In Africa, the local coordinators of the Thousand Gardens project have already engaged 608 communities in developing sustainable food plots. In the rest of the world, Slow Food's international network has sprung into action to collect the funds and 531 gardens have been adopted so far.
In the lush green highlands of northern Malawi, the Slow Food network has been busy creating 10 sustainable food gardens with schools and communities, assisted by experienced horticulturalist Frederick Msiska. Around the town of Nchenachena, 500 kilometers north of the country’s capital, Msiska is known as “the plant doctor” for his vast knowledge of sustainable agriculture. Together with the Terra Madre learning community in Nchenachena, he’s organizing seminars to teach local farmers how to make bokash (a solid natural fertilizer made from soil, grass, eggshells and paper) and to build rainwater collection tanks for irrigation. Msiska moves tirelessly from one garden to the next, overseeing schoolchildren, teachers and farmers as they cultivate traditional varieties, like those known as ziku, malezi and kamughangi in the local chitumbuka language.
In South Africa, more and more emerging farmers are returning to land that was taken away from black people during apartheid. In a context in which big farms are benefiting from cheap labor, incentives for young people are lacking and access to land is still a burning issue, even a small garden plot can be of great importance. In the wide valleys of the Western and Northern Cape, the Surplus People Project, the organization coordinating the Thousand Gardens in Africa project on a national level, is working with emerging farmers to plant agroecological food gardens that can satisfy the food needs of their families and serve as educational showcases. Farmers in Porterville, a small town north of Cape Town, for example, are cultivating a site to inspire households and schools in the community to plant their own food gardens. “How can we fight poverty? How can we help people be independent of social welfare?” asks Anthony Cloete, the coordinator of the Porterville community garden. “Teach people how to produce seeds and to plant them each new season.”
Meanwhile, in the rest of the world the Slow Food network has been organizing fun, convivial events - dinners, concerts, fundraising drives - to support the Thousand Gardens in Africa network.
On February 8, at the Albergo dell’Agenzia hotel, in Piedmont, Italy the Slow Food Convivium at the University of Gastronomic Sciences organized a sustainable fish dinner. The evening’s chef was Silvio Greco, a marine biologist and president of the Slow Fish Scientific Commitee, who explained the environmental sustainability of each dish as it was served. Silvio also hosted five dinners dedicated to southern Italy gastronomy in Florence and funds raised by the events were used to adopt a Senegalese food garden in Terou Baye Sogui, near Dakar.
Two weeks later, the Tempest Restaurant in Wolfville, Canada, held a vegetarian dinner devised by the restaurant’s chef, Michael Howell, who is a member of the Terra Madre network as well as leader of the Slow Food Nova Scotia Convivium. The evening’s guest of honor was Indian environmentalist Vandana Shiva.
As part of its seasonal festivities, the La Maisonnette-Eur school in Rome organized a small Christmas market to sell gifts made by the children, inspired by the principles of recycle and reuse. Greetings cards, Christmas place mats, candle-holders made from yogurt pots and picture frames made from cheese trays sold like hot cakes and the school was able to adopt two gardens in South Africa.
Finally, the choir and philharmonic society in Volvera, near Turin, organized a concert and used the proceeds to adopt two gardens: the school garden in Githima, Kenya, and the community garden in Zambiarra, Mali.
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