News / Africa

Ugandan Promotes ‘Slow Food’ Ideals to Feed Africa

Solomon Walusimbi and his mother harvest a rare variety of leeks in their garden in Mukono, Uganda, July 22, 2014. (Hilary Heuler/VOA)
Solomon Walusimbi and his mother harvest a rare variety of leeks in their garden in Mukono, Uganda, July 22, 2014. (Hilary Heuler/VOA)

Next to a small wooden house in this town just east of Kampala, 10-year-old Solomon Walusimbi plucks pea pods from a lush green tangle of creepers.

"This is my garden,” he says. “I plant so many things, like peas, carrots and maize."

Rows of cabbages wind beneath passion fruit vines, and tiny red eggplants rub shoulders with the spikes of a rare type of leek. If it looks more colorful than an ordinary farm, Solomon says, this is because he understands the importance of diversity. He explains that "if you dig, this one will die and this one will continue growing, and you will continue eating and getting so many things."

Edie Mukiibi, the new vice president of Slow Food International, at a school garden he helped create in Mukono, Uganda, July 22, 2014. (Hilary Heuler/VOA)Edie Mukiibi, the new vice president of Slow Food International, at a school garden he helped create in Mukono, Uganda, July 22, 2014. (Hilary Heuler/VOA)
x
Edie Mukiibi, the new vice president of Slow Food International, at a school garden he helped create in Mukono, Uganda, July 22, 2014. (Hilary Heuler/VOA)
Edie Mukiibi, the new vice president of Slow Food International, at a school garden he helped create in Mukono, Uganda, July 22, 2014. (Hilary Heuler/VOA)

This is a lesson Edie Mukiibi is working hard to spread among his fellow Ugandans.  As the new vice president of Slow Food International, his mission is to create 10,000 gardens like Solomon's throughout Africa – many in schools – instilling in the next generation the movement’s ideals such as biodiversity, food activism and the preservation of local food traditions.

"You find little children of 3 to 15 years having a lot of knowledge about the traditional crops, the local crops, the planting seasons and such kind of things, Mukiibi says. “This is what we are achieving with the gardens. The gardens project is very important to reconnect young people like Solomon back to the land."

Diversity threatened

Seven years ago, as an agronomy student, Mukiibi was taught to encourage farmers to plant hybrid crops that, he found, were ill-equipped to handle Uganda's unpredictable seasons. This is when he realized how important local foods were to food security, he says, and how quickly they were disappearing.

"These are products which are used to the African conditions, apart from being traditional,” he says. “When we had a bad season and farmers predicted a bad season, they had a crop for that season. When they predicted an attack of butterflies and insects, they had a potato variety which was resistant to this pest, and everyone was encouraged to plant that. Today, we have no choice."

Slow Food's gardeners are encouraged to grow traditional crops that are slowly dying out as the continent's food becomes more and more homogenized.

But the movement, promoted in the West by celebrity chefs, is fighting an uphill battle in Africa. Here, says Mukiibi, politicians and scientists tend to focus their efforts on developing high-yield varieties of seeds and encouraging big agribusinesses to invest.

This, he argues, is not the best way to combat hunger.

"Developing more high-yielding seeds, more high-yielding hybrids is not a solution,” he says. “In Africa we have a lot of food, actually, but very little of this food reaches the final consumer. Instead of advocating for increased yields, we should advocate for improved access and distribution of food.”

Preserving traditional foods

In a corner of Solomon's garden grows a bush called agobe. The leaves are healthy and delicious when steamed, says Noel Nanyunja, Solomon's mother. But agobe has practically disappeared from local cuisine, and visiting neighbors are astonished to see it.

"They really ask, 'How did you get this? It is a long time since I took this.' These grandparents are the ones who used to prepare them. We are multiplying those seeds, and then we shall give to others,” Nanyunja says. “Solomon will take them to school and give his friends, so they introduce them in their homes."

She says the people of Mukono are slowly beginning to understand the value of their own vegetables, even those they abandoned years ago.

Countless foods have already been lost, says Mukiibi, but the future of Africa's rich culinary heritage depends on preserving those that are left.

You May Like

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Holly D. from: California, USA
July 25, 2014 11:35 AM
This is very encouraging. Would love to see more of this taking place at home and in schools.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More