Slow Food has been actively supporting the food communities in Uganda since 2006, working with many young volunteers and regional coordinators, creating Presidia and organizing agricultural activities as part of the 10,000 Gardens in Africa project. In 2015, Slow Food Uganda launched its national network, which now comprises over 10,000 activists.
Nicknamed the “Pearl of Africa,” the country is rich in water and forest resources, with a tropical climate ideal for agricultural production and
pasture-based livestock farming. Though landlocked, Uganda has plenty of flourishing trade links. Over 70% of the population works in the agricultural sector. Major foreign and government investment is concentrated on products for export: coffee, bananas, palm oil, sugar cane, maize, rice, beef and others. These industries are linked to serious human-rights violations. But the promotion of monocultures has terrible consequences for the natural environment and the sustainability of small-scale farmers, thanks to deforestation, the use of chemical fertilizers, pollution, the depletion of community resources and the disappearance of wild plants and less-resistant varieties. What’s more, it also encourages land grabbing and speculation on water and wetlands (rich in plant and animal biodiversity) and the introduction of supposedly more productive exotic livestock breeds, hybrid plants and GM seeds. President Yoweri Museveni—in power since 1986, following years of terrible civil war and dictatorship—and his government publicly promote foreign investment and the sale of national resources.
Slow Food Uganda has built up a strong network in the central part of the country and a robust presence in the eastern and western regions and has developed a new strategy for the north. In the central-eastern areas, the focus has been on crops that are typical of the country’s traditional gastronomy and agroforestry systems: bananas, yams and coffee. To the north and west, work has been done on resilience and with indigenous groups, looking at ancient grain varieties and Ankole cattle, a native breed with striking lyre-shaped horns.
In order to give a voice to farmers, defend the right to food and develop new and sustainable forms of local economy, Slow Food Uganda organizes annual events, like the Coffee Festival in February, workshops on fruit and vegetables in schools in April and June, the indigenous gastronomy fair in October and the Food Wise event in November. The Earth Markets in Mukono-Wakiso in the central region, Mbale in the eastern region and Lira-Amach in the northern region are held fortnightly. The association also participates in locally run civil-society platforms, involving everyone who supports the need to work simultaneously on agrobiodiversity protection, economic development and education through the proper management of resources.