«Gardens are a tool to educate, to transmit the knowledge of the territory and to get the Slow Food philosophy across», according to Typhaine Briand, Slow Food International, who has moderated the conference on gardens in French-speaking Western Africa, during Terra Madre 2016, in Turin.
The project was born as: “1000 Gardens in Africa” in 2010 during Terra Madre Salone del Gusto and since then it has developed considerably. In early 2014 the goal of 1,000 gardens was achieved and Slow Food decided to launch the project “10,000 Gardens in Africa”. At the conference, during which Davide Dotta, Slow Food International, spoke, 100 delegates from French-speaking Western Africa participated.
The gardens in Africa follow Slow Food philosophy of good, clean and fair food. They are community gardens: everyone can contribute: young people, adults, people from every walk of life. They are cultivated sustainably, respecting biodiversity and producing seeds that they use in their gardens. The gardens are a network, in which information is shared, people meet, and are part of a global network. They are open-air classes, both for children and adults: to make people get to know local plants , to promote a healthy diet and teach them farming.
«The gardens are also a political tool, to join forces all around the world, for people to make their voices heard: because from Latin America to Asia and Africa we have all the same problems: access to land, monoculture of cotton to the detriment of cereals and legumes», explains Typhaine Briand, who is in charge of Slow Food for French-speaking Africa. The gardens are important means for resisting intensive agriculture, GMOs and land grabbing.
In Western Africa there are both community and school gardens «to also teach children how to produce local food and explain to them how important it is to cultivate the food of their land».
There are also gardens in prisons, like in Senegal, both to educate prisoners, and improve the quality of food served in prison.
Thanks to the work of the African network an online mapping of African gardens has been produced in collaboration with Google. Every garden corresponds to a file which describes its characteristics. In Western Africa there are 300 local branches (called Convivium), and 1000 gardens, therefore 1000 communities of people who share the same idea and apply it on their territory according to Slow Food philosophy.
«It’s a strong force and we need all these communities on the territory for changing the current food system which is destroying the environment, the communities of small producers and local identity», explains Typhaine Briand. «Slow Food allows our local communities to maintain identity, pride and knowledge our ancestors have passed on to us, to be active locally, being at the same time part of a world network».
In Western Africa activities for preserving biodiversity on their territory and getting back to traditional agriculture, originating from local products, such as gari and manioc, have been implemented, together with Slow Food.
This relaunch of rural economies is very important in fighting multinational and Chinese investors who use intensive agriculture for transforming manioc into alcohol. Since 2010 the Slow Food network in Africa, with the creation of the gardens project, has evolved noticeably. In Western Africa the network has developed from gardens to implementing many activities in order to change the current food system, with communication and awareness campaigns.
Typhaine Briand concludes that: «To access good, clean and fair food Slow Food strives to educate consumers, to make sure they are aware and responsible. Consumers play an important role in the food system: if they decide to consume locally their actions will stimulate the local economy and the activity of small farmers».
Cover photo: Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images.
All other pictures are from the Facebook page "10,000 Gardens in Africa".