One thousand gardens are blooming across Africa, where the international organization Slow Food is helping schools, villages, and other communities grow fruits, vegetables, and herbs using sustainable water management, pest repellent, and fertilizing techniques. The project also aims to protect varieties of indigenous crops that would otherwise fall victim to the monoculture practices of large farms.
"A vegetable garden means healthy, local food for the community, the passing-on of knowledge from the old to the young, and a reinforced spirit of collaboration," Slow Food writes in its manifesto about the "A Thousand Gardens in Africa" project, which is being organized under the auspices of its Terra Madre network of food communities.
Composting And Water Conservation
The program builds on agricultural and educational projects already underway, including school gardens in Kenya, Uganda and Ivory Coast, where "vegetable plots are farmed sustainably, using composting techniques, natural treatments for pests, rational water use, local plant varieties and by inter-cropping fruit trees, vegetables, and medicinal herbs":
In Uganda, most of the food that makes up the daily diet is imported. The country's soil is rapidly losing fertility, local varieties are disappearing, young people are abandoning the countryside and contempt for farming work is widespread (schoolchildren are often sent to work in the fields as punishment for bad behavior).
In this context, a project was launched in 17 schools, with a total of 620 students, to improve young people's relationship with agriculture and help ensure food security for local communities. Through experience in the garden and classroom lessons, the students learn how to recognize and cultivate local fruits and vegetables, which are then cooked for school meals. Any surplus is sold at markets to support the project.
Return To Traditional Agricultural Practices
The gardens offer African communities -- from Egypt to South Africa -- a helping hand in returning to traditional agricultural practices that can allow them to feed themselves with a diverse set of native plant varieties, exchanging seeds with neighbors, rather than growing large-scale crops for export at the expense of their own malnourishment.
In addition to providing education, the project supplies crucial materials such as seeds, hoes, rakes, composting boxes, and helps farmers create regional networks in which they can exchange knowledge of best practices. Scholarships have enabled some young people from Africa to study at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy and then return home to help their communities strengthen their economies and protect their cultural identities.
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