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

Amnesty: EU Failing Migrants, Refugees

Rights group says migrants, refugees subject to detention, extortion, beatings More

From South Africa to Vietnam, Cyclists Deliver Message Against Rhino Horns

Appalled by poaching they saw firsthand, sisters embark on tour to raise awareness in countries where rhino horn products are in demand More

Uber Wants Johannesburg Police Protection

Request follows recent protests outside ride-hailing service's Johannesburg office 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.
Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deali
X
July 07, 2015 12:02 PM
If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deal

If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.

VOA Blogs