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

VOA Exclusive: Interview With Myanmar President Thein Sein

Thein Sein calls allegations that minority Muslim Rohingya are fleeing alleged torture in Rakhine state a media fabrication More

Video Better Protective Suit Sought for Ebola Caregivers

Current suit is uncomfortable, requires too many steps for removal, increasing chance of deadly contact with virus More

UN Rights Commission Investigates Eritrea

Three-member commission will start collecting first-hand information from victims and other witnesses in Switzerland and Italy next week 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.
Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concernsi
X
November 19, 2014 11:39 PM
The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.
Video

Video What Jon Stewart Learned About Iran From 'Rosewater'

Jon Stewart, host of the satirical news program "The Daily Show" talks with Saman Arbabi of Voice of America's Persian service about Stewart's directorial debut, "Rosewater."
Video

Video Lebanese Winemakers Thrive Despite War Next Door

In some of the most volatile parts of Lebanon, where a constant flow of refugees crosses the border from Syria, one industry continues to flourish against the odds. Lebanese winemakers say after surviving a brutal civil war in the 1970s and 80s, they can survive anything. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.
Video

Video China's Rise Closely Watched

China’s role as APEC host this week allowed a rare opportunity for Beijing to showcase its vision for the global economy and the region. But as China’s stature grows, so have tensions with other countries, including the United States. VOA’s Bill Ide in Beijing reports on how China’s rise as a global power is seen among Chinese and Americans.

All About America

AppleAndroid