We are Andrea and Umberto, two motorcycle enthusiasts who met in Africa in 2010. Based on our shared love of bikes, and personal events that allowed us to have a lot of free time, we decided to set off on an adventure: to cross the entire African continent.
When we started to plan our journey, the initial idea was to travel from Tunis to Cape Town, across the two extremes of the continent. Unfortunately however, we were denied permission to cross Egypt, and so decided to leave from Addis Ababa in Ethiopia instead.
One thing was clear to us: We didn't want to be simple tourists. We wanted to be spokespersons for all the initiatives and organizations that we would encounter along the way, and try to gain first-hand experience of the field of cooperation and development. We therefore decided to gather information about the different NGOs we encountered, and there were many, small and large.
I had known about Slow Food for a long time and I must admit, I do love to eat well! I came across the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity website by chance and here I discovered the Presidia and the 10,000 food gardens in Africa project. I liked what I read very much, in particular the idea of protecting products and traditional processing methods that risk extinction due to globalization and standardization by multinationals.
And so it began: an email, a contact, a positive reply and we were off!
Having chosen our primary goals and objectives for the trip, we began, slightly naively, to fundraise for our journey. We spent an entire summer going around Italian squares, explaining our project with flyers and billboards, hoping to collect donations for our upcoming endeavor. Unfortunately however, perhaps due to the economic crisis or maybe our unfamiliar faces, we didn't manage to collect very much. Although disappointed, we were not discouraged.
We set off for Ethiopia, passing through Wukro, home to the Slow Food Tigray White Honey Presidium. Here we met Alem, the referent of the Presidium, who speaks Amharic and Tigrinya, but little English (just like me!); it was time to find a translator. Alem invited us to go and see the area where the hives are kept. Dressed up in special suits, we learnt that they have approximately four hundred hives from which they can obtain around 90 tons of honey a year. There are white, yellow and red honeys, but 90% of the production is white honey. Making another stop in Ethiopia, this time in Hawassa, we visited another Slow Food project: the school food garden at the SOS Children's School. Here, we met with the headmaster, Professor Manna, who presented the project to us and explained the positive impact it is having on the school.
Our journey then took us to Kenya. During the month we spent here, we discovered many incredible people and places. First were the cane salt producers of the Nzoia River Reed Salt Presidium, north of Kisumo (on Lake Victoria). Here, the local communities have developed a distinctive method for extracting salt from aquatic plants. The local farmers accompanied us on the visit and showed us the different steps in production: It is simply extraordinary! Without the help of Slow Food, this practice would be at risk of disappearing entirely due to the competition of normal salt on the market. I have to wonder just how Slow Food manages to uncover these gems?
We then passed through Tanzania where we visited the NGO, Cast in Songea. Here we met Marco, the head of the project, who, besides showing us how much they are doing, also introduced us to a friend from another organization (COPE). We decided to stay another day to learn about their project too, and guess what we discovered? Their project also had a partnership with Slow Food!
Today we are in Malawi where we met Manvester, one of the managers of Slow Food projects here. He was happy to see us and took us to see the food gardens. Met by singing school children, the enthusiasm for all of these initiatives was clearly visible...
Andrea and Umberto
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