A Thousand Gardens at the White House

Slow Food’s project, “A Thousand Gardens in Africa”, was presented to American First Lady Michelle Obama last week by Edward Mukiibi, Slow Food Mukumo Convivium leader and coordinator of the project in Uganda. Mukiibi was in Washington for the launch of State of the World 2011, the Worldwatch Institute’s report to which Slow Food contributed a chapter proposing safeguarding food biodiversity in Africa as a key for food sovereignty. After shaking the First Lady’s hand, Mukiibi told her about the project and the work being done with school gardens to educate communities about sustainable agriculture.

The project, which was launched at the Terra Madre world meeting last October, aims to give youth a vision of the future in which agriculture and nature are truly valued and respected, through creating school gardens in which they can grow local varieties of fruit and vegetables using traditional methods that respect the environment. It also seeks to persuade present and future decision makers to design better food policies in which self-reliance for communities, rather than dependence on imports, is key. In the gardens, students learn about native plant varieties and how to choose good, clean and fair foods. Produce from the garden is used in school canteens, and the surplus is sold at the market to help support the project.

“In Uganda, where low incomes in agriculture force many young people to migrate to the city, it is fundamental that children learn the importance of knowing how to cultivate the land using correct techniques,” said Mukiibi, who was also a delegate for the Youth Food Movement at Terra Madre 2010.

“School nutrition programs shouldn’t simply feed children. We must also inspire and teach them to become the farmers of the future and revitalize the vegetables and traditions of our culture. Ensuring that the next generation of farmers is well versed in local biodiversity and sustainable growing practices is a huge step toward improving food security.”

Since its launch, the project has already involved more than 600 children and their communities, encouraging them to take an active role in the advancing their food sovereignty. The quality of the children’s diets has improved through consumption of produce grown, and many have begun to set up additional gardens in their own homes and communities to encourage others to grow local food.

For more information on A Thousand Gardens in Africa or to support the project:

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