My name is Samson Kiiru and I am 27 years old. I come from Kenya (where my family still lives and works) but I have lived in Italy for several years now. I came to study in Pollenzo, at the University of Gastronomic Sciences, and, when I finished my studies, I began to work for Slow Food.
I was born into a farming family. Before I started going to school and during my course of studies, my parents taught me a lot about food production: how to plant seeds, cultivate, look after products, gather, eat and avoid waste. Food therefore ceased to be just something served at the table and became everything that can be born from a seed. After high school, I started working at the primary school in my town, teaching the Swahili language and other subjects to the students.
In early 2009, I got to know a colleague from the primary school who was attending a course at the University of Gastronomic Sciences (John Kariuki Mwangi). He told me about the university and explained that it was one of a kind, as it allowed you to study and address topics about food and agriculture. It seemed like a mirage to me, a dream…and I decided to give it a try. I left my job and dedicated all my time to preparing and completing the application forms, until the long-awaited answer arrived in September 2009: I had not passed the selection. I yelled out loud! I had used all my savings for trips, and to pay for the internet and phone calls. I was confused, bitter even, but life had to go on…
I went back to my mother and started working on the farm. My father had passed away that year. In early 2010, I started working for a company that produced milk, in the quality control field. I often considered reapplying for Pollenzo, but I was afraid of further disappointment. However, in the end, I didn’t need to. In summer 2010 I received a call from the university: they had reassessed my application form and I was in!
I graduated in March 2014, after three years of studies, trips and meetings that have changed my life. I took part in numerous events and activities organized by Slow Food, such as Terra Madre, Slow Fish and Cheese, and, after my degree, I started to work for the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity, focusing in particular on the Ark of Taste and the 10,000 food gardens in Africa project.
The experiences I had in university and the one I am having now at Slow Food have profoundly changed my point of view on the food and agriculture world in my country, and have firmly convinced me that the direction Slow Food is taking is the only one that can change Africa. In Africa, particularly in my country Kenya, the majority of the population is made up of young people like myself, and it is our duty to take responsibility for the future of the continent. I plan to return to Kenya soon, to join John and the other area representatives to promote the Slow Food movement in other countries.
It is time to change!