Slow Food USA announced that it is joining forces with Slow Food International to build a thousand gardens in Africa. A Thousand Gardens in Africa is part of a global initiative to bring the Slow Food network together to ensure African food security, as well as to raise awareness of native plant varieties and medicinal herbs. The community and school plots are located across the continent, particularly in places that have become dependent on foreign aid and imported commodities.
A Thousand Gardens in Africa has raised funding for 567 gardens to date through a worldwide constituency and it is starting to bolster local economies in 25 countries from Egypt to South Africa. The project is community-driven and based on a training-of-trainers model under the guidance of Slow Food coordinators and horticulturists. Communities have to apply for and want to maintain the gardens themselves. Improving farmer autonomy makes certain that knowledge is passed down for future seasons, and helps farmers grow food for their communities rather than for export at the expense of their own nourishment. Through a more sustainable use of soil and water, and a safeguarding of traditional recipes, villages are also gaining a sense of pride for the natural resources that they share and that they want to protect by not using harmful chemicals.
The movement towards a more sustainable approach to agriculture is happening worldwide. In the U.S., consciousness is increasing, as evidenced by a number of Slow Food USA’s recent projects. This year alone, the volunteer-run organization engaged more than 150,000 children in school food and garden programs. In Florida, Slow Food Miami planted 66 gardens in 66 days; and in Colorado, Slow Food Denver’s Seed to Table program organized more than 900 parents and teachers to bring gardens and real food to cafeterias in more than 60 percent of the city’s public schools.
“Slow Food volunteers are working to transform food and farming nationwide. Now, they’re stepping up to support their colleagues in Africa who are working to do the same,” said Josh Viertel, president of Slow Food USA. “Historically, in the U.S., we’ve fought global hunger by growing cheap grain and dumping it on foreign markets. In the end, we’ve just displaced farmers in developing countries, and created more poverty and hunger. We need solutions that give people the resources they need to feed themselves. We are helping to build One Thousand Gardens in Africa that prove it’s possible.”
“By supporting A Thousand Gardens in Africa, one isn’t just supplying the materials necessary to set up a garden, and guaranteeing a daily supply of fresh and healthy food to local populations, they’re encouraging young people to be farmers. And that’s a very special thing,” said Paolo di Croce, executive director of Slow Food International. “It’s an ambitious project but every donation—whether financial or time—goes a long way.”
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