One of the most important aspects of the Thousand Garden project is creating a strong network that will bring many African countries together to share experiences and promote sustainable agricultural practices. "The challenge begins with every one of us, and with all of the participants of A Thousand Gardens in Africa," said Samuel M. Karanja, leader of the Slow Food Central Rift Convivium at the first meeting of project leaders held over June 15-17 in Nakuru, Kenya.
At this first gathering, three recent graduates of the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy - John Kariuki, Jane Karanja and Peter Namianya - who are now working with their own communities back in Kenya, welcomed 65 participants from English-speaking countries across the continent.
The three activity-packed days were designed to promote debate and interaction between the project coordinators and participants: agronomists, farmers, teachers and journalists from Egypt, Etiopia, Kenya, Malawi Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda.
Kenyan agronomists Ferdinand Wafula and Priscilla Nzamalu introduced a discussion on agricultural techniques and the major issues dealt with in the project manual. Everyone was in agreement about the holistic approach to horticulture encouraged by agroecology and Slow Food - a good horticulturalist must first of all be a good observer, able to understand the local climate and soil conditions and which varieties are best suited to the land. In the participant's view, this is the way to overturn the current aid-based system that sees continues to see solutions to Africa's food problems within the donor-beneficiary relationship and ignores the wealth and diversity already present on the continent.
The last day was spent visiting two school garden projects. Students welcomed the visitors with songs and traditional dances before showing them through their gardens, describing the varieties cultivated, and then offering tastings of traditional food that they prepared earlier.
The project coordinators left in very high spirits, returning to their respective countries to continue their work with the gardens that have already been established and to identify more communities and schools to work with.
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