Wednesday June 19 2013

FARMER’S DIARY: We must value our traditional food crops


I had the pleasure of meeting Mr Paolo Di Crose, secretary general of the Slow Food Movement, at a place that is only about two kilometres from my home, last month. He came along with Slow Food representatives from a number of countries in Africa, Europe, and North America.

They spent two days working with a group of Ugandan farmers to establish a community garden of neglected traditional food crops in the Buganda region such as makobe, ndaggu, mayuuni and several other such crops at Lukindu Village near Kiwangala Trading Centre in Lwengo District. They did all the work with their bare hands using simple local farming tools.

Be proud
Slow Food is an international grassroots organisation, which counters the disappearance of traditional food crops and encourages households to grow their own food, and to save the seeds of their traditional crops.

Founded in Italy in 1989 by Mr Carlo Petrini, Slow Food does not just emphasise food security but rather ‘food sovereignty’. This is people eating food that they have grown, minding where it is grown, how it tastes, how it is cooked, and how their food choices affect the world around them and their personal health.

In his speech, Di Crose emphasised to Ugandans to be proud of their traditional food crops and to safeguard them from extinction.
The Italian urged the farmers to grow these traditional food crops in their gardens and to eat them instead of growing and eating food crops from foreign countries and regarding them as superior to their local ones. “When you eat matooke or millet, be proud of it because it is linked to your community and culture,” he said. “Protect your food biodiversity!”

Highlight the value
Only last month, Slow Food formed a partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (Fao) to support smallholder farmers especially in Africa.

The partnership, initially designed to last three years, aims at providing farming skills to farmers in rural communities especially women. “Actions will highlight the value of local foods and neglected food crops while also targeting market access for small-scale producers, enhancing conservation and use of biodiversity, reducing food losses and food waste and improving animal welfare,” said the statement from Fao.