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Learning to Grow Traditional Foods in Uganda


Solomon Walusimbi and his mother harvest a rare variety of leeks in their garden in Mukono, Uganda, July 22, 2014. (Hilary Heuler/VOA)

Solomon Walusimbi and his mother harvest a rare variety of leeks in their garden in Mukono, Uganda, July 22, 2014. (Hilary Heuler/VOA)

The Slow Food movement is growing in most of the western world. The movement supports small, local farms. It works against huge farms led by international food and agriculture companies.

But the Slow Food movement is not growing very fast in Africa.

So a group called Slow Food International has named a Ugandan man to help grow it. Edie Mukiibi will work to help people in Africa create gardens and grow healthy food. But he does not have the support of government officials. Many of them believe large agricultural companies are the answer to Africa’s food security problems.

Ten-year-old Solomon Walusimbi is working in his garden. It is next to a small wooden house in Mukono, near Kampala. He is proud of his work.

“This is my garden. I plant so many things, like peas, carrots and maize.”

Solomon also grows cabbage, eggplants and a rare kind of leek. His garden is more colorful than others because Solomon understands the importance of growing many different kinds of crops.

“If you dig, this one will die and this one will, will continue growing, and you will continue eating and getting so many things.”

Edie Mukiibi is working hard to teach that lesson to others in Uganda. Slow Food International wants him to help people create 10,000 gardens like Solomon’s throughout Africa. Many of these gardens will be in schools. Mr. Mukiibi says he hopes the garden will teach young people about the importance of slow food.

“You find little children of three to 15 years having a lot of knowledge about the traditional crops, the local crops, the planting seasons, and such kind of things. This is what we are achieving with the gardens. The gardens project is very important to reconnect young people like Solomon back to the land.”

Mr. Mukiibi was an agronomy student seven years ago. He learned how to help farmers plant crops. But he discovered the crops being planted were sometimes not right for the farming environment in Uganda. He began to understand how important local foods were to food security. But, he says, local foods were quickly disappearing.

“These are products which are used to the African conditions, apart from being traditional. When we had a bad season and farmers predicted a bad season, they had a crop for that season. When they predicted an attack of butterflies and insects, they had a potato variety which was resistant to this pest, and they, everyone was encouraged to plant that. Today we have no choice.”

But Mr. Mukiibi is having a hard time persuading political leaders and scientists to support the slow food movement. They support big farms that can grow large crops and a lot of them.

I’m Caty Weaver.

This story is based on a report from Hilary Heuler in Mukono, Uganda and adapted by Christopher Cruise for Learning English. It was edited and narrated by Caty Weaver.

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Words in the News

supportv. to carry the weight of; to hold up or in position; to agree with others and help them reach a goal; to approve

teachv. to show how to do something; to provide knowledge; to cause to understand

seasonn. one of the four periods of the year that is based on the earth’s position toward the sun (spring, summer, autumn, winter); a period of time based on different weather conditions (“dry season”, “rainy season”); a period during the year when something usually happens (“baseball season”)

plantv. to put into the ground to grow; n. a living growth from the ground which gets its food from air, water and earth

persuadev. to cause someone to do something by explaining or urging (“The police persuaded the criminal to surrender his weapon.”)

agronomy - n. a branch of agriculture dealing with field-crop production and soil management

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