’s implement!”
Traditional dances, traditional food, traditional knowledge
The focus of the festival on Saturday was not limited to the presentation of the delegates’ action plans: it covered the idea of sustainable ecosystem management as a tool to create opportunities for youth and their communities, and how we can all advocate in order to achieve this goal. Additionally, the importance of indigenous knowledge for community well-being was highlighted alongside the unique challenges that indigenous communities are presently facing.
The festival and exhibition celebrated indigenous African foods, cultures, heritage and biodiversity. Throughout the event, Slow Food communities and stakeholders from Kenya and other African countries showcased their good, clean and fair product, including three Slow Food Presidia: Ogiek Honey, Mau Forest Dried Nettles, and the Red Maasai Sheep.
The Maasai people brought a lot of color to the event with their unique jewelry and their traditional prayer songs which broke up the program. The Ogiek people also contributed to a harmonious event atmosphere with their beautiful singing, and the Endorois people kept the energy high with their powerful dances. The Maasai also brought one of their precious Red Maasai Sheep as a gift; this rare delicacy was eaten together communally by the delegates in another valuable moment of intercultural exchange.
Forming bonds for the future
Networking and exchanging and enhancing the knowledge of all the participants was at the core of “Shaping the Future of Food in Africa”. New bonds were formed here which Slow Food and Hivos will continue to nurture going forward, to maximize the impact of this event on the African food system. To emphasize the importance of networking over long distance, Valentina Gritti, coordinator of Slow Food Youth Network, closed the proceedings with a physical demonstration. She asked everyone to gather in a circle, and wrapped a long twine from a ball of wool around the arms of the delegates. She then cut these wraps into individual bracelets made from the same twine, so everyone could take home a reminder of the things they had learned here, the people they had met and the commitments they had made for the future. Most importantly, it reminds us all that we’re not alone in our struggle to change the food system in our local contexts: we’re fighting the same battle, no matter the geographical distances between our communities, all brought together by food.
by Anna Messerschmidt