From March 28 to April 6, Slow Food president Carlo Petrini traveled across Kenya and Uganda to visit local projects of the Slow Food and Terra Madre network: community and school gardens, Presidia, food communities and some of the many convivia bringing the network to life in this part of East Africa. Along the way he was able to give lectures at universities and conferences and meet with the press.
This series of journal entries by Carlo Bogliotti and Franceso Impallomeni, who accompanied Petrini, reveal some of the local initiatives and warm welcomes they encountered along the way. As Slow Food prepares for its sixth International Congress (Turin, October 25-29), which will bring together representatives from 150 countries and focus on “the right to food”, here is the first of four installments offering an insight into our activities in East Africa.
March 28 – Nairobi
Petrini’s arrival in Nairobi is anticipated by a morning appearance on National Kenyan TV by Francesco Impallomeni, coordinator of Slow Food projects in East Africa, and John Kariuki, Slow Food vice-president and coordinator of Kenyan projects. Hot topics for African agriculture - such as organic farming, GMOs and land grabbing - are discussed during the long interview and last year's controversial incident involving two shepherds from Pokot Ash Yoghurt Presidium is recalled. Last December the two shepherds were passing through Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris on route to Bilbao, Spain where they were to participate in a Slow Food event organized as part of the EU-funded project 4Cities4Dev, when they were stopped and expelled by the police; a disgraceful episode that caused quite a stir in Kenya.
Petrini catches up over lunch with seven Kenyan former students of the University of Gastronomic Sciences (located in Pollenzo, Italy) - who will accompany him on his trip to visit some of the Slow Food projects they now work on. Later, Petrini is the special guest at an evening conference at the Nairobi Italian Institute of Culture, where he is able to meet with some major international organizations, NGOs, financial institutions and corporations based in Nairobi – a hub for Kenya and all of East Africa. During the conference, Petrini emphasizes how important it is for Kenya to take back its gastronomy and local products, and provokes South African chef Stefano Strafella from the Sankara luxury hotel in Nairobi, asking him with ironic urgency to serve Molo Mushunu chickens, a Slow Food Presidium, to wealthy international clients. Stefano plays along with him and, without further due, he places his first order the very next day.
March 29 – From Nairobi to Gachie
After meeting with several members of the international and local press, including Reuters and one of Kenya’s leading newspapers The Standard, Petrini meets with the country’s Slow Food convivium leaders as well as representatives of the association’s projects and communities from Nairobi’s surrounds. Over lunch at Bridges restaurant, a popular city eatery that uses organic products and may get involved in promoting Kenyan Presidium products in the future, an interesting round of presentations is made that quickly convey the rich diversity of the projects and people that constitute the association’s work in Kenya.
In the afternoon, Petrini and his group leave the oppressive Nairobi traffic behind to visit the Wangige community garden in Gachie. Situated an hour’s drive from the capital city, this community manages a training center for farmers who come from across the country. Their garden, one of the Thousand Gardens in Africa, aims at teaching and strengthening farmers’ ability to grow food sustainably, while generating profits. The weather is very hot, and the rainy season – expectantly awaited by all Kenyan farmers, especially those who live in semi-dry areas – is almost one month late. The fields have been prepared for sowing, which will follow the first rain, and the visitors learn about the crops grown and sustainable systems used.
Having now witnessed the huge divide between urban and rural Kenya, that evening back to Nairobi Petrini meets with Father Kizito, a Combonian missionary who has set up a large education center for street children and orphans from the poorest neighborhoods in Nairobi. The center is a few steps away from Kibera, one of the largest African slums.
The journey continues! Click to read the second installment...
View a gallery of photographs of the trip on facebook