Creating good, clean and fair vegetable gardens in African schools and communities: back in 2010, this was the main objective with which Slow Food launched the Gardens in Africa project in Turin during the Terra Madre Salone del Gusto, to raise awareness among the younger generations about the importance of food biodiversity and access to local and fresh food.
Alberto López de Ipiña, International Councilor for Spain, has always had this in mind, in the many years of volunteer work and passion dedicated to Slow Food.
When he left us last June, friends and colleagues decided to donate a generous sum of money to his wife Maite so that she could continue to bring to life all that Alberto believed in. The money was therefore destined to the school in the village of Ngumo, Karunga, in the sub-county of Gilgil (Kenya) so that its school garden could be expanded.
“Alberto had visited this garden in 2018, during the Slow Food International Council in Nairobi, Kenya. – Paolo Di Croce, Slow Food’s Secretary General, tells us – He had been thrilled by how Slow Food was transforming the lives of rural communities through agroecology and biodiversity conservation. In this country, agriculture is the main source of livelihood, but young people are turning away from it, considering it an undignified, tiring and unrewarding profession. School gardens therefore have a fundamental role in instilling in young people a positive attitude towards food, agriculture and the environment and in making them understand that agriculture is a sector that can create satisfying work opportunities for young people”.
At the Ngumo elementary school, the garden will help to expand the concept of healthy and environmentally friendly food among the 50 or so people who will take care of it, just as Alberto spread it among schoolchildren in Vitoria, in the province of Alava, and at UPV, the Basque university where he used to open up the principles of Slow Food with his tireless dedication.
“Alberto was in fact convinced that it was necessary to start from the youngest, – continues Di Croce – to lead them closer to the land and to the local consumption of seasonal products, to bring the kids in the fields and the producers, the true custodians of traditions and local biodiversity, in schools. He argued that awareness and environmental education are two necessary tools to ensure the preservation of our orchards, our farms, our livestock and to improve the social recognition of all the productive, environmental, cultural and landscape values that are contained in the peri-urban agricultural systems, because it is impossible to respect and defend what you do not know”.
Slow Food Araba-Alava, the Convivium it founded in 2005, has always been involved in a program of environmental and nutritional education and promotion of the consumption of local products aimed at schools, through visits by schoolchildren to producers and educational material such as brochures, booklets or videos. Food and nutrition education is seen as a strategy for the promotion of healthy eating habits, the promotion of healthy eating habits, and the school is perhaps the most appropriate place to develop these actions.
“The younger generations, and children in particular, risk losing, in addition to the link with the land and the relationship with the seasons, the very meaning of the act of eating. – explains Javi Chaves, producer of La Huerta Esmeralda in Basaldea, Vitoria – That’s why, with Alberto, we have always firmly believed in educational activities and we organize many lessons and cooking workshops as a way to spread the culture of food and to develop the five senses through food”.
The local community gardens in Africa are one of the many tools for valorizing traditional products and knowledge through the use of sustainable techniques, the involvement of young people with the help of the elderly, the true custodians of ancestral knowledge. Some of the vegetable gardens on the African continent are, in fact, school gardens, i.e., true open-air classrooms with an important educational function and, at times, a supply for the canteen, while others are community gardens, but what is fundamental for their launch is the involvement of the entire local community, including the elderly.
“School gardens are playing a key role in instilling a positive attitude towards food, agriculture and the environment in growing youth, as they are demystifying the narrative and making sustainable agriculture attractive to young people as a sector that can create decent job opportunities for young people,” – says John Kariuki, Slow Food Councilor for East Africa and manager of the Gardens in Africa project in Kenya. – This is why the support and contribution of more and more people is fundamental to create as many gardens as possible in as many African communities!”