The project was launched in 2010 at the Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre in Turin.
The Slow Food network immediately began mobilizing itself in Africa and the rest of the world. In Africa, the Slow Food convivia and Terra Madre communities responded to the initiative by submitting the details of schools, communities and families interested in participating. Elsewhere in the world, Slow Food convivia, individual citizens, businesses and other groups began raising funds to support the project.
In spring 2011, 15 national project coordinators met in Pollenzo, Italy, and worked with experts from the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity to decide how to set up the project and what kind of food gardens should be created. This meeting led to the production of a handbook, which illustrates the project’s philosophy and practice. The handbook is currently available in more than 15 languages. Immediately afterwards, national work groups were formed and began visiting schools and communities to follow up on the various requests received.
Training has represented an essential element for the project’s development since the beginning. In order to explain and share the handbook for the gardens, international seminars were organized for English-speaking, French-speaking and Portuguese-speaking countries. The main seminars were held in Kenya (2011), Senegal (2011), Morocco (2013) and Uganda (2013). Many other training meetings were held nationally and regionally, in Tanzania, South Africa, Madagascar, Ethiopia, Egypt, Mauritania, Benin and Mozambique.
In 2012, the project “A Thousand Gardens in Africa” was the main focus of the Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre. A 400-square-meter African food garden was planted in the Oval pavilion, showcasing traditional plants from all over the continent, from African eggplant to banana and mango trees.
Over the years, many things happened around the gardens: Terra Madre Day was celebrated, new convivia were started (as in Rumphy, Malawi), restaurants were opened (for example in Napoko, Burkina Faso) and much more. Some of the thousand Slow Food gardens have been planted in refugee camps, for example in the Mbera camp in Mauritania.
Towards the end of 2013 and the start of 2014, the target of 1,000 food gardens was finally reached!
In 2014, Slow Food decided to relaunch the campaign, scaling up from “A Thousand Gardens in Africa” to a new goal of 10,000 food gardens in the continent. This number represents Slow Food’s strategy in Africa, which involves encouraging local food consumption, food education in schools, promoting biodiversity (Ark of Taste and Presidia), valuing African gastronomic cultures and raising awareness about big issues like GMOs, land grabbing and sustainable fishing.
The project’s new phase was officially launched in Milan on February 17, 2014, during the event Slow Food for Africa, attended by the Slow Food president, Carlo Petrini, José Graziano da Silva, the director-general of the FAO; Cècile Kyenge, Italy’s Minister for Integration; numerous African representatives and 450 supporters of the project, including journalists, entrepreneurs, actors, filmmakers and many Slow Food convivium leaders and members.