Slow food gives biodiversity a boost

What began as a school rule – going to work on the land – became the goal of his life for Ugandan Edward Mukibe. “Sustainable local agriculture is the foundation of happiness and the solution to hunger, unemployment and biodiversity loss,” says the new president of Slow Food International, which operates in 160 countries.

Mukebe, 36, remembers well the first time he was sent to plow and harvest the land: it was a punishment for school misconduct.

But instead of hating punishment, he liked to dig in the dirt with his hands. He discovered his passion and only grew when he realized that farming was the basis of balanced food, health and wealth.

Today Mukibe is a social entrepreneur in Uganda. His message: Proving that sustainable agriculture is the foundation of happiness and a solution against hunger, unemployment and biodiversity loss. Promotes food production based on local resources, local knowledge and traditional farming techniques.

He is also the new Chairman of the Board of Directors of Slow Food Internationalan organization that promotes local food production and traditional cooking around the world.

traditional knowledge

“I feel happy and proud, also because of the slow food movement that has emerged as a powerful organization, not only on the European continent where I grew up, but around the world,” he says.

Slow Food International was founded in 1986 by Italian Carlo Petrini with the aim of preserving the cultural and biological diversity of food and eating habits. Today, the movement is active in 160 countries and focuses on education and the transfer of traditional knowledge and local culinary skills.

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Knowing from personal experience that there is still a lot of untapped potential for farming in school, Mukebe founded the Development Innovations in School Farming (DISC), a project that aims to give young students a different perspective on small-scale indigenous farming and farming. to consider.

He sees a lot of potential, especially in Africa. “70 percent of Africans are under the age of 40,” he says. “So I regret that working the land is used as punishment in school, just as many prisons send their inmates to large industrial farms where they have to work the land as punishment.”

“This does not contribute to raising the level of the profession and prevents young people from loving this wonderful job.”

Responsible food choices

As an entrepreneur, Mukiibi has also co-developed Slow Food Gardens, a project that oversees the creation of green spaces that care for African food diversity and where locals can go for their fresh vegetables, grains, and fruits. Meanwhile, slow food gardens have been set up in more than a thousand schools in Uganda.

“Slow food gives a comprehensive view of the food system because it is an overarching philosophy about what we eat, how we grow, harvest, store, and process food,” he says. In this respect, slow food is simply not understandable in its literal translation, nor is it the strict opposite of fast food. It’s about taking responsibility for food, agriculture, and the planet. When we make responsible food choices, it’s about healthy food, produced in a healthy environment, with attention to local culture and traditions, and the people behind this entire chain.

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He explains that slow food movement is also about fair transactions and transparent food chains. “So we also look at the interests and rights of small farmers and indigenous communities and say that nature also needs to be treated fairly.”

Biodiversity on the board

He says his organization is also looking at climate change and biodiversity loss. We don’t just talk about climate change at conferences, but we go to thousands of small communities to teach, for example, agroecology or the principles of sustainable agriculture. In Africa alone, 3,500 eco-parks have now been set up in schools where thousands of young people can see and experience eco-friendly farming methods.

With the creation of the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity, the movement wanted to express its concern about the speed with which biodiversity is disappearing in nature, but also on our plates. Among other things, there is collaboration with chefs who learn how to bring more biodiversity back to your menu.

“Talking alone is not enough,” McCabe says. He wants to show what we’ve all lost on our tables because some tightly regulated product has taken over the monopoly. We open the discussion about what we are losing in terms of nutritional richness at the same table. This way we bring attention back to endangered food products and on the table.

Megan Vasquez

"Creator. Coffee buff. Internet lover. Organizer. Pop culture geek. Tv fan. Proud foodaholic."

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